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Performing improv for non-improv audiences

PostPosted: Mon Feb 01, 2010 12:49 pm
by WillieBHines
That was our discussion in this week's podcast. I love the topic but realizing upon listening that I did not really have a solid answers to the question -- what's the difference? So what's the difference between performing for an improv audience and a non-improv audience?


Re: Performing improv for non-improv audiences

PostPosted: Tue Feb 02, 2010 1:29 am
by Hal
I haven't listened yet! But I think the most obvious thing is that a lot of things we take for granted, like sweep edits and openings, can seem inscrutable to someone who's never seen improv before. I think that's truer of some openings than others. I remember going to Harold Night with a friend who'd never seen improv before, and when the first team did a pattern game, she asked me what the fuck was going on.

I may or may not say more later!

Re: Performing improv for non-improv audiences

PostPosted: Tue Feb 02, 2010 5:02 am
by Chrismck
I think non-improv audiences are a lot smarter than they seem to be given credit. Edits, tags, multiple characters, any reasonable audience is going to understand these devices with a little suspension of disbelief and paying attention. If they are constantly asking the person next to them what's going on, they were probably doing the same thing when they watched Avatar.

I actually have found that non-improv audiences are more inviting than improv audiences. They just want to laugh and see something funny, and are rarely worried about what's "good improv." Funny is the end all be all for a non-improv audience. Look at Asssscat. Teachers are constantly saying not to watch Asssscat to learn good improv, but it's hilarious and the non-improv audiences regard it as the highest form of comedy.

Openings, I will agree, are not very approachable, not because they are confusing, but just because a lot of them are fucking weird. A team asks for a suggestion and then pretend that one guy is a balloon for 4 minutes before ever doing a scene. That's avant garde-y and annoying to non-improv audiences. It's supposed to be comedy, not weird performance art. But funny is funny, no matter how much improv training you have.

If you want to ask someone who has a lot of current experience with both, ask the Tourco members that perform on Harold night. I bet they know a few differences.

Re: Performing improv for non-improv audiences

PostPosted: Tue Feb 02, 2010 10:35 am
by Jesse P-S
Hal is right about openings like word association pattern games and things. I've sat in the audience on Harold night and seen a ton of people just go "WTF?" while the team is going A to C on "beaver" or whatever.

And all my improv experience before UCB was thousands of shows in front of mostly non-savvy audiences, and all the little tricks of improv went over their heads. I've had people come up to me after shows and say "Why do you guys run in front of scenes?" And when I did shortform most people who had seen that and were comfortable with it (ie: the general public who has seen "Who's Line...") hated to watch longform. "Whats with the monologues?" It sounds stupid, but these are general reactions I heard on a nightly basis, from smart people, as I often talked to crowds after shows.

I'd say improv audiences are probably a bit more forgiving on the outside and a bit more judgmental on the inside. Its hard to watch a show and not pick it apart a bit in the improv mind, but it is also hard not to think, "Yeah, I've made that mistake a million times, too."

Re: Performing improv for non-improv audiences

PostPosted: Wed Feb 03, 2010 11:32 am
by WillieBHines
Openings looks weird so weekend teams don't do them as much. Then again, I've been on weekend teams and a frequent topic of dicussion is "I didn't have lot -- we need some kind of opening." And then the next week you're trying to have an opening of some kind -- monologues, short scenes, a long scene to use as inspiration.

Sweeps people get.
I agree that tag-outs change the energy of a room a lot.

Monoscenes are popular because they only use stage conventions that people are already used to (entrances, exits, miming objects, playing multiple parts).

People don't mind an actor playing multiple parts.
They DO mind (i.e. get confused by and do not react to) multiple actors playing the same characters.

Re: Performing improv for non-improv audiences

PostPosted: Wed Feb 03, 2010 3:20 pm
by Hal
I like when openings work well as an entertaining part of the show for audience members who don't know they also serve a functional purpose. The best example I can think of was Reuben's TV network opening. That seemed to generate scene ideas, but it also seemed like something any audience could get. Maybe because it was presentational? Maybe because it took the form of something familiar (TV promos)?

I think the Documentary opening is audience-friendly. So are monologues. So maybe there's something to be said for being presentational and familiar. To an improv newbie, those openings probably just look like the team is doing funny stuff, while even the best pattern game or invocation is probably confusing.

Re: Performing improv for non-improv audiences

PostPosted: Thu Feb 04, 2010 12:53 pm
by WillieBHines
Invocations are pretty accessible, I think. The audience suggest and object and the actors spend 3 minutes talking about the object. It follows pretty well.

Pattern Games are definitely weird to everyone.