Posted Monday, November 22, 2004 1:13:43 PM by Chris Flick
That's how fast comedy improv moves. How do I know this? Because that's how fast the speed of thought is. At least, that's the case when you're on stage and trying to come up with a creative way to depict an animal that is an expert in "Diet & Weight Loss" and still make it obvious to the audience what kind of animal you are.
Yes, that's how silly improvisation comedy can be.
I'm finding, however, that it's this quick pace and ultra silliness that makes it very difficult to actually write a blog about. For instance, I can tell you my character, "Dr. King" was asked and answered the following questions:
Audience: What is the best way to lose excess weight?
"Dr. King": I have found swatting at airplanes and helicopters to be a great source of exercise and helps shed extra weight.
Audience: What's the key to healthy living and prolonging one's life?
"Dr. King": Avoid the city - especially skyscrapers.
Audience: What's the best and healthiest food to eat?
"Dr. King": Blonde white women.
What I can't tell you about is the immediate audience reaction... the laughter from the rest of the class as they immediately "got" the joke of not only what kind of animal I was but WHO I was trying to be as well. And, once they "got" the joke, their questions started to reflect that as well. I'm not saying they expected me to say "blonde white women" when they asked me about the healthiest food to eat or they expected me to tell them to avoid the city if they wanted to prolong their life, but those were fantastic hand-offs. Because they got the joke, they were able to ask me a question that I was able to feed off of and turn it into some kind of humorous statement.
But it's that audience reaction that you're missing - that you're not able to experience. And, no matter how much I write about how I was a hitchhiking Yoda or "Bob", the uneducated southerner assigned the task of giving the worst sexual advice in the history on mankind, you still won't be able to experience the instantaneous aspect of those characters. In this regard, it's truly understandable why many actors say they enjoy performing on stage as opposed to being on film. On stage, they get that immediate reaction from the audience. The thrill - or dread - knowing they have succeeded - or failed. There is an immediate reaction that they get on stage that is missing from the secluded world of film. And, although I'm sure making a multi-million dollar film is incredibly exciting and thrilling in its own way, it imagine it must still be completely different then performing live on Broadway simply because that immediate reaction to one's performance isn't there.
In some ways, I deal with the same the same sort of thing when it comes to the CMX Suite strips. Although the strip is a blast and joy to create, with the exception of a few people whom I send advance copies to, I never get to see, hear or feel the immediate reaction you all have when you come to the CommunityMX web site every Tuesday to see what kind of crazy and zany antics I have cooked up for that week's installment. Of course, that's more a product of being a cartoonist as opposed to a performer then anything else, but that's also another reason why I wanted to take this improv class so much - to see if the same thought process I use to create the CMX Suite strip could be translated on a stage and what immediate reaction I might get.
Thus far, this class has been all - and more - then I could have hoped for and I am truly enjoying every moment of the experience.
Now, if I could only find someway to create the CMX Suite strips in 1.3 million miles per second...
Posted Wednesday, November 10, 2004 10:13:08 AM by Chris Flick
That's what we practiced during my first of six classes on improv comedy this past Saturday.
Basically, Zip! Zap! Zop! is a warm up exercise that trains you to "free your brain from anticipation and thinking" - of course, many of my friends already think I excel at this but that's beside the point, right?
In the exercise known as Zip! Zap! Zop!, you stand in a circle so everyone is able to make eye contact with each other. One person starts off by saying either zip, zap or zop. If that person looks at you, you are to look at someone else in the circle and reply in kind - zip, zap or zot. The "game" continues for 5 or ten minutes until you get used to not anticipating or planning which of the three responses you are going to say when someone looks at you. Believe me, it sounds a lot easier then it really is. It took me a few tries before I was actually able to say one of those three responses without pausing, planning or deciding to whom I was going to direct my response to. But then again, that was the whole point of the exercise.
As I mentioned last week, I participated in an improv comedy troupe back in high school so I already knew that the secret to really good improve comedy is to "free your mind" and simply react without thinking - to be in the moment - but that was also when I was 17 and 18 years old. Back then, having an unfiltered mind didn't seem all that difficult. But now, fast forward 19 years later... throw in a wife, two kids, a career plus all of my freelance work - web design and illustration combined, and suddenly, it ain't so easy "freeing your mind NOT to think".
You see, as a cartoonist, whenever I start work on a new CMX Suite strip, before I ever put pencil to paper, the strip has already been thought out very carefully in my head - the panels designed with extra care, the dialogue scrutinized and edited over and over again (sometimes), the character sketches done over and over again until I'm happy with the results. I also have the luxury of studying a particular strip and asking myself is this as funny as I can make the strip? What if I change this panel? What if I change this dialogue? What if I put Tom Green in the CSS Jeannie outfit again? You get the picture.
That's not to say any of that is bad - it's simply the way I tend to work when it comes to the CMX Suite strips. But by taking this improv class, I'm hoping the classes will re-kindle that same kind of unfiltered thought process I had when I was a teenager and see where - or how - it might improve other things in my life. Whether those things are art-related or life-related remains to be seen.
I'll let you know how my next class goes next week.