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by Darren Held

I am so glad you are reading this blog, at your computers here in your living rooms on earth because you enjoy improv, my friends who are not strangers to me.

If you’ve done improv more than once, you know what I’m talking about. If not, I assure you I haven’t lost my marbles.

There’s something that happens to people when they do improv scenes (or exercises like add info lineup) that causes their brains to forget how actual humans converse. In an effort to get out the who/what/where/relationship information at the beginning of a scene – which I applaud and encourage wholeheartedly – the words sometimes become stilted, inorganic and downright robotic.

We did exercises in last week’s Level 3 classes that focused on getting out all that info in just two lines… while talking like fully functioning adult human beings. I noticed two interesting things while watching 25 or so attempts at this in add info lineup.

  1. First, the person who had the first line automatically took their time doing some spacework, getting into an emotional state and connecting with their scene partner while trying to figure out how to talk like a normal person. In that time, they were able to connect with their partners, and the audience got a chance to see something building (often something hilarious, just based on the physicality) before the dialogue started.
  2. And second, by getting out that information in an organic way, practically every pairing got to a “big what” by the end of the second line. I’ve watched and played in tons of scenes that NEVER got to a big what. So for the vast majority to get to the reason “today is the big day” in only two lines is amazing.

You know how I roll, so you have probably guessed that I have an opinion as to why this is so. And yes, I’ma share it with you now.

I think it’s because, instead of just blurting out facts in a robotic fashion, speaking organically by its very nature includes our feelings about things. Feelings about things = labels. Labels = stepping stones to the big what. So saying, “I appreciate you letting me move back home after I lost my job, mom. But it’s Friday night, and I’d really rather be out with my friends instead of washing dishes with you,” is chock full of both facts and feelings. And when the other person says, “Gosh, Donna, I thought this would be a good time for us to reconnect and relive all the great times we’ve had together in this kitchen,” we know that these two are NOT on the same page and this is the big day it’s all going down. Yay! Two lines, a big what, and all because they spoke like regular people.

The good news is, we can all do that because we’re all regular people and, uh, being regular people by definition requires no special skills.

You’re welcome.

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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