The gift of giving gifts!

In the spirit of the holiday season we would like to give you something that’ll make your improv increasingly better.

We are talking about giving gifts.

That’s sounds great! But what does it mean?

Well, when we say “giving gifts” it doesn’t mean giving an actual physical present. Remember it’s improv so no props. Unless your improv show includes props in which case please ignore the last two lines.

Giving a gift in improv means you are supplying your scene partner with info they can use to “yes and” in order to further the scene. Which is exactly what you want.

Without gifts your scenes will be vague, general, and blah. It will lack the specificity your scene needs to be more dynamic and fun.

You’re probably asking yourself, “What kind of gifts do I give & how does it help? Holy Hell?! Are you able to read my mind?!!”

Lets answer those questions one at a time.

What kind of gifts do I give & how does it help?

There are so many things you can gift your scene partner with.

For starters, you can make a physical choice like, walking around clutching your lower back saying, “You’re the worst masseuse I’ve ever been to”. You have instantly given your scene partner so much mileage. They were given a very specific gift that helped identify who their character is, and what kind of masseuse they are. Labeling someone with a job is a huge gift.

Or they could see you in pain and respond by saying, “I think it’s time you cut back on the cookies, Santa.” Whatever the choice may be it only adds to your scene.

Having an opinion is great! Your character can express how they feel whether they love or hate something. For example: Your character could absolutely love old VHS tapes. Your scene partner is clearing out their closet and is about to throw away their old VHS collection.

By making a strong emotional choice you’ve given your scene partner something to work off of. They could be happy someone is taking those tapes or decide to throw them away out of spite. Either way, you gave them something specific to react to and they returned it in kind.

Mistakes are wonderfully unexpected gifts that can alter the course of your scene. Whether you mess up a word or misheard something your partner said then chances are your reply probably won’t make sense. But that’s okay. This gives your scene partner an opportunity to justify your response, and have it make sense thereby creating a hilarious moment to build off of. Don’t beat yourself up if you make a mistake. Remember, mistakes are gifts.

Also, try making assumptions. We do it every day. Although we may not vocalize it in our lives, but in improv it’s a different story. Act like you know everything and anything. Be an expert on whatever is happening in your scene.

You could be a boat captain who thinks the Port side of a ship is the right side (FYI, Starboard is the right side). Making this choice automatically gives your fellow improviser the opportunity to correct your character. Possibly turning this into a game of correcting a boat captain who has no idea what they are talking about. This gives your scene partner so much to work off of by exploring and establishing status/relationship/point of view.

So to recap: The best gifts you can give your scene partner are physicality, labeling, opinions, mistakes, and assumptions.

The worst thing you can do is give your scene partner “nothing”.

Playing someone who only makes vague unspecific statements like, “I don’t know”, will get you and your scene partner no where. When you make zero choices you are actually making your scene partner do all the heavy lifting.

If all you have to offer is a blank stare, statements void of any specificity, and zero effort to connect with your fellow improviser then you are nothing more than a Scene Scrooge. And to that I say bah humbug.

Gift giving is an important cog that keeps the improv machine running.

Giving your partner a gift not only makes them look like a rock star by justifying, but it makes you look like a rockstar as well.

And to answer your other question…

Am I able to read minds?

No, but you should reconsider giving your Mom another Bass Pro Shop gift card this year. Otherwise expect a dirty look and guilt trip in return. Besides she doesn’t fish!

As the old saying goes, “It is much more blessed to give than it is to receive”.

The same can be said about improv.

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