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by Darren Held

Like many cats in literature (Garfield, that I Can Haz cat and dozens of others I can’t think of at the moment), I tend to be sarcastic. No, really. I know that’s hard to believe, but it’s true. It’s unfortunate because sarcasm doesn’t work in improv. There are a couple of reasons why that’s so, which I will now examine for you because I have to write something or Darren will wonder what exactly it is I do here.

Sarcasm can be direct: You couldn’t find your way out of a paper bag or indirect: What a great girlfriend YOU are. Sarcasm, though usually harsh in its intent, actually relies on subtlety of language.

And therein lies the problem. Improv has no time for subtley.

You have three minutes to have a scene. You need to spell out the who, what, where and what’s happening between you on this big day, and do it in a way that’s clear both to your scene partner and to the audience.

Particularly with the ironic, indirect version, you run the risk of confusing everyone in the room because you are essentially saying the exact opposite of what you mean. If your partner doesn’t pick up on the subtlety, you are now doing two separate scenes. If the audience doesn’t pick up on the subtlety, they aren’t really watching the scene that you think you’re doing. (FYI, that’s problematic. I’m just sayin’.)

Anyway, turns out, there’s a lesson here too. Being sarcastic is really a passive-agressive way to say what you want to say without actually saying it. Why not just be direct? It’s quicker and doesn’t have the mean undertone. Luckily, if you have a tendency to be sarcastic, H2G improv classes in Long Beach can help you, um, NOT be. Communicating clearly and directly is a skill that most of us can use a little more of, and improv’s a fun and hilarious way to do it.

At the very least, it can help you be sarcastic only when it’s appropriate. Like, you know, when people tell you that the Broncos won a game and you say, “Wow! I have been waiting for that news and now I can die happy.”

Theoretically 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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