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by Darren Held

be·cause   [bih-kawz, -koz, -kuhz] conjunction

1. for the reason that; due to the fact that: The boy was absent because he was ill.
2. the fact that: The reason I haven’t been fired is because my boss hasn’t got around to it yet.

No, I haven’t turned into a walking dictionary. It’s just that I sometimes have weird thoughts, and my weird thought of the day was, “What’s the most important word in improv?” Not the most important word about improv, like listening or agreeing or committing or whatever. But the most important word spoken in an improv scene.

At first I thought the answer was you. In improv, you want to label your partner and give them gifts of information and reactions, and I thought maybe you’d be saying you a lot. “You are annoying me with the way you flip those pancakes. You are just like your mother!”

But the more I thought about it (and I really do think about these things, peeps), the more convinced I became that because is the most important word. Why? Well, because.

Lots of times, people throw out interesting labels. And they tell us how they feel about those labels, and about other information in the scene. But quite frequently, they don’t tell us why they feel the way they do. “I love baking bread with you, Martha!” is okay information, but why do you love baking bread with Martha so much? When you make a statement like that, the audience is dying to know why! What the hell is so special about baking bread with Martha? And remember, the audience doesn’t really give a shit about baking bread, so the special part really needs to be about Martha. Does she smell better than your other coworkers? Does she touch you inappropriately? Does she bake pot into the bread? “I love baking bread with you, Martha, because you shimmy your hips every time you knead the dough” is a better chunk of information.

Another reason because is an important word is, uh, because sometimes people give bizarro information. I know that sounds strange, but I have actually seen improv scenes where information went to Crazytown. If you get in the habit of saying because after your statements, it will go a long way towards justifying any crazy information you accidentally spout. “I chopped off my own arm to impress you, Michael” is crazy information. “I chopped off my own arm to impress you, Michael, because you’ve always belittled my abilities and I wanted you to see that I’m just as macho as you” can lead to a funny pattern of you trying to prove how macho you are.

It doesn’t take long to get used to justifying what you say, if you just practice adding a because phrase after it. For example, I have to go now, because I’m hungry.

See? Easy.

By Sonnjea Blackwell

Darren Held
About Darren Held
Darren is the CEO and Creative Director of Held2gether, Improv for LIfe. He has been teaching and performing improv for 15 years, and has performed with H2g, the Groundlings, UCB and Second City. He loves Moto, red wine, and Madonna.

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