By Darren Held

Bricks, Basketballs and Tadpoles

It’s one of those weeks where I’m doing so many different things that my head hurts. Writing about chiropractors? Check. Designing improv-y graphics? Check. Prepping to teach class this weekend? Check. Programming FB pages? Check. Editing video? Check. Updating websites? Check.

For the love of ponies, people, that is a LOT of different things. And all of them are time sensitive, so I’m moving from one thing to another and back as quickly as I can, which means I have to switch gears instantly to be fully focused on each new thing.

Good thing I take improv classes. I know, I know. That was too obvious a leap to be interesting, but that’s what I’ve got today. Take it or leave it.

Sometimes in improv, you start a scene doing spacework that involves laying bricks, only to discover your partner is shooting basketballs. Some way or another, you have to make those things work, which means you have to instantly let go of your idea and accept a new one. It happens all the time – I mean, really, what are the odds that, based on a suggestion like tadpoles, you and your partner are going to have the exact same idea at the exact same time? Pretty small.

But in improv, you learn to make those adjustments, until finally you make them so seamlessly that the audience really thinks you both started out on exactly the same page. Neither of you is still focused on that other thing you might’ve done, because you’re both fully committed to this thing you’re doing now.

It’s a good skill to learn if you’re going to be, you know, alive. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to turn ALL of my attention to napping.

By Sonnjea Blackwell

By Darren Held

I’m Out in the Pasture Milking Bees

Last night, Richard and I milked some bees for honey. I wasn’t even aware that bees required milking, but you learn a lot of interesting stuff doing improv.

One of the most important things you learn doing improv is not to discount others’ ideas. Or your own, for that matter. If one of you says you are milking bees for honey, you find a way to go along with that and make it important. You can talk about their tiny udders, or comment on this new bee hybrid that produces milk and honey or explain how one endeavors to milk bees without getting stung. Whatever it is, you work together and go with it.

It’s Monday and I’ve got a lot work to do on very little sleep, so I won’t torture you with a long drawn-out post. Suffice it to say, in real life, it’s also good not to discount others’ ideas. If somebody had pooh-pooh’d the ideas of pieces of paper with not-very-sticky-adhesive on one side, or little tiny silicone chips that could calculate stuff, or distilling potatoes, we wouldn’t have Post-its or computers or vodka, and I for one would have a very difficult time getting through my day.

So learn to accept out-of-the-box ideas… and add your own unique contributions as well. And pretty soon, we’ll be making ships that fly into outer space, electronic book-reading-devices and telephones that you can carry around with you.

By Sonnjea Blackwell

By Darren Held

Albino Aliens AGAIN?!?

So tonight in the Held2gether Improv Comedy Level 2 class (which is a mouthful but really just means “intermediate”), we’re going to be justifying stuff. Which really just means “making shit make sense.”

Sometimes in an improv scene, what comes out of your mouth may not make sense. It’s weird how, in real life, you can have perfectly normal conversations with people – conversations that you have NOT rehearsed, by the way – and you don’t start talking about albino aliens giving birth to grasshoppers in nests made of moss. I mean, that almost never happens when I’m speaking to people in real life.

But something happens to people in improv scenes that occasionally makes crazy information come tumbling out of their mouths. Maybe they get nervous, or they didn’t really listen to what their scene partner just said so they don’t know how to respond, or the audience suggestion threw them for a loop. Who knows, maybe they just watched too much Star Trek and they have aliens on the brain. In any event, it happens. And it’s important to know what to do when it does.

First and foremost: DO NOT PANIC. Trust me, panic will just lead you further down the road to Crazyville. Instead, take a breath and a moment to think about the loopy information that just came out. Then justify it. WHY did you just tell your scene partner this information? HOW does it relate to anything that’s happened previously in the scene? If you have a reason for saying something, you can say pretty much anything. But you need to spell it out for your scene partner and the audience, otherwise we just assume you’ve been hitting the hooch. Again.

Of course, it’s helpful to pretend in improv scenes that you are an actual human having an actual conversation with another actual human, in which case bizarro information about grasshopper alien births will probably not come out. But sometimes, it’s just hard to pretend you’re an actual human. So the justifying thing comes in handy.

You’re welcome.

By Sonnjea Blackwell

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