Recently, we had the chance to work with Monarc Meetings and the Gov. Housing Conference at CenterStage in Downtown Richmond. It was a simple 3 person ComedySportz show, with Tim Sinclair, Dave Gau, and myself, and it was ton o fun.
The setting was less then conducive for an improv performance. It’s hard to compete with an open bar and the amazing food that was in the area just to the side and in the back of the room. We knew what we were up against going into the program. Fortunately, the team, meeting planner, and our assigned tech pro made this show great.
Let me explain, one of the traits of improv is that you need to trust your partners. The show is not a one person show, and the team, like any sport, will pull together and be there ready to succeed or fail. We go out, give it our best, working WITH the other performers, team members, and WITH the audience.
Players/performers, generally trust each other at the start of the program, though it takes a while for a new audience to start trusting the performers. There seems to be a common fear of improv with audiences that have never seen our show, or ever seen an improv show.
At the start, people are afraid to yell out suggestions, afraid to sit up front, afraid to commit to the show, let’s face it, afraid the performers will pick on them and make them the butt of the joke. To be frank, in the world of improv, that’s the farthest thing from the truth. Improvisers are trained to support each other, and that even includes supporting the audience. That said, much like how one should not provoke animals at the zoo, the same is true that one should not provoke (heckle) the improviser. A provoked “cute” lion can attack, so can the trained quick witted, clever improviser. Their verbal out lash of witticism can cause great humiliation for the heckler. And when that happens, you WILL be the butt of their joke. Fortunately, this did not happen the other night.
What did happen was sheer bliss. There comes the time when there is pure trust in the room. The players are trusting each other, the assigned new tech assistant trusts the players and they trust him, and the audience feels safe and trusts the players and each other. Then, there comes the true childlike play! Everyone is connected!
This moment is full and pure joy! It’s almost as if time slows down, you know exactly what is happening and what’s going to happen. You know what each other is thinking, we become tuned into the vibe of the audience and give them exactly what they want, and scenes get sillier and sillier, funnier and funnier. At that moment, we are all experiencing childlike wonder, joy and the purest laughter.
I suspect improvisation is not the only activity that brings this experience to life. I would love to hear your stories of activities or experiences that get you and your team into that groove.