By Darren Held

Improv Arguments

by Sonnjea Blackwell

I don’t know about you, but I don’t actually get into that many arguments in real life. Occasionally, sure. But not that often. And most of my friends are the same… genuine arguments aren’t a daily occurrence.

And yet, in improv scenes, there is an unmistakable tendency to create arguments, conflicts, fights… situations where people are at cross purposes and determined not only to be right, but to convince the other person to switch sides.

In real life, people avoid angry confrontations for a variety of reasons – maybe to keep the peace, maybe to keep their jobs, maybe because it’s just not very pleasant to argue. And yet, we think the audience wants to watch US argue.

Nope. They don’t. People don’t want to watch an argument any more than they want to have an argument. Silly, I know.

That doesn’t mean all your improv scenes need to be happy and tension-free. Of course the audience wants to see something develop in your scene, and that will often involve some kind of difference of opinion, even conflict. HOWEVER (and this is the key), just because we have different, possibly even opposite, points of view, does NOT mean we have to argue our positions.

It is much more interesting to just have your point of view and live in that, while your scene partner does the same. I might LOVE picking through every single bin at the dollar store in painstaking detail, examining every item to see if I can find something that was not made in China. My scene partner might have a very important job interview in 10 minutes. Yelling at each other about being late vs. being patriotic is not interesting. Seeing how these two continue to function (or dysfunction) together, finding out why they have to be here together, learning why today is the big day for their relationship… that’s interesting. Yes, one or more of these characters might get angry. They might also get sad, frustrated, happy, horny or paranoid. Any emotional change is a good thing; the thing you want to avoid is the need for your character to prove their point. You can just be you, without trying to convince your scene partner that they need to be you as well.

Here’s a bonus: it’s actually more fun to play scenes this way as well. Having an argument is stressful, in real life or in improv. Playing characters with different points of view who AREN’T having an argument can be challenging, but it’s not stressful. It’s fun, and you feel much more creative in the process.

Well, that’s how it is for me, anyway. You can try it if you wanna.