How to Crush Short Form

by Tim Kay

Short form improv is typically improvisers’ first introduction to the art form. I know it was for me. 'Whose Line' blew my adolescent mind and I couldn’t get enough of it. These adults were on T.V. playing theater games! How cool is that?!? I still have a huge soft spot for it and worked hard to explore the form and help others find their footing.

I’ve put together a few basic tips that could help kickstart your approach to short form:

Start with Scene Work

Many inexperienced improvisers often forget to create an actual scene in their short form game. Establish the who/what/where of the scene immediately. Since short form games are typically really quick, it's even more important to develop your scene immediately. Don’t forget, even though you are playing a game, the scene still matters. Often, the details that you’ve worked hard to set up will get dropped once the game element begins. If things start to unravel because of some funky game rules, remember, the scene is still your backbone.

Know The Games

This needs to be said, even though it seems obvious. If you are playing in an improv game, it’s best to actually know how to play it. I’ve seen audiences turn on performers because they were simply not playing the game correctly. Keep up on game rules by rehearsing and talking to your show hosts about the games. Knowing the rules inside and out will also allows you to bend the rules on occasion. This will help you surprise the audience and ultimately make you more successful.  

Listen to Your Audience

A short-form audience will tell you what they want, sometimes with raucous laughter, other times with shocking, deafening silence. They’ll let you know if you’ve gone too blue, too smart, too dumb, or too young. Feel out the crowd and learn to shift gears. They didn’t go crazy over your Star Wars scene? Maybe steer clear of the Nerfherder jokes for a bit and find something else they respond to.

Perform, Watch, & Suck

It’s difficult to advance in improv if you are only performing in class or in rehearsal. These are both incredibly important but remember, improv is a performance art. You’ll need to eventually be comfortable playing in front of audiences all the time. Your best bet is to go to jams and play in as many games as you can, or put together a troupe and jump into the Itty Bits tournament. This goes hand in hand with bombing. Yes, you need to suck. And you will suck. But know that this is ok and perfectly normal. In fact, learn to love bombing. Everyone has crap shows. As your experience grows, learning to shake off the bad sets quickly will help you get back to your kick-ass self.  

Play with Confidence

Take your improvising to the next level by mustering as much confidence as you can for your performances. Initiate your scenes with conviction and offer up bold choices for your partners. This will help make your scenes more active and more fun. Audiences will appreciate your moxie too! If the crowd believes that you are on stage for a reason, they’ll have a harder time judging you as an ‘amateur’.   

Be Bold

Speaking of making bold choices...make bold choices. (Woof, terrible segue. Whatever. IDGAF.)

No one gets partial credit for waiting to see what your scene partner will do, so make a character choice as soon as the game begins. You’ve all seen it. The scene that just won’t start and ends with zero connections or identifiable elements. (that who/what/where again). Often, improvisors fall into the habit of being too supportive. Obviously we want to yes, and our scene partners, but it can be disastrous when that’s all a scene becomes. Your scenes will be stronger if you start with bold choices, even if it feels like you aren’t supporting.   

Be Yourself

Originality really shines through in comedy and the easiest way to get there is to simply be yourself. Keying into what makes you, you will help make you more comfortable on stage and more entertaining for audiences.

Mastering any one aspect of improv will take years of practice.

Hopefully a few of these tips can help you up your game.

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Tim Kay is a Resident Artist at Go Comedy with over 10 years of experience in improv and sketch comedy. He is has been with Go Comedy since the inaugural cast and has been in countless productions and roles ever since. He lives with a wonderful girl and a delightful dog. 

Posted on March 24, 2017 .

Musical Improv

by Cari Sue Murphy

From ages 9-17 I was a part of a non profit dance and lip sync troupe called the Earth Angels. We performed mostly Motown and Oldies hits with a few modern numbers mixed in. We performed everywhere you could think of from the Woodward Dream Cruise, Retirement Homes, Disney World, and schools. One school we performed at every year was always very meaningful. It was called Cloverdale and it was a school for children who had severe physical and developmental disabilities.

The gymnasium would fill with students, teachers, and parents. Many of the children were in wheelchairs, many were both blind and deaf. How could these children enjoy a show of dancing and music when they couldn’t see us or hear the music? The show started, and that gym was full of more happiness and energy than I knew possible. How?

They could feel it.

They literally FELT the physical vibrations of the music. These kids would dance and smile and at the end of the show they would hug us and not let go. That was one moment of my life where I truly recognized the power of music. It’s powerful enough to transcend disability and connect people through it’s vibrations. Music is incredible, just like the kids at Cloverdale school.

I share that story to emphasize the limitless possibility of music. Song is a language everyone can speak. Even if you don’t understand the words of a song you can feel it, right? You can feel if it’s a happy or heartbreaking song, if it’s intense or chill. Most of us have songs that can take us back to a certain moment of time with just a few notes. We know lyrics that can make us weep and songs that make us feel strong enough to conquer our greatest life battles. Combine the superpower of music with the magic of improv and you have something truly special.

Musical improv only amplifies the “being in the moment” that is so awesome in non-musical improv.

In Musical improv you are thinking of so many things at once. Relationship, lyrics, emotion, rhythm, song structure, harmony, rhyme scheme, give and take, game of the scene and movement. There is even less brain space for self doubt and there is less time to hold back. Some of the best moments I’ve ever experienced on stage have been when my scene partner and I are so in the moment, so connected by music that we sing the same exact lyrics with boldness and energy and in perfect harmony… pure magic. In those moments I feel so connected to not only my scene partner(s), but the whole room.

There is a LOT to think about during musical improv, but I think the beauty of it is how simple it is. Melodies and lyrics don’t have to be very complicated to make a lasting impact on people. Sing simply about something and instead of going wide and creating further plot details go deep into that one simple thing you started your song about. Using very few words, what is the core of the matter? That could be your chorus. Think about the great choruses that everyone knows and how simple they are “Don’t stop believing! Hold on to that feel-leh-ee-eh-in!” …. “Nanananan Hey Jude!” ….. “I- ee - I will always love you!” …. “Who let the dogs out? Who? Who? Who?” …you get the point. Simple, powerful. It is always tempting to wrap something up and move onto what is next but the whole purpose of a song is to stay in what is. Don’t move past a moment because it gets uncomfortable. Go deep in that moment, for that is the exact place where what you “should say” dies and the honesty about that situation, the emotions, the relationship comes out… IN SONG!

If you are interested in doing musical improv I think a great way to get started is to sing throughout your normal day. You can make up your own melody or change the lyrics to songs you already know.

Sing about microwaving your oatmeal! Sing about the day ahead of you or what you notice that you might otherwise overlook. What’s going on around you, how do you feel? Notice it and sing it. The best songs are honest songs. But honesty doesn’t have to be limited to your own perspective. You can sing from a character’s perspective what is true to THEM! As you are driving somewhere instead of turning on the radio, become a character and make up a song from their perspective. Instead of being Julia Schroeder driving to the Recycling Center (which is pretty amazing in and of itself TBH) why not be Marcy Duhampton driving to the edge of a cliff to ponder her identity after she was served divorce papers. What song is inside of Marcy in that moment? Is it in a minor key? Is it dramatic? Is it hopeful? Or pretend like you are 16 year old Camden Crosby driving alone for the first time after getting his license. What’s that stoked dude singing about?! What’s he going to do with his newfound freedom? Try it! In one song you can go deep into a character’s psyche. Pro tip- if you have young children or pets they can be forced to be your audience.

In conclusion, I just want to encourage all the musical improvisers or hope to be musical improvisers out there not to hold back. The world needs whatever song you and your characters have inside you- whether we need the lyrics, the laughter, or simply the vibrations...

It is needed.

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Cari comes from a long line of women who made songs up about practically every moment of their life. Some may cringe at the thought of such a life, but Cari hath embraced it to the fullest making it her hobby and passion. Cari began improv classes in 2013 as a New Years Resolution but it has blossomed into her life’s joy and purpose. When not on stage or in rehearsal you can find Cari hanging with her three year old son, Roosevelt, sweating profusely at Orangetheory, or with her headphones on at a coffee shop, journal open, muffin crumbs everywhere, just trying to make sense of it all.

Posted on March 17, 2017 .

How to Audition

by Pj Jacokes

So you're going to audition for an improv troupe or show or theater and you're wondering how the hell it works. Take it or leave it, this is my advice:

BEFORE YOU GET ON STAGE:

1. Treat it like a job interview (because it is one).

2. The audition begins when you walk in the door.

3. Come early to warm up so you can get to know your audition partners, pee, smoke or whatever you need to do to be ready.

   3a. Don't come drunk or high.

4. Be prepared/know what you're auditioning for. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

5. Bring a headshot and resume.

   5a. If you don't have a professional headshot, get one, but until then bring in a quality photo of yourself. (Don't bring a print out, a hilarious photo from that one time, or a photo with you and someone else in it. No, not even if they're someone famous.)

   5b. A performance resume - I don't need to know how long you worked at BusiNet. Always include education.

   5c. Don't lie on your resume and don't worry about how long it is. My first resume was 2 class shows and a play I did in High School. We all start somewhere. You are at the point in your career that you are at. Don’t spend a second fretting about where you’re not. Enjoy the journey.

6. Dress for the job you want. That usually means "show clothes.” Comfortable business attire. Ties - yes. Suit coats - no. Look professional. Women should wear pants or leggings - clothing and shoes you can move around in. Don't dress 'funny' or too casually or too provocatively. 

7. Be polite. It's never failed.

   7a. Don't be the d**khead who tries to psyche everyone out. I hate that guy. That guy's mom hates him too.

8. Don't be overly friendly with the auditioners. If you know them, even if they're family, keep it to a 'hello.' They know if they know you, stay away from suck-uppery. Everyone can see that for what it is and it can make the whole room uncomfortable.

ONCE YOU'RE ON STAGE:

9. Take a deep breath

10. Have Fun

11. Be confident. Failing that - perform confidence.

12. Save the comedy for the scenes - if you're asked to say your name, just say it, be a person first, and then a performer. If you're asked to be real, please be real.

13. Make an impression. Do what you do best. Make others look good, support, give and take and listen. Stage hogs and doormats will both be left behind.

   13a. If someone messes up on stage, don’t ever make a stink-face from the backline to show that you caught their gaffe. Doubly so, if you are in the scene. Your audition ends the moment you do.

14. Be bold.

   14a. That doesn't mean violent or offensive.

   14b. If your partner does something regrettable, do your best to roll with it. The auditioners know when your partner has put you at a disadvantage, and will take that into account.

15. Give it everything you've got and when it's over leave it all behind.

16. Remember that the auditioners want you to succeed. We're looking for talent. Believe me, we're pulling for you. We'd much rather cut good people, than cast mediocre.

AFTERWARDS

17. Remember to breathe.

18. Be polite.

19. Don’t hang out at the venue, get your stuff and let the next group have their space.

20. If you can, grab a drink with your audition group and all of the others. Cheer each other on as newcomers arrive from their audition.

21. If you don't get a callback, it's OK. There's always next time. Some of the best improvisers I've ever known, got shut out the first few times.

I hope that helps.
Now kick ass and break legs!

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Pj Jacokes is the Producer of Go Comedy! Improv Theater, so listen up, chumps! Pj did not write this bio. Shelby wrote this bio. Pj will probably make me change this bio later. 

Posted on March 8, 2017 .

Stop all the arguing (but if you do, make it loud)

By Aaron Mondry

Don't argue.

Along with "don't ask questions," this is one of the more common "rules" of improv. (I put rules in quotations because, as all improvisors eventually discover, these are more suggestions than directives -- rules of thumb that have proven successful in countless scenes and which newer improvisers are encouraged to master.)

Despite this adage, I've seen many hilarious scenes where people argue. There's energy, conflict, emotion -- things that often aid a scene. But arguing often comes from a place of fear or unease, an inability to accept gifts, and a combative attitude. Arguing can be a subtle form of denial that causes scenes to get bogged down in definitions, opinions, and things unrelated to the people themselves.

Let's look at an example of a scene that can easily stray into tedious argument.

A: "I can't believe you collect stamps. That's so lame."
B: "No it's not. Stamps are cool."

The most likely outcome from these two initial lines is an argument about whether or not stamps are cool. If it followed that track, they'd continually talk about stamps and never get to the meat of their relationship.

It's understandable that arguing happens so often in improv (and why I do it so often myself). When you get called lame in real life, you reflexively want to reject that description. It's human nature for people to defend themselves when their character is attacked, so it makes sense that they'd do the same as a character.

But it's not as funny. I'd much rather watch a scene that went like this:

A: "I can't believe you collect stamps. That's so lame."
B: "I know. I hope I never make any friends at this school. I don't even like stamps."

In this scenario, B chooses to accept A's gift and own an odd trait -- the desire to be lame. We can imagine countless funny ways this scene could go. B reveals he does his homework, kisses him mom when she drops him off, keeps a tiny vial of urine in his pocket so he can periodically make himself smell worse throughout the day. We find out A wants to be friends with B and gets rebuffed ("I'm sorry, I can't hang out with someone that wants to be my friend"). The whole school suddenly thinks stamp collecting is cool and B's plan backfires.

And it all arose from the instinct to agreement, even (especially) when our scene partner describes us in a way we'd normally recoil from. If, in a scene, someone describes you as cruel, promiscuous, boring, or greedy, don't argue with them -- OWN that trait. You'll have created an instant, original character.

A: "You're a monster."
B: "It's true, I like seeing others suffer."

There's a lot of potential humor in B's unrepentant, sadistic character (especially if you tend to go dark, like me).

Is it ever okay to argue in improv?

Yes, of course. Like I said in the intro, arguments can still be hilarious. Scenes can work even when people argue about the best action movie of the last decade or whether tacos are a sandwich. They just require a great deal of wit, which is not a skill everyone can access.

So if you find yourself in that situation, don't fret. I find arguments work most frequently when the improvisors make everything as important and emotionally impactful as possible. For example:

A: "You don't love me anymore."
B: "Yes I do! I'll do anything to prove it!"
A: "Okay. Clean the kitchen floor."
B: "Baby, be reasonable."

If you're in a troupe or class that finds itself arguing too much, a great way to break the habit is through the exercise "Goalie." One player stands across from line of improvisors fielding "shots." Each improvisor in the line steps forward, delivers an initiation line, and the goalie says one line back. In this version, the shooters accuse the goalie of something, and the goalie fully accepts it without shame.

Shooter: "You're going to the casino again? You have a gambling problem."
Goalie: "All the money I ever got was through luck and I'm not gonna stop now."

I'll sometimes give myself a single intention before shows, like "go to your environment" or "lead with an emotion." If you find yourself arguing a lot in scenes, tell yourself before going onstage that no matter what, you won't argue.

And if you do argue, it's no big deal.

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Aaron Mondry is an improvisor, freelance writer, and managing editor of Model D.

Posted on March 2, 2017 .

How to Start a Troupe

by Jessica Loria

 

There comes a time in the education of the improviser in which s/he finds that once a week in class improv just simply isn’t enough. That’s great! That time should come, and soon you’ll be on your way to selling your soul to some surly theater producer for 22 minutes of stage time. This is the dream. Embrace it.

 

1. Form a Troupe

But seriously folks -- the best way to get more experience is to start your own improv troupe. This is not a daunting task, I promise. Find a few people in your class you click with, and love playing with. It doesn’t have to be your full class. In my opinion it shouldn’t be more than six people, and sometimes that feels like too much. Be aware, however, those who you exclude may have hurt feelings. But, they’ll move on. Playing with different people is one of the joys of improv, and you want the troupe to have good chemistry. There’s also no rule about the number of troupes you can start -- so feel free to shop around, or throw a bone to someone you don’t necessarily adore playing with.

It doesn’t have to be just your class, either. Connect with improvisers in Fresh Sauce. Reach out to someone in a different class you enjoy. Find people who get you, and get together.

2. Find a Coach

If you’re serious about this troupe, and becoming a better improviser, you need a coach. Reach out to a Go U teacher you really liked, or a particular performer you enjoy. Most of us are happy and willing to coach, and I guarantee you’ll find someone who helps you grow. Many troupes book sessions with a few different teachers to start. I always recommend that. You’ll find someone who clicks with your troupe and playing style, and you’ll figure out what you want as you go. Even when you decide on a coach, it never hurts to book a session or two here and there with someone else. Different people bring different things to the table. (For example: I love patient, emotional play, and tend to focus on that when I start working with a troupe).

An aside: pay your coach. Usually it’s $5-10 per person for a 2-hour session. Coaches aren’t doing this for the money, but their time is valuable.

3. Have Objectives. Get a Name.

Figure out what your goals are as a troupe. Sometimes, at first, you just want to play with certain people and improve. That’s a good goal! Later, you might decide you want to focus on a particular form, or excel in a certain area. Some troupes are adept at finding and playing the game of the scene. Others are focused on physicality or character. Follow your bliss, and pick a coach who is right for that -- but don’t neglect the rest of your training! A fast-paced physical troupe still needs to connect emotionally, and an emotional acting-focused troupe can benefit from intense game focus.

Another aside: if you’re still confused on what I mean by finding the Game, see me after class. Or check out the UCB book. Actually, do that anyway.

You’ll also need to name your troupe. Pick something that represents you, and that you won’t stop loving. Don’t name it after your coach, or a beloved teacher, and try to stay away from jokes that came out of scenes you did (trust me -- nothing is ever as funny as when you performed it, and that magic will never be recreated). If your troupe has a specific focus, feel free to use that when naming it too (think Dubalicious, who uses dubbing games in between their scenes).

4. Set goals. REHEARSE.

You have a coach now. Use him or her. Decide as a troupe what your goals are -- do you want to get ready for BITS? Work on characters? Master a particular form? Make a game plan, and be prepared to work for it. It’s ok to start small. And it’s ok to rehearse less as the troupe ages, but improv can never truly be solved (sorry), so you should still be rehearsing once in awhile. Go Comedy rents out rehearsal space for $25, and for even less if your coach is on staff here. Just email me for information and availability!

Sometimes troupes die. It happens and it’s natural, and you should let it. Performers will want different things, and sometimes people drop off to do non-improv related things (not sure what that’s all about). It’s ok to move on.

5. Perform

Get that stage time! Here at Go we have opportunities like the Sunday Buffet, BITS, or different opening night spots. Pointless and Planet Ant Theatre have availability for guest teams as well. Some local bars have pop-ups in need of comedy, and some others don't know it yet but they need you too. Remember that stage time is a goddamn gift -- most of the performers you admire honed their skills in some dive bar while competing with Monday Night Football. Don’t ever take stage time for granted. Your coach can help you find spots too, but remember that hustle is an improviser’s best friend. You should always be posting, networking, rehearsing. You can be the most talented person in the world, but without that drive no one is going to know about it.

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Jessica Loria is a goddess and a warrior and a Go Comedy! Resident Artist. You can find her at her throne as Managing Director in HQ, teaching classes for GoU, or performing on stage with Birdbox Players, Safe Word, and Seat's Taken. She is beautiful and wonderful and did not write this bio for herself.    

Posted on February 24, 2017 .

Welcome to the Go U Blog

Welcome to the totally hot and fresh Go U Blog.

Well, really, it's been here since 2015, but we're adding hot and fresh stuff to it. 

This Blog will serve as a hub of information for any and all up-and-coming improvisers, sketch writers, comedy aficionados, with new posts weekly, written by members of our Resident Company. 

If you're interested in seeing a specific topic, would like to submit a comment, or you have a question for one of the authors, please fill out the following form.

Otherwise, just enjoy! Thanks for reading! 

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Posted on February 24, 2017 .