By Alyce Wilson
March 16, 2007 - Guessing Games
We had another extended ComedySportz improv class this week to make up for the day that we missed, due to weather.
Our instructor, Dave, started us out with games that involved mime and guessing. First, we just mimed an object, and everyone had to guess. Whoever guessed correctly went up next. That went fairly well, and he gave us tips for how to improve our miming.
Then we moved on to gibberish. Dave paired us up, and we told a story to our partner, first in English, then gibberish, then back to English, as directed by Dave.
I was paired up with Geoff, and I discovered that while we were speaking in gibberish, we got more animated and used more hand gestures to convey meaning.
We played Chain Death Murder, a game we'd played in our intermediate class. This is where three people on a team leave the room while the fourth member gets audience suggestions for a place, a profession and an unusual murder weapon. Think of "Clue" meets the playground game "Telephone".
One of the other team members comes in, and the first one has to convey the three things, using mime and gibberish. When the second team member thinks they understand, they "kill" the first person with the murder weapon. Then the other team members come in, one at a time, and the whole process repeats two more times. Finally, the fourth team member relates to the audience what it was. If they get it completely right, they get full points. If not, they get partial points, plus extra points if the other team members guess right.
I was in the first group, and J.T. was the first one on stage. He ran around the stage like a little kid, doing different things, and I finally realized he was on a playground. You're then supposed to convey that you get it, so I rode a swing and then a seesaw.
To relate the profession, you're not allowed to be the profession. Instead, you have to make the guesser be the profession. But we got an easy one, and J.T. came up to me, clearly in distress about his hairstyle and then sitting in a chair. I got out scissors and started clipping, and he gave me the thumbs up.
Finally, he had an easy time with the murder weapon, miming removing his shoe string and then dangling in front of me. I strangled him with it.
Our group did really well, getting all three items right, but to be honest, they were easy ones. Also, Dave went easy on us, allowing us to the clues the same way as they were conveyed to us. Normally, you have to find a new way of relating it to the next person, since I guess that makes it more interesting for the audience.
The next group had a more challenging series of things: a movie theater, a newspaper delivery person, and a hairpin. They got fairly close, getting the movie theater easily. But newspaper delivery person became newspaper reader and hairpin became mousse.
One of the hardest aspects of this game is coming up with alternative ways of acting out something if the guesser doesn't get it the first time. Gibberish is also difficult; we often descended into simply using sound effects. We haven't worked as much on gibberish as we have on some other improv skills. No doubt, it would get easier with practice.
Then we tried a similar game, Five Things, except Dave made it Three Things so it wouldn't be as difficult. In this case, one team member leaves the room. The others remain on stage. From audience suggestions, they come up with three activities, all of which have something unusual about it. Maybe they're wearing something unusual, or they're using inappropriate items to do the activity.
First, Colleen was guessing, with J.T., Tim and Carol giving her the clues. She had to guess bungee jumping, using a jump rope as a bungee cord and a jack-o'-lantern as a helmet. Then there was basketball with a raccoon as a ball and some other strange thing which I forget as a basket. Finally, there was changing the cat litter, using a tea bag for a scoop and the cat was actually Cher.
Colleen did a great job of guessing, even asking questions in gibberish when she didn't understand things. Her team did a good job of conveying most of the clues, so that she got the first two perfectly. With the cat litter one, though, she thought it was a tea cup instead of a tea bag and Michael Bolton instead of Cher.
had Jen guessing, with me, Geoff and J.T. giving her the clues. This time
we only did two things. First, we had volleyball, with cheese for a ball
and a moat for a net.
I got her to guess volleyball pretty easily by giving her a ball, setting up a net and gesturing for her to serve the ball to me. J.T. actually dug a moat, filled it with water and then acted like a king on a horse, riding up to it. Eventually, she got it. When Geoff got up, he almost fell in it, but she prevented him. Geoff had a rougher time with cheese, but Jen got close, guessing cheese sandwich.
The bowling one was fairly easy. Geoff got her to guess bowling by making a big production about putting new shoes on and then giving her a ball. Then I came out to convey diaper. But initially, I forgot what it was substituting, and I got rid of the ball. Then I corrected myself and got rid of her shirt instead. The diaper was easy. I held a baby, then changed its diaper and gave it to her to wear. J.T. found it more difficult to convey toaster, but he finally got her to guess it.
We also played Story. This one was about a baker who supplies bread to a church. A parishioner who's a missionary's daughter feels guilt about any pleasure, including that brought by food. She sneaks the bread and eats it in a back room, then runs away with the baker and has a baby with him in the bread van. I actually got called out fairly early, but it was fun watching the others.
Then we did some joke games. Dave told us we'd do at least one joke game in the following week's show. First we did 185, where the joke goes, "One hundred eighty-five somethings go into a bar. The bartender says, 'I'm sorry. We don't serve somethings here.' And the somethings say, 'Punch line'."
We also did Hey Waiter, where an audience volunteer sits on stage. You get different topics and have to generate jokes. That didn't go quite as well as 185.
Finally, we did Bad Movie. You get a topic, and the joke goes, "I saw a movie about topic that was so bad." Everybody says, "How bad was it?" And then you say the punch line. We did OK with this one. Dave told us that it's important to sell the joke, because that can make even weak jokes seem funny. I started making really big arm gestures and talking in a cheesy voice, and he nicknamed me Alyce Dangerfield.
It reminded me of the joke wall or the cocktail party segments on "Laugh-In", where they would tell truly awful jokes, but because of the delivery, it made you laugh with them.
Dave had us do some more drilling on scenes, establishing who, what and where. I got into a strange scene with Geoff where I was his mom, driving badly in a damaged car to the shop because he had wrecked the car the night before. Dave suggested I could have taken that even further, making her a worse mom.
We did something that I think was called Rotating Interview. You had two chairs on stage. One was the interviewer and one was the interviewee. They'd get a suggestion, and enact a short scene. Then, when Dave said to switch, the interviewer left the stage, the interviewee became the interviewer and a new interviewee would sit down.
This was a game where a strong character was good to have. We had a funny trend going, where the interviewers were all saying, "America, we are here to examine the problem of..." Geoff started that, as a very dramatic, talk show interviewer, even getting down on his knees and lifting the mic to his guest, Jen, who was a very white break school bus driver named Alice.
In another, someone was interviewing J.T. He was all slumped back in his chair. The subject was fluorescent bulbs. He was a victim of fluorescent bulb exposure, and he lifted his left hand weakly and said, "For me, this is a miracle."
Carol interviewed me on the subject of Halloween. She played it straight, while I was a flamboyant artistic type.
Then I became the interviewer, with Geoff as the interviewee. This was near the end of the game, and I wanted to do something different, so I became a grade school student interviewing him for a closed circuit television show. When he sat down, he turned his chair around with his baseball cap pulled down, and so I made him the school janitor. He played it perfectly, acting like a sort of gruff, non nonsense adult to my nervous, fidgety kid.
At the beginning of the interview, I said, "You are a janitor, right?"
He said, "You know I am. You asked me on here."
"You're really tall. How did you get so tall?"
"From genetics and drinking milk."
"Is genetics something you put in milk?"
Then, as if remembering why he was there, I asked him about his job, and he gave a no-nonsense description of his job. But my favorite moment was when I asked him what he did when Bobby threw up in class the other day. He said that he called Ted, the throw-up janitor.
That became a running joke throughout the rest of the class, as we joked about what sort of person he would be, how you'd interview for that position, et cetera. If we'd come up with that during a show, it's almost guaranteed that Ted, the throw-up janitor would show up in a scene.
Then we played Blind Freeze. This is where everyone faces the back wall while two people enact a scene on-stage. When you hear an opportunity to go in, you say freeze, and the two actors freeze just as they are. You have to take the exact spot of one of them, and you get a new suggestion to begin a new scene.
In one case, I came on with Jen and the suggestion was pageant. I became her mom, giving her a dress to wear and coaching her to say, "I'm only 9 years old."
Near the end, I actually strayed into brown bag territory, because it was late in the class and I was getting silly. I had tapped out Jen, who was riding Tim like a horse. Jesse, who's our assistant instructor, suggested "prom", and Tim said, "If only Sister Mary Elizabeth could see us now, we'd be in trouble." I didn't know where to go with that, since I'd been thinking of saying something like, "You really don't know how to dance, do you?" So I whipped him.
He stood up, complained that it hurt and asked me where I learned stuff like that. I said, "How do you think I got to be a high school teacher?" And Dave came over and put an imaginary paper bag over my head.
When I told The Gryphon about it later, he said it was funny, but I admit it was lazy. I really should have tried harder not to go there.
have one more class before our class performance. Unfortunately, both
of our instructors will be out of town, but they'll no doubt find us a
talented substitute. I already am feeling confident about how we'll do.
2006 by Alyce Wilson