But in Improv Comedy You Can’t Edit Out the Unfunny

Last night I took my first improv class at UCB Theater (founded by Amy Poehler and others in 1996). Part of the “homework” is to see two performances before the class ends and we do a show on August 30.

I’ve always been enchanted by improv comics, and was especially intrigued by a former co-worker (Melissa Katz, where are you?). She worked in corporate communication, and said her improv comedy experience helped her in her life and job. For some similar thoughts, see this recent post by Kyle O’Neil about how improv and life are similar.

Here are some of the tips we picked up last night by our instructor, Jonathon Gabrus.

  • Listen don’t plan. If you’re planning a direction, you could end up contradicting.
  • Go with the flow. We played a “yes, and” game where you repeated your teammate’s statement, then added “and” and added to it. The two people need to move the bit in the same direction, and when someone said “but” you could feel that breakdown.
  • Questions force your partner to be clever, so they’re generally avoided.

I’m jazzed that nobody knows I do stuff on YouTube because I wouldn’t want them to think that means I’m funny. But I’m going to have to mention it, because I’m in a class full of brilliantly funny people that HAVE to be in a video. I’m tempted to ask a few of my favorites to stay late after the next class and ROFL on the sidewalks of NYC (literally) to see the reactions of strangers.

Oh- did I mention I’m probably the oldest guy in the class by a decade. Time for a hair transplant.

9 Replies to “But in Improv Comedy You Can’t Edit Out the Unfunny”

  1. I know you do stuff on YouTube and that doesn’t mean I think you’re funny.

    Oh come on… you walked right into that one!!!

    Lets be honest here though… I think farts and stories about shit are funny so I’m not hard to entertain.

  2. heh … you’ll be a hit with your group if you do a totally fantastic mass improv thingie and put it online …

    but better yet how about organizing one of those flash mob improv things through twitter, and filming that … like: 1000 people massing at an intersection and ROFLing. Vanish before cops can start busting heads.

  3. Oh and by the way, every improv group needs one bald old guy … like Colin Mochrie on Whose Line. So if you’re the old bald guy, you are extremely valuable.

  4. @3: Colin Mochrie is one of the best parts of that show. You could be the Colin Mochrie of your little Improv group, Kevin!

  5. Kevin, a lot of times I don’t follow the links in your blog; but sometimes I do and invariably I find something worthwhile, if not RSS-able.

  6. I can’t wait for them to expect you to take a pratfall and you have to explain how you broke your ass-bone, needed invasive surgery and now are too old and frail to comply with their wishes.

    But don’t worry. There’s always a place for geezers in comedy.

  7. I’m a terrible actor and even worse at comedy, but I don’t let it stop me from doing my projects. I wish I had a budget to hire actors, so the production of my projects would go up in quality. Loved this post thanks for posting this your an inspiration Kevin. The acting classes is a great idea hmm… maybe it could help me.

  8. Thanks for the tag! I appreciate that a great deal. I wanted to take some classes at UCB NYC this summer, but with my hectic work schedule and plans for school in the Fall I may not be able to get there for a bit. (Perhaps when I head out to Los Angeles, I’ll do it there.)

    One principle of improv I don’t think my group has worked on enough is the “No Questions” rule, so I’ll be sure to bring that up more often. Also, I’m working on trying out the “Yes, And” game into my workshops for the coming fall. Definitely the greatest thing about improv is its real world applications, it just seems to make life so much richer for those who choose to partake in it. “Yes Man” the movie was definitely a testament to the improv philosophy, in that sense.

    Thanks again!

    P.S. It’s O’Neill with two L’s, but that’s fine. Everybody gets that wrong.

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