By Alyce Wilson
March 6, 2007 - Magic Cheesesteak
This week we had a three-hour ComedySportz improv class, because the previous week, due to the weather, only half the class had shown up and we went home early. Normally, class is two hours.
Since we'll be doing a performance the end of this month after our last class, this week we did a mock show, as if for an audience. Dave split us into two teams, and we competed for points.
On one team were Geoff, J.T., and Jennifer. My team consisted of me, Carol and Tim. Geoff and I were the captains, which meant that we got to decide which team members did which things. We also had to answer for the team.
We started off with a round of "What Are You Doing?" This went OK, though we had a little bit of a rough start as people refamiliarized themselves with the rules. My team was the last one standing for this one, giving us five points.
Then we each performed a game, leaving it to the audience to judge which was better. Geoff's team did Spelling Bee, using Jesse as a volunteer from the audience, giving them four people on-stage. They did really well, despite misspelling a couple words, though I think they were sincerely trying to spell them. Sometimes it gets terribly confusing when you're trying to spell with other people.
Next, Dave called me up and asked me what game our team was going to play. I announced, "Arm Control!" Everyone started laughing. Dave said he liked the confidence but the actual name of the game was Arms Expert. Whoops! This is the game where one person acts as an expert on a subject, answering questions from a moderator, and another person acts as their arms. Carol was the interviewer, and Tim acted as my arms.
We haven't played this game with this class, so we were a little rusty, I think. Carol did an excellent job as the interviewer, but it took me and Tim a while to find our rhythm. By the end of it, he was doing a good job of leading me with interesting hand motions. However, the audience voted for Geoff's team, probably because she'd participated. Hey, that's how it goes.
Then as a group, we did Story. Whoever had a team member standing at the end won. The story was "Billy's Magic Flashlight", and it got awfully complicated. By the end of it, we had Billy, his flashlight, Cindy, a manatee, a shrimp, a wallaby and a yellow submarine. And not much happened.
After the show, in the notes, Dave advised it's best to keep it to two characters and then something happens. Something to work on.
The other team had pulled ahead, so Dave gave us the opportunity to make up some points by playing Shopping Spree. This is a game we reviewed recently. One person is the shopkeeper and leaves the room. Then the audience suggests three ordinary objects which then have something unusual added to them. I had Tim be the one who went out of the room. Jesse joined us to give us an extra object to guess.
My object was a shower cap made of cheese. I had some trouble getting him to guess shower cap, because I told him I had an expensive hairdo I didn't want to get wet. He kept handing me things like a hairnet, which has holes in it! The cheese part was easier, because I complained that it wasn't easy to spread on crackers. He got it pretty much right away.
Jesse had an engagement ring which was also a radio. She got him to guess engagement ring right away by acting like a guy who was going to propose to his girlfriend. Getting him to guess radio was a little tougher, though he got close a number of times. The great thing about him was that he kept guessing, no matter what.
Carol had to get a mop that was also a lava lamp. She came in as a sea captain: "Ahoy maties! I need to be swabbing the deck." She got him to get mop right away. The second part was harder, but the funny thing was he actually guessed "glow in the dark" first, which had been the first audience suggestion until Dave made them make it harder.
Our extra points meant we were pretty much caught up. Throughout the whole game, one side won one round and another won the next, meaning the scores were pretty even, with maybe one point or two points difference between the teams.
Then our team did Countdown. This is the game where you act out a one-minute scene than have to repeat it in 45 seconds, 20 seconds and 10 seconds. The suggestion was beach, and Carol and I were on the beach. I planted an umbrella, and she got down on a towel to sun. I started to put on some sun lotion, when Tim burst in as the beach patrol, demanding our beach tags.
I looked for my bag, but we'd left it in the car. Carol got up and started to fret. I asked Tim if there was something I could do, like give him some candy in the car. He said it had to be something better than that. He started threatening us, so I picked up a beach pail and hit him on the head. End scene.
We had a little trouble getting it in 45 seconds, but we actually made it in 20 seconds and then in 10!
Thinking about it afterwards, I realize we could have used more movement, because that makes it more fun to watch it replayed.
Geoff's team did Blind Line, using lines Jesse had written out for them. The suggestion was lottery ticket. J.T. started the scene furiously scratching off tickets and asking Jen if she'd gotten anything. She said she was going to play her lucky numbers. He revealed he'd been playing those numbers, too, since she'd once won $5 with them. She was a bit upset about this.
At this point, Geoff came in, and it turned out he was also playing the same lucky numbers. Then Jen made a great choice: "Just because you guys are my brothers doesn't mean you can steal my lucky numbers." Once they had a clear relationship, the scene became more fun, with the byplay between them.
One of the funniest moments was when she got herself a Slushie. Geoff picked up a line that said, "Drop it like it's hot," and Jen immediately dropped it, so he picked it up and stole it from her. At the end of the scene, she revealed she had a new I.D. and they begged her to buy them beer.
We did a group game of Continuation, where one team starts a scene, and when Dave calls "Continue," the other side takes over as those characters and continues the scene. Geoff's team began, He was a regular customer at a cheesesteak place, ordering a cheesesteak. I jumped in as Geoff and claimed they got my order wrong and I was going to take my business across the street.
When the other team took it over, J.T. was the shop owner and worked to mediate the conflict, by taking a position of authority. As I jumped back in as Geoff, I revealed the true reason for coming into the shop every day. I got down on my knee and proposed to Tim (who was playing the employee role originated by Jen).
We switched back, and she accepted. They took hands joyfully. J.T. announced, "That will be $86." End scene.
To finish, we did a lightning round of 185, which is where you compete to come up with the most jokes based on a set structure. The joke is always, "185 somethings walk into a bar. The bartender says, 'I'm sorry. We don't serve somethings.' And the somethings say, 'Punch line'."
We did surprisingly well, considering that the last time we tried to play this game, in Intermediate class, we kept freezing. But we were really into the idea that we were competing and were really at the top of our game. At the end, we squeaked by Geoff's team by a couple points.
Dave gave us notes on the performance. He said he really liked our energy and said that often energy can be confused for humor, so he encouraged us to continue. For each game, he told us what we'd done well and where we could improve.
By the way, Jen has proven she's a real trooper. She had foot surgery recently and is wearing a special shoe and using a cane. But she jumps right up there and does whatever she has to do. I really admire that.
We had about an hour left in which to do more scene work and games. We worked on Continuation again. This time around, the suggestion was book store. J.T. and I were on-stage. He was looking through this book and pointing out all this stuff about Egyptian pyramids. I looked at him directly and said, "Are you always this nervous when you talk to girls?" I urged him to put down the books so we could relax and have a nice talk. "Why do you think I come over here every day? To see you."
The other team picked it up, with Tim as J.T. and Jen as me. They established that the two had met in a book club and were both a little nerdy. The guy got up the nerve to ask the girl out, but she said she had to clear it with her father. We took over again, and Geoff came in as the father. He was clearly not approving of the relationship, and he said he thought that the guy was a "dork."
When they switched over, Carol was the dad. The guy stood up for himself and defended his interest in Egyptology, saying that when King Tut was 19 he ruled a whole nation. This did not impress the dad. We switched back, and Geoff said that when he was 19, he was married and started a family.
As the girl, I stepped up to him and said, "No, Dad. I'm not going to let you ruin this. You always ruin everything."
By the end of the sketch, the Dad had successfully intimidated the boy into not just taking her out but practically promising to marry her! We were back to the original group, and I grabbed J.T.'s hand and he made a really resigned face, like, "What have I gotten myself into?"
We did another one where the suggestion was chiropractor. Geoff went to Carol as a chiropractor, and she revealed that she was going to be leaving the business, closing down her practice. The patient begged her not to go. The other team took over, and J.T. as the patient introduced the character of Dr. Wassica, whom he called "a butcher" and who was apparently the only other chiropractor around.
Back to us, and I entered as Dr. Wassica, offering to buy the practice for a cart full of gold bullion. That went back and forth until the end, where Dr. Wassica took over the practice and I had Geoff, as the patient, kneel down so I could hit him with the therapeutic sledgehammer.
We also did a couple rounds of Rotation, where the players rotate positions when Dave calls "Rotate." You always follow the same person, so it's important to keep an eye on what that person is doing. If they haven't yet entered the stage, you leave the stage.
The suggestion was flight attendants. Carol and J.T. were flight attendants, and he was this young woman who was clearly full of herself, making fun of Carol and being really catty. She was offended and got into a sort of contest with him. When I stepped in as the young flight attendant, I played up the way he'd been walking, prancing around and saying things like, "I can't help being sexy."
When I'd rotated off-stage, Dave came over and suggested to me that I come in as another flight attendant who was clearly their superior and dress them down for their behavior. So I did so, "Ladies. You are disrespected our noble profession. You've got to get it together."
By the end of the scene, they were kowtowing to her and reluctantly agreeing to back off.
I revealed afterwards that I'd thought of entering as the pilot, saying there was an emergency. Dave said that was a good instinct. In the future when I have instincts like that, I'll go with it. I guess I was worried that I didn't know where it would go, but I just knew that the dynamic needed to change for it to go somewhere. Introducing trouble would have been a good choice.
We also did some scene work, where we were establishing just the who and then just the who and where and finally the who, what and where. This was like a drill, where we formed two lines and kept going through the lines, pairing up with different people, until we'd all done it several times.
did some scene work where we did more of a full scene. I don't remember
too many of these, because we did so many of them. It's the sort of thing
you need to do, like running drills in basketball, to exercise those skills,
those acting muscles.
2006 by Alyce Wilson