The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. That’s helpful to know in geometry and figuring out how to get from your house to the nearest Cold Stone, obviously, but you might wonder what the heck I’m talking about in terms of improv.
I’d argue that the shortest distance between two points in improv (say from “action” to “laughter”) is also a straight line – in other words, a simple, easy premise. Sometimes we get caught up trying to be clever or think of something interesting or entertaining, and we overlook the obvious choice. Just because something seems easy doesn’t mean it can’t be funny. And oftentimes the very easiest thing to do is simply to “yes, and” the first line out and make that the big deal.
A lot of times we look at those first couple lines as nothing more than getting out the foundation and setting up the scene so that THEN we can get to the big what. But if we embrace the notion that there are no throw-away lines in improv, there’s no reason to wait for a big what to come along… sometime… down the line… after we’ve said all the stuff about who and what and where.
Of course, like everything else in a good improv scene, this relies on listening to each bit of information. And then choosing to make every bit of information important. Easier said than done, I realize, but if you challenge yourself to listen closely and make whatever the very first thing that’s said THE thing, you’ll get in the habit of not missing those first few foundation lines. And you’ll get to your “what” – and, consequently, the laughter – that much more quickly.
Hope this was helpful. Oh, and please don’t trudge through strangers’ yards on your way to Cold Stone. A straight line isn’t always the best way to go, even if it is the shortest.