“Hi Stephen. This is just a private message, not to answer publicly… Why do you think tons of people who are super SUPER funny (and have tons of fun themselves on stage) embrace game? Are they all wrong? Also, how can you effectively communicate as an improvisor with your teammates when you’re speaking different performance-languages?”
First, I assume you’re just following the pattern of “this is just a private message…” That’s cool, to clarify, my policy is that people who hide behind anonymity don’t get to make requests. You know it’s cowardly to try to take shots at me without having to be responsible for your actions. That’s fine. I don’t have much to hide. Besides, clearly you want me to answer this or how else would you read my response?
“Tons of people who are super SUPER funny embrace game…” True. I don’t believe they’re wrong. When I started doing improv, I embraced game whole heartedly. Every scene I tried to make it clear to my scene partner what the game was. During practices and shows, I would take notes, hypothesizing on what the game was, when game became clear, how game was communicated. It was structure, it was clear. It allowed me to create a goal post for myself and I knew if my actions or lines into that fit into that goal post, I was right.
Then I stopped thinking about it. For no other reason than it was stressing me out. Once you create right moves for yourself, you also create wrong moves. The same goes for your scene partner. If they have moves that are right, they also have moves that are wrong. I got judgey. Something I still struggle with. Anyway, I didn’t want to punish myself for not finding the game, or following it quick enough.
In forgetting about game, I don’t think it went away. If you’ve seen me perform or played with me I feel you’d agree. In a way I feel like it’s like learning your times tables. I remember visualizing it whenever I’d see a multiplication problem, now I just know that 12 x 11 is 132. Muscle memory or something like that. Am I perfect at game still? Eh I dunno.
When I forgot about game, or really failed to forget about it, I found myself more present in scenes. It was like doing improv without the blinders any more. Suddenly little things in scenes had more an effect on me, and I had the opportunity to play it. In not creating a right and wrong for myself or others, I felt I was a kinder improviser. I would embrace people’s everything. Their good moves, their bad moves, their weird vulgar moves. I was less confused. Lastly not thinking about game made me less verbal. I don’t know if it’s just because I processed game with the language part of my brain or what, but I felt myself giving performances, taking action, feeling my environment.
To be fair, I can’t say these revelations has a causal relationship with forgetting game, or being less concerned with it. It’s just what I noticed. It’s entirely possible that every super SUPER funny performer does all the same things while still fully thinking about game. It’s also possible that super SUPER funny performers do what I’m doing. I can’t really tell you how another person’s brain works.
I have no beef with game. It’s just something I think about less these days. In defense of not-game, did you know that there are entire improv schools that are not based on game? It’s true. There are many super SUPER funny performers who think the UCB’s focus on game is entirely misguided. I know, I was surprised to. At the end of the day, I don’t think it matters what your approach to improv is, it’s all about what works for you. Billy Merritt has a lovely post about this here.
This isn’t a science. We aren’t getting board certified that we do improv correctly. No ones grading our papers. It’s art. Embrace the weirdness of it.
As far as communicating with another improviser (notice the spelling, there is a right and wrong in the English language), I guess I’m not worried about it. Like I said, it’s not like I found a program to delete my understanding of game from my brain. Improv doesn’t require the computer like communication of “You always 01011000.” It works, Wednesday someone in class said to me, “You always get sick.” You better believe that I got sick at every damn moment I could. If he had said, “Don’t get sick,” I would have gotten sick. If had said, “You feeling ok?” I probably would have gotten sick.
The better question is how do you communicate with improvisers if you only speak the language of game? Honestly, go outside of the UCB community and I’m sure you’d be relatively fine. At the end of the day improv has many core components that everyone agrees on. I once talked to Joe Wengert and he told me that he was in a panel discussing improv with all the various schools in Los Angeles and that they all agreed on 95% of improv and that other 5% so small that they barely noticed.
Anyway, thanks for the question. I know you were trying to take a shot at me, but it allowed me to really explore what I felt about game and articulate it better than I have in the past.
Happy improvising, anon.