09 Jun How to have more fun at an improv jam
This article was originally called; ‘You won’t believe how this Mom from London nailed improv jams’ as we wanted as many people to find it as possible. Fortunately, calmer heads prevailed.
Here are my 8 top tips to have a great time when jamming
Endow your scene partner, by giving your partner a gift of some characterization, an adjective or even just an evocative name you’re doing them and yourself a huge favour and will take you from a scene where you might feel like a couple of talking heads floating about in an undisclosed space to something specific and compelling. “Aah hello, if it isn’t my old enemy Colin McManspread”
Try to see how you get your idea across without giving your scene partners ‘offer overload’. You want people to be able to ‘yes, and’ your ideas as much as you are theirs, right? By keeping them simple and to the point and by not waffling on whilst you find something useful to say, you’re making it simpler for everyone to join in on your idea for a rock musical set in space with talking avocados.
Scenes where characters start in positivity (over conflict or negativity) lead to so many more opportunities for fun. Rather than find a problem right away with your partner’s character or offer, maybe try to be like peas-in-a-pod. That doesn’t mean all improv scenes need to be all kittens and rainbows, but perhaps, for example you could come at it from a point of view that it’s you and them against the world? “Yes Greenie, we’re finally safe from the clutches of the evil Xzenials and their dastardly avocado mashing desires”.
Be (autiful) eye contact
Sounds simple right? However great improv, just like great acting (spoilers- they are the same thing) requires a little more eye contact than real life. You are trying to communicate complex emotions and concepts across time and space into your partners brain box. Eyes, not just mouths are the communicators of what you really think.
If someone says or does something unexpected, or perhaps adds a detail that to your mind derails what’s come before, then find the fun in the technique of ‘jump and justify’ or allow yourself to be surprised. Even if that is a trainride with a one-way ticket to crazytown! commenting upon the scene in a meta way or breaking the world that’s been established is a fast way to end a scene, as your partners won’t know what’s real anymore. Hint: Talking avocados is a thing.
Not every scene needs you to jump into it. Chances are if something fun is happening on stage, as much as you wish you were at that party, it’s probably fine without you. If someone’s struggling on stage and you don’t know how to help them- or if the scene doesn’t seem fun, get yourself on stage. You don’t need a big idea it’s almost always enough of an offer to a scene in progress to just have an extra human walk in. The moves that you don’t play are just as important as those you do.
Sure, you are onstage now, and there’s an audience hungry for those sweet sweet laughs, so you’d better think fast and come up with something good right? Right?… Nah. Give the audience more credit, they are there because they want to see you succeed. So, take your time, engage with the offers that have already been made. Trust those classes you’ve taken, trust in the process, Trust improv.
Take every opportunity to mingle and meet the people you’re about to be in a show with. There’s no shortcut to great onstage chemistry, but even the smallest connection to your fellow Jammers is going to help you establish some mutual trust and help in speaking the ‘common tongue’ when onstage together. Who knows, you might strike up a kinship and end up forming a new improv company with them.
If you consider yourself an experienced jammer, or maybe you’ve been performing as part of a team for some time now, you might wonder how to keep your jam game fresh. Why not just come with a plan for a very specific skill you’d like to try that night. For example; in all of your scenes you might like to do some amazingly detailed mime, or one night you might decide to try and just play useful walk-on characters that aid the action. Get those reps in and treat the jam like going to the gym.
TNL starts back at The Nursery Training Centre this Thursday 13th June! More info here
Post by Jonah Fazel
Producer, Thursday Night Lights & The Carousel