Have you got game?

No one in MissImp probably noticed me talking about going to the USA. I barely mentioned it. But I did and I blogged about it on my Lloydie Blog if you fancy a gander. One thing I wanted to blog about here, however, was one specific seminar.

Matt Besser is one of the founders of the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. He was in the UCB TV show, his podcast Improv For Humans is pretty awesome. He did a seminar to 100 people at the Del Close Marathon last Sunday where he coached a few Harold team members and talked about his improv philosophy. Of the four UCB members he is by far the most evangelical about “game of the scene” and is wonderfully opinionated about improv. I find his philosophy compelling and I wanted to share some key points I took away from the afternoon. These raise questions as well as give answers and they are challenging to most improvisers.

Details:
When you are in a scene, don’t let the details pass you by. If you don’t use them now, you can use them later or even in two scenes time. You need to improvise like everything that is happening is significant, then even the small details will matter. Hold on to the details and if the scene runs out of steam you can use them to feed into the game.

Game:
Make your game clear by justifying it. When you spot the unusual thing make a good justification for it. Keep your justifications real, especially if you’re a straight man in the scene. Find subtle ways of making that point in a real way. Name the game. You can be explicit about what is unusual once you’ve spotted it. Why not just say “I have to try things out indoors before going outside” if that’s what’s happening?

Commitment to your art form:
Besser: “When we were really focussed on our improv we were rehearsing three times a week for three hours at a time”

“Your group needs a philosophy. What works for you?” He isn’t a fan of people taking bits from different schools as none of them agree. So what is it that YOU do as a group? “Core curriculum should be on the same page and done in the same way”.

Those are just three things I took away, but they make sense to me and I want to live them out in the way I improvise.

The UCB are about to publish a book which outlines their philosophy and is applicable to new improvisers and experienced ones alike. It details their way. I have one of the 200 limited run copies they released at the DCM last week. I’d recommend it to anyone in improv. It’s due out later this month.

3 thoughts on “Have you got game?

  1. Interesting blog: but one sentenced horrified me:
    “He isn’t a fan of people taking bits from different schools as none of them agree.”

    1. How would new schools emerge if people only did what had been done before?
    2. NONE of them agree: about what? About anything? Simply not true!

    1. Let me provide a little more context to what he was saying.

      I think he was saying “Don’t enrol with several theatres at once. Learn one thing well before going and trying something else” which makes sense to me. If you enrolled on Annoyance and iO in Chicago, for example, and did their courses at the same time, it would be very hard to develop as a performer as there would be some very different and sometimes conflicting things being taught.

      None of the schools agree completely. At all is obviously an overstatement, however even at the basic level of “Yes, and” there’s a difference of opinion on how to do it and how to use it. As for “game” then it really gets controversial.

      1. Ahhhhhh! Yes, that makes a lot more sense. Don’t enrol on two courses at the same time – master one before learning something else?

        Much happier over here now.

        Personally I think you need to read everything and try everything. I don’t like dismissing things before I have enough knowledge to know I can dismiss it!

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