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by Darren Held

I don’t always vent at Lisa. Sometimes I vent at Paul instead. You know, so Lisa’s head doesn’t explode from all the nonsense I spew.

Anyway, I was venting at Paul and this is what we decided: You are responsible for your own work.

Okay, technically I didn’t need help with that particular concept, but it was interesting to get to that point. I had been telling Paul about a hypothetical scene in which a hypothetical player was disregarding all the rules of improv, while the hypothetical partner tried in vain to make sense of everything and keep the scene from imploding and taking everyone in the room with it.

After a while, the hypothetical partner gave up and did the wink, wink, nudge, nudge thing so the audience was clear that the hypothetical partner knew the scene was ridiculous and that the hypothetical partner wasn’t taking any responsibility for it.

Paul told me about a similar hypothetical situation he experienced in a play and how he held back so as not to get drowned in the sinking ship of the overall performance. And how a director/friend of his more or less called him out on it.

As you no doubt remember from my previous 618 mentions of it, commitment is one of the three cardinal rules of improv. You don’t bail. Doesn’t matter what your partner is doing, your job is to do improv to the very best of your ability. Period. And there is no such thing as “kinda” bailing. You are 100% in the scene or you aren’t. I didn’t save myself when I bailed on the hypothetical scene, I just made sure everyone knew what I thought of it. Which meant the audience thought the scene was weird AND I was a bitch (or at least completely unprofessional) for not staying in it.

The audience doesn’t want to be on your side if they see you’re selling out your teammate. On the other hand, the audience will back you 100% if they see you’re giving 100% – no matter how wonky the scene might be.

I’m not going to insult your intelligence by explaining how that is similar to real life. Hypothetically speaking, of course.

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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