Wayne Brady is awesome at song improv. Sonnjea Blackwell is not. It’s okay. I’m sure I have some talent that he doesn’t have, so we’ll call it even.
The thing is, though, that Held2gether has been delving into some musical improvy stuff, which is WAAAAAYYYYY far out of my comfort zone. I’m devoid of rhythm, I can’t keep a beat, and rhyming is not my forte. So when we did our show Saturday night, which included several musical numbers, I was scurred.
But then something interesting happened. I screwed up (not a major screw up, but a screw up nonetheless) and nobody seemed to notice; in any event, it didn’t throw anybody else off. Not only that, but I paid attention to the audience and learned an important lesson – one that I’ve learned about eleventy billion times, but that I seem to need to learn over and over and over – which was that commitment trumps everything. EVERYTHING. I don’t care how bad you fuck up your song, if you sing it like you own it, like it’s the best thing EVER… the audience loves it.
Commitment, for those of you who are unsure, is not the same as energy or being “big.” Commitment means being wholeheartedly on your own side, fully invested in your character, your scene, your song, and NOT judging it. Never look like you feel bad about what’s coming out of your mouth, because then the audience feels bad for you and that’s an uncomfortable feeling for them. They want to feel super excited for you, which is how they will feel if you belt out a song with enthusiasm and gusto – even if (sometimes especially if) you come in on the wrong count, screw up the rhyme or forget the chorus. Or all of the above.
I tell people when we do “Spotlight” (the singing warmup that everyone loves to hate) to sing like they’re alone in their car or doing drunk karaoke – and that is how you have to do song improv.
I don’t think that song improv will ever be my strong suit. But if I can consistently have fun with it and let the audience see that, it doesn’t have to be my nemesis, either. Anyway, I already have a nemesis. Its name is puppet improv…