By Darren Held

That’s Profound, Bro

A little improv wisdom from Darren Held:

A new word crept into my improv vocabulary this week – “profound”. Isn’t that… er, profound? I actually use the word quite a bit – mostly in a spiritual sense. Like when I am reading a Buddhist quote and discover the cereal bowl I’m eating of and I are deeply interconnected. As a student of life, I have profound conversations with people often. I love to dig deep into the meaning of things.

Sometimes I can use the word so much, that what was once profound is no longer so. However, last night I had a profound discovery: Being profoundly affected in a scene is powerful.

We were doing two-person in scenes called “Chance Encounters”: these two had a major incident years ago (e.g. they stole a dolphin from the zoo), and they run into each other somewhere today (e.g. the library). The idea is their lives have changed drastically since the incident and it has affected them – profoundly. By making that choice, the big day came automatically and with great detail. They were characters who’d experienced a fear of birds, a determination to return to Uganda, regret of motherhood, inability to have sex, and on and on. Fully realized and beautifully flawed characters.

I’ve always been a proponent of cranking up the emotion to make things matter in an improv scene. I feel like this was a shortcut to that, as well as an invite to drive fantastic character labeling. By choosing to be profoundly affected by this situation in their lives, their stakes raised from the beginning. When you only have 3-5 minutes on stage, finding that early can release you to play more and create some desperately funny scenes. I also now want a dolphin.

Isn’t that profound?