Wanna Be An Amazing Improviser? Stop Trying To Be Funny…

You don’t need Spidey Sense to tell you what’s funny or not. Humor is subjective. We all have different opinions on what gives us the chuckles. Some people think Stephen Colbert is hilarious(and they’re right), and while others find Rob Schneider to be a comedic genius(couldn’t be more wrong if they tried).

Regardless of your taste in comedy is, one thing most of us can agree on is that trying to be funny is not funny…at all.

In improv, we all want to get laughs…like right now. And people will do whatever they can to get a laugh. Whether it’s saying an old joke or doing something that makes their best friend crack up. Just because you think something is funny and doesn’t mean it’s going to work in an improv scene. In fact, 10 out of 10 times it will fail. Don’t believe me? Try it out. I’ll wait….

Still waiting…

You finished? Didn’t work, right? Told you.

Let’s continue.

When you try to force a joke into an improv scene it’s going to come off as that, forced. If you’ve seen my podcast, IMPROVERSATION!, on the Universal Improv Facebook page, then you’ve heard me use this analogy: “Forcing a joke in a scene, is like pushing a square peg in a round whole. It’ll never fit.”

Here’s a great example that I’m slightly embarrassed to share. First improv class I took at The Second City Hollywood we would play short form games all the time. Personally, I can’t imagine learning improv without doing short form first. Madness!

Anyways, one day we played Party Quirks.  One person plays the host of a party, and while a few improvisers show up playing the guests. Catch is, the host has to guess the quirks of his guest. Example, one person is a celebrity or another is giving birth to a baby in slow motion. Fun game.

I was well acquainted with this game as I had scene it on Whose Line Is It Anyway?, almost too acquainted. For class, I volunteered to be the host. Then I proceeded to copy a couple of things that I saw Ryan Stiles do when he played this game.

What I did made absolutely no damn sense and didn’t get any laughs. Although I did get some strange looks from my classmates and instructor. I thought to myself after, “Huh. That worked on the show.” Of course in worked on the show! Because it fit within the context of what was going on!

I get it. We all want to be funny. Especially, when you’re a beginning improviser.

You gotta get those laughs, like now! And most people will do what they can to get that addicting reaction from others. Trying to be funny is desperate and takes you out of the moment. Not to mention it goes against the organic nature of improv. So how does one stop trying to be funny in order to be funny?

Simple. By listening to your scene partner and working off of them. That way you’ll always be present and will refrain from planning.

That’s it. By doing that you’re creating/heightening together something much more powerful and funnier than you ever would have if you decided to do an old Eddie Murphy joke. And believe me, I did that as well. #Facepalm.

So next time you do an improv scene and you’re not getting laughs, check in with yourself after and see if what you said had anything to do with the present moment.



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