Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The 3 R's

Here are the 3 R's of improv.

1. Receive
2. Remember
3. Recycle

Receive--This is an 'R' word for listen. Take in what is going on around you. Too often, improvisers get caught up in thinking up what they're going to do next/what they're going to say next. Improvising with them is like talking to people who don't hear what you're saying, but are only thinking about what they're going to say next.

Receiving means listening, accepting the gifts that you're fellow improvisers are giving you, and making sure you actually are taking things in with your senses--not just turned inward into your own thoughts.

Remember--This is an 'R' word for remember. Crap, that's redundant. Some people have a hard time remembering what happened in a scene because they weren't "receiving" to begin with. But, remembering is crucial to good improv, especially since improv humor is often drawn more from making connections to past material than flipping up one-liner jokes.

The best way to set yourself up to remember well is to:
  • Relax
  • Cultivate an attitude that other people/their ideas are as interesting, if not more interesting, than yours
  • Focus on specifics, they stick in your mind better
Recycle--This is another 'R' word. It's not just my attempt to make improv green, but it's the heart of improv humor. Recycling ideas is funny. Comics sometimes refer to this as the callback.

Like an aluminum can, you can only recycle an idea so many times--before it's essentially useless. But, if you just throw it away, you're missing a huge opportunity--and producing comic waste. And, to push this metaphor to its limits, when you recycle material-you have to add other material to it--so, what you end up with once you've recycled resembles past material, but changes enough that it's slightly different.
The first 2 R's (receive and remember) are the necessary steps to this final idea. Obviously, you can't recycle material if you didn't receive it or remember it.

The recycle step is where creativity happens. Recycling well requires good comedic timing, adding a little something extra, and synthesizing material together.

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