Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Do Physical Stuff Slower...

This is a small tip, but an important one.


This does not mean that you have to walk around like your grandma (unless you're playing the part of your grandma), but it means that for a lot of physical motions, moving a little slower is better. There are certain instances this is not true, like hurrying to get off stage, but for the most part it's effective. Slowing down an action draws attention to it, so if it's not an action you want to draw attention to, don't slow it down.

Why does slow work?
Here's several reasons:
  1. Slower movements exaggerate what you're doing. For example, if you're swinging an axe, a slow swing draws attention to the action.
  2. Slower movements are safer for your partners. If you're in a fight scene with another improviser, chances are real-life punches (although effective for winning the fight) will ensure that partner never wants to be on stage with you again.
  3. Slower movements raise the odds that your partner will react correctly. Nothing is worse than a fake slap or a fake punch that takes place without the other person reacting. One reason this block often happens is due to the fact that it wasn't telegraphed correctly.
  4. Slower movements can be funnier. Of course, this can become a slow-motion gag that can be overdone, but slow movements set up an expectation in the audiences' minds, and that means those expectations can be disrupted... and bam, funny happens.

Too Verbal? Here's an Exercise and a Fun Game

Question: What do 99% of blind people have in common, other than the fact that they can't see?
Answer: Most have developed better senses of healing and touch (maybe even smell).

For the rest of us, we're incredibly visual creatures. And, this affects our improvising. The pros are obvious--mostly that looking at stuff is neat, and visual people are good at being "fun to look at."

BUT, the major con is that visual people also are prone to something I call, "verbal diarrhea." This is characterized by the following (draw your own parallels to actual diarrhea):
  • talking too fast
  • talking too much
  • not processing what he hears
  • not processing what he says
  • pooping out words like it's from the McDonald's dollar menu
It's true, improvisers can sometimes perform at such lightening fast speeds that neither they nor the audience knows what's really going on. And, seeing that the audience usually pays money, they're the ones who get the proverbial shaft.

So, if you are a verbal-person, chances are this affliction might affect you. It's not completely a bad thing--it means you're good at language and words and stuff like that. You probably:
  • got good grades in english
  • noticed I didn't capitalize English in the first bullet point
  • often have people ask you to repeat what you just said (because you tend to speak fast)
Here's an exercise that can help, and it's really simple.

Do a 2-person scene where both participants wear blind folds. Make sure there's 2 spotters so the blind actors don't get hurt (I've found they're usually they're not as adept as actual blind people).
As an added bonus, as the scene progresses, other teammates may start to gently mess with the blind people--putting things in their hands that they must justify, tickling them, throwing beachballs at their faces, etc.
This exercise forces verbal people to slow down because it puts all the focus on HOW THINGS SOUND, something we often ignore in improv scenes either because we're too busy thinking of what to say next, moving around, or simply frightened of the empty space.