Probably the phrase I hear Darren say the most in improv classes is, “Make it a statement.” That’s because making statements rather than asking questions doesn’t seem to come naturally to most students.
This is a hard skill for many of us because in real life, asking questions is polite. “How are you?” “Where would you like to go for dinner?” “Where did you get that amazing plastic surgery?”
In improv, on the other hand, asking questions is NOT polite. It’s actually putting the burden of coming up with information onto your scene partner, which could be considered rude. In improv, you want to choose to KNOW. Know everything. I’ve seen a bazillion instances where, when forced to change a question to a statement, students come up with the most amazing labels and information.
Students sometimes argue that their question was leading, and therefore added information. Like, “I think this dress makes my ass look fat – what do you think?” That’s a yes or no question, peeps, and all we learn when your scene partner answers it is that your ass looks fat, or it does not. Making it a statement, “Gosh, I’m really afraid that this dress makes my ass look fat,” tells us something about you: you are worried about your appearance. Maybe not the most exciting improv bombshell ever, but it’s still a character trait.
Students also frequently point out that their question was a rhetorical one, and they were not actually relying on their scene partner to answer it in order to add information. I see the point, and I don’t disagree with regard to the burdensome aspect of it. However, you have 3 minutes to do a whole entire scene in improv. You don’t have time to waste on throwaway lines. A rhetorical question doesn’t add anything, so even though it’s harmless, it’s also pointless. Much stronger choice to go with a statement.
There’s also the type of question that’s tacked onto the end of a statement, designed to elicit agreement. “I have always loved making scones with you, Reggie! Wouldn’t you agree?” That’s kind of the opposite of forcing your scene partner to come up with the information – it’s forcing them to accept your agenda. Just stick with the statement and perform a question-ectomy on the last part. Naturally, your scene partner will agree with the facts of your statement because they know they have to yes, and whatever you say. Reggie will therefore agree that YOU have loved making scones together. However, he may have hated every minute of it. Give him that freedom.
When you see performers ask questions in shows, it’s largely because they’ve been working together for a long time and know how to set one another up to give great information or to pimp out certain character traits or particular skills they know their scene partners possess. Even then, though, I’d argue that the same could be accomplished more quickly and directly with a statement.
But, you know, that’s just my opinion. Right?