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by Darren Held

Okay, okay. Enough with the Justin-Bieber-mocking. How ’bout I actually give you some information on information instead?

The whole instant expert thing in improv can be really fun or a total nightmare, depending on how you feel about spouting nonsense. I am a big proponent of it, so I like being an instant expert. But there is a difference between spouting instant expert nonsense and just vomiting bizarro information, and it’s kinda important to know the difference.

First of all, experts all have one thing in common, and that’s that they love to share their knowledge about their area of expertise. So be bold and sound absolutely sure of your “facts.” Then make sure the information is about the thing you are an expert in. If you’ve been labeled a surgeon and you’re all bold and everything, but you just start talking (boldly) about the nanoscepter intersecting the hypotenuse, we don’t know what that means or what that information has to do with anything in your scene. But if you tell your nurse or the other doctor, or even the patient, “We’re going to have to use the nanoscepter to intersect the hypotenuse in order to stop the patellar hemorrhage,” we still don’t know what it means, but we know that the patient is seriously f*ed up, and you are just the person to fix him.

Another hint to giving good instant expert information is to use specifics. Throw out statistics: “The nanoscepter procedure has restored lateral brain function to 43.2% of patients.” “Over 16,457 people work at Target world-wide, and of those, 87% are functionally color-blind.” “Valentine’s day began in 1527 a.d. in Egypt, when Pharaoh Tentwilo left his mummified heart to his queen after his untimely death.” It doesn’t matter if you don’t know what happened in 1205 b.c. or what the atmosphere of Venus is or how to cook beef wellington. If you commit to your expert character and your information, we’ll believe it.

Finally, remember that not all experts are scientists or doctors or engineers. If you’re labeled a hillbilly, porch-dwelling redneck, you are still an expert! Every character, in fact, is an expert in his or her own way. The hillbilly, porch-dwelling redneck may know everything there is to know about chiggers, or moonshine or the mating habits of bayou crawfish, and some of those details should come out in the scene to help define the location, the characters and even the characters’ relationship (crawfishing buddies, for example). The scene isn’t about those details, but the details add necessary background to the scene.

The real trick to being an instant expert in any field is trust. Just trust yourself and don’t judge the information that pops into your brain and comes out of your mouth. Easier said than done when it comes to knowing how to prepare for an arctic expedition or a Justin Bieber concert, I realize. But that’s where Held2gether improv classes come in. H2G classes have helped 99.87% of students achieve total improvisational stellardom with a statistically insignificant incidence of judgeocity and three orders of magnitude more giggledom.

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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