HOW TO IMPROVISE,
FOR BEGINNERS AND ADVANCED STUDENTS

How to Improvise

First things first, why do people want to perform improv? Is it to express themselves in a unique way? To entertain audiences? Well, I can only answer for myself. The reason I perform improv is to get laid. That's right, I want to do the horizontal dance with a hottie from the audience every single time I perform. Everyone knows that the chickies only do it with the funniest one, so I decided to write this article to let you know how to be the funniest.

The Basics

Pick up any book on improv and the first this it will try and teach you is "yes and." This is the basic idea that you should pick up on other people' s ideas and build on them. Traditionally, denying any part of someone else' s idea would be termed a "block" and be totally forbidden. In response to this, I say blah blah blah!

First of all, this assumes that someone is going to have a better idea than yours. What are the chances of that? Obviously the chances of someone else having a good idea that makes you look good are pretty slim. But, you are a genius. The smartest funniest person you know. Obviously, once you get the suggestion from the audience you are going to have the best idea. (Especially if you follow the suggestions in the "Idea" section.)

In the best of all possible worlds, you will simply be able to go out on stage and speak first and everyone else will fall in line with your idea. Unfortunately, this won't happen every time. So, to help you along, I have come up with the following techniques.

1. Ignore: This is a powerful method. If someone else manages to establish something in the scene that you don't like, just ignore him and pretend that what he said never happened. The audience will be confused for a second, but will be appreciative later when you reward them with hilarity. "Father, what did you get me for my birthday." "That cow is pregnant, but we won't know for sure unless you stick your hand up inside there and find out!"

2. No: Nothing has more power in improv than a simple "no." "Do you want to go to the theater?" "No, I want to continue on our mission to Mars, ensign."

3. Crazy: Just make the other person crazy. This way nothing they say will have any effect on the scene. "Wow grandma, it looks like you forgot to take your medicine again."

4. Loud Talking: Just cut other people off and talk louder than they do.

The audience can only listen to one person at a time and they'll pick the loudest. I promise. This also works at family dinners and on the bus. Of course, to do this you will have to have something worth saying. That will be covered in the next section.

The Ideas

Traditional improv books will tell you not to worry about ideas. Just say what comes next, they say, and the ideas will take care of themselves. Sure, if you want to take that risk. What if it doesn't happen the night that girl that looks exactly like Carmen Electra is looking for a funny stud muffin to canoodle? You're out of luck my friend.

But, he who is prepared gets a bun for his hot dog and he who is well prepared will get a little relish as well. Don't pretend you don' t know what I mean.

I always have a few skits pre-written just in case. All you have to do is write something that makes it easy to fit a suggestion in without changing the sketch. For instance, write something that takes place at a zoo and then ask for a wild animal as the suggestion. Or write an office skit and ask for a piece of office equipment. Of course, the other people won't know you pre-written the scene, so you'll have to use one of my suggestions for taking over a scene.

If you can't write your own scenes, don't be afraid to lift them from other sources. Most of the audience for improv is under the age of 21, so you have about 15 years of old Saturday Night Live episodes you can lift from. Don't be afraid to work in lines from Monty Python, old TV commercials, Kids in the Hall skits (No one in your audience will know these guys), other improv shows (They probably stole them from someone else anyway) and, if nothing else works, skim the internet for things other people have written.

You may be scared that someone might recognize the material. Again, don' t worry, if a member of the audience does recognize it, they will pat themselves on the back and think that you are doing an homage. Homage is a fancy word for copyright infringement without legal consequences.

Also, if you are in a scene that works, do it again! That funny ice cream shop can come back every time ice cream shop comes up. Hell, with a few changes it could be a funny muffler shop. But, in any case, it means you'll be getting your salami sliced. Sliced extra thin!

Characters

It is always best if you can play yourself in scenes. After all, if you could think of something funnier than you, you'd be that, right? Here are a few characters that you will need to perform improv.

1. Yourself: I kind of already covered this, but it needs to be said again. You are so fucking funny.

2. A Gay Guy: This shows that you are broadminded. Plus, a lot of beautiful girls are friends with gay guys. Walk swishy and take on a lisp. This character is an especially good waiter. People will laugh if you talk about anything shaped like a penis. "That is one beautiful hammer!" "Here's the sausage you ordered!"

3. Foreign guy: Pick an accent. That way if you are ever supposed to be from a foreign country you can just plop it on. It doesn't matter if you have it wrong. No one will notice and if they do, they will think you are smart and making fun of other countries. "I em nat frem dis coontree. Whar iz de welfare ofis?"

4. Child. Get on your knees, talk in a high-pitched voice and say embarrassing things. Lisp if you want to, but audience may think you are gay short guy. "Your ass sure is big!" "You have smaller boobs than my mom!"

5. Woman: Try and avoid it if you can, but if nothing else. you can get lots of laughs by being a stupid woman. Talk about your period a lot. Ask your boyfriend to buy you tampons. You know, woman stuff. "Don't ask me, I have my period. Do I look fat in these pants?"

If you master all five of these characters, you can write your own ticket! A one way ticket into bed with a hottie that is.

Saving Scenes and Background Characters

Background characters are a big myth. There is no character so small that he can' t take over a scene if played correctly. Often, a scene will be moving away from the funny and toward the emotional. No one goes to the theater to be moved or to think, they want funny! If you see characters about to have some kind of emotional breakthrough, it is important for you to run out onstage as a supporting character to save the scene. Countless "emotional" scenes have bee saved by the entrance of a wacky pizza guy or a gay waiter. Suddenly that breakup doesn' t seem so important when a pizza guy is demanding a $1,000 tip.

Being a minor character is a great way to get more stage time as well. If the other guys are doing badly in a scene, the audience will think it is hysterical if you sit in the background and make faces indicating how badly the scene is going. If it continues to go badly, don't be afraid to point out how badly its going with a line of dialog such as, "Boy, I wish this scene would end." This will prove to the audience once and for all who the funniest one is and you' ll get your cork popped by a sweet piece of a. (In that sentence, "a" means "ass.")

Long Form

zzzzzzz... What? Huh? Sorry, you woke me up.

Long form should be called, "No sex here."

Avoid at all costs.

Miming skills

There are a few things you will have to learn to mime if you want to do improv. I know mime is gay, but the less effort you put into it, the less gay it is.

1. A bar. Easy mime, just wipe a counter with a cloth. Spit in a glass and wipe it out.

2. Cocktail party. Hold your hand like you have a glass. Don't think you have to set it down, just do what you have to do with your hands and then drink from the glass again.

3. Sweeping. This is a good thing to do in any environment.

4. Stocking grocery store shelves. One knee, stacking cans, instant store!

5. Eating. Just scoop food with both hands towards your mouth and talk. It isn't real food. No need to chew.

Women in Improv

Sometimes ladies get it into their heads that they want to perform instead of watch. This can still work out if they are hotties and they want to have sex with you. Otherwise, it's just a big waste of time. It is especially easy to shut down their ideas. They use a form of improv called "subtle," which as near as I can tell means above the audiences head. Just mime squeezing their boobs and the audience will forget they are even talking.

Boobs are a good indication of how funny a woman will be on stage. Audiences are more forgiving if a woman has big boobs, plus, think of all the good jokes you can make! Tit happens! The bigger a woman's ya-yas are the louder an audience will laugh when she tries to talk.

It is good to have them play secretaries, moms and whores. That lets the men focus on being funny. If they try and do anything too serious, just laugh at them. Women like to watch you treat women performers badly. It lets them know you're in charge. Then you can get your turkey carved. Who wants a drumstick?

*

Return to Helpful Research!

Copyright 2003 David Wahl