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By Darren Held

Bionic Woman Costume = Bad Improvy Agenda

Letting go of your agenda is perhaps the hardest thing to do in improv. I suppose that argument could be made for listening, as well. Or making eye contact. Or whatever it is that you find the hardest thing to do on any given day. But today, I’m going with the agenda thing. It has nothing to do with the fact that some ladies out-agenda’d me this weekend and made me cranky.

Okay, it might have a little to do with that. Fortunately, I didn’t challenge anyone to a duel. I mean fortunately for them. I would so win that battle.

Um. Anyway. In real life, we all have agendas. We make a plan for the day. We have to-do lists. We have goals and dreams and missions to accomplish. And we can’t get all that shit done if we just leave everything up to chance. So having an agenda can be a good thing.

Even in improv, having a certain type of agenda is great. Planning to have a big character, respond to the last thing your scene partner said, listen and have big emotional reactions are great things to have on your improvy agenda.

Having a specific idea like, “I’ma be the boss, and I’ll say ‘From now on, all employees have to wear Bionic Woman costumes to work,’ that’ll be hilarious” is a bad thing to have on your improvy agenda. Just sayin’.

We all have ideas. They’re not always good. Duh. But even the good ones can get you in trouble if you’re trying to shoe-horn them into a scene where they don’t belong. The fun (and brilliance) of improv comes from letting your ideas go and seeing where the group synergy takes you. Of course it’s scary – I never said improv wasn’t scary, peeps – but it’s scary in an exhilarating, liberating, mind-expanding kind of way.

In real life, it’s good to be willing to let go of your agenda as well. Of course you have a goal. But you don’t want to be so married to that goal that you miss the million-times-better opportunity that comes up along the way. So have your plan. Make your agenda. List your to-dos. But remember, much like the Pirate’s Code, they’re really more what you’d call guidelines than actual rules.

By Sonnjea Blackwell

By Darren Held

Sketch Writing Class in Long Beach

The very first Held2gether sketch writing class started last Wednesday, and it was fantastic. We did a couple of writing exercises and everyone read what they had written and got feedback from Darren and the class, and nobody cried or anything.

Obviously, sketch comedy is inherently different from improv. And yet, it isn’t. One of the exercises we did involved two people working together, each writing one line of dialogue at a time, and then passing it to the other person to write their line. So it was exactly like improv, only on paper instead of on stage. Naturally, the whole “in the moment” aspect of improv is missing from sketch, but the essence of comedy is pretty much the same.

Some people found the writing class to be much scarier than improv classes. Others felt the opposite. I personally feel more exposed in improv, because I don’t have time to edit myself, while in writing I can take the time to make myself not seem stupid. Okay. Not as stupid.

I also think that writing is an excellent way for people to learn to develop points of view of different characters. So many times in improv, the improvisor trots out a funny voice or accent or whatever and they think that makes a “character” – but without a strong point of view, it’s just a person who talks funny. POV is tricky sometimes. But you have to think, “How does this person see the world, and how do they see themselves in it?” That’s basically it. When you write, you have time to really ponder those questions and put your characters into situations that help you flesh out the answers. When you get used to thinking that way about your written characters, it’ll be easier to do the same thing on the fly in improv scenes.

Anyway, it was an excellent first class and I can’t wait for the next one. Just by having the class, I’ve gotten ideas for so many sketches, which is part of the point of this class – to get used to seeing things in terms of a sketch and to create a lot of material, until writing isn’t so daunting.

Plus, now I have an outlet for all those agendas and pre-planned ideas I don’t get to use in improv. Yay!

By Sonnjea Blackwell

By Darren Held

I don’t want to imply that some of the H2G people are improv addicts, but at the Hollywood Bowl last weekend, Darren, Richard and I played our own little improv game in our seats before the show. Certain other members of the group found this to be somewhat, er, stupid.

By Sonnjea Blackwell

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