Tuesday, July 22, 2014

We Are Noise Makers... What I Learned in Kevin McDonald's Improv Into Sketch Workshop

I had the priviledge of participating in this past weekend's Improv Into Sketch Workshop with Kevin McDonald, of the Kids in the Hall.

The goal of the workshop was to improvise and then take those scenes and, using methods developed with Kids in the Hall, shape those improv scenes into workable, funny sketches. ...And they HAD to be workable AND funny, because we had all agreed to perform them on stage that very night- in front of a Sold Out audience!

We didn't get to choose our partners, we were destined to work with whomever randomly joined us on stage.  Some of the participants had many years of improv experience and knew each other well. Others had zero improv experience and were just trying out comedy for the first time.

We didn't get to choose what our Sketch would be about- we had to improvise it based on a suggestion from our audience of workshoppers. And once the improv was done, that was it-- that was thraw material we had to work with and that was the Sketch we would perform that night. What's the twist? Not all of the improvised scenes went well. Some of them weren't terribly funny and even the ones that were funny were full of things that wouldn't work in the long run. The point was, we would work with it. Whatever the scene, we would workshop it and make it good.

It may not seem like the ideal set up for comedy. It may not even seem like a situation one would want to put themselves in- committed to performing on stage in front of a big audience and you don't get to pick what its about or even who you're with... yikes! 

What struck me is how like life,  all of life- not just comedy, that set up actually is. We don't always get to choose our partners or our circumstances, do we? It seems that can either complain and distress about this fact, we can even choose to wait until a better situation comes along to take action, or we can take what we are given and make it awesome.

And we did. Each Sketch got better and better through out the day. Even the worst improvisations were developing into stronger sketches each time we presented them. We worked together, each offering ideas and critiques of each others scenes.

And the result was that each sketch went great. Each sketch found a voice, found the comedy, and found laughter from the the audience.

It would be easy  to say it was magic, and it was... but a lot of what makes things look like magic is effort, support, trust, team work and determination.

Those are my thoughts! And here are a few more take-a-ways from A Weekend with Kevin McDonald....

"We Are Noise Makers" Unlike drama or tragedy, comedy KNOWS when it has done a good job- because the point is to get the audience making noise! If they aren't making noise, we aren't doing out job.

"Make Every Moment Wonderful" When looking at your sketch, endeavor to make every moment wonderful. Even the little moments that are easy to skip past- they can be wonderful too. Let's apply this theory to all of life, while we are at it!

Photos are courtesy of SuperFan Diane Banyai! Thanks Diane!

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