I just finished taking the Advanced Harold class at DSI Comedy Theater. DSI uses forums for class discussion, but being The Hermione Granger of Improv, I basically turned them into my personal improv blog for 6 weeks. Looking back over my notes, I found some themes being repeated over and over, so I thought I’d consolidate them thematically here. PLEASE NOTE: as thorough as my nerdy notes are, they are no substitute for taking a class with a teacher, practicing with a coach, or getting up on stage in front of an audience. So get out there and DO THOSE THINGS.
Show me the consequences.
Playing consequences can come into play in one of two ways. It can either be the way we initiate a scene, or it can be used in a spread/tag out/time dash/callback. Regardless of which way you do it, it’s one of the most fun and rewarding things we can do, and a great way to hold an audience’s attention.
Initiate with consequences.
If the scene premise requires that one player demonstrate success or failure, instead initiate the scene about the consequences of that success or failure. The consequences are more interesting than watching the player do the thing anyway.
Leave room for consequences.
If the people in a scene have just had something big happen, don’t necessarily edit on that as a button. Give them a little room to play with the consequences of whatever just happened. Of course you don’t want to let a scene go on too long, but if it looks like the players are going to dig into consequences, give them a little time to do so.
Skip to consequences.
In addition to initiating with consequences or playing them directly within a scene, you can edit and then play with them in a later beat or scene, spread to them, or tag out/double tag out and show them. When you do this, make sure you get right to it: jump into the consequences immediately. My favorite example of this is from “Coach Feratu,” an episode of Rick and Morty. This scene sets up that there’s a vampire in the school. And you almost immediately get this follow-up. You never see them fight the gym teacher vampire, because nobody cares about that.
CONSEQUENCES: They’re kind of the most interesting that happens, either on stage or in life.