How To Improvise – an H&P 101

Call us long in the tooth if you want (no, don’t) but we’ve been performing as a group for closing in on two years now. Back on that fateful day in March 2009 we started getting together to get extra experience outside of our iO classes, and have spent our time learning how to improvise together ever since. There have been a lot of laughs, because Brian is insane, and a lot of tears, because I’m a wimp, but we’ve made it 20 months with minimal legal action against each other.

Well, the rest of the team is probably going to kill me for it, but I’m going to spill the beans, and give you an H&P improvise how to – yep, here’s two years worth of experience condensed into 500 words. You’d think it would take more. You’d be wrong.

Teamwork is everything. We are all in this thing together
Our best shows are the ones where we come in extremely well connected with each other. We start our shows making contact with each other – eye contact, hand-holding, whatever else it takes to get in tune with each other and ready to support each other for the scenes we do. We’re friends and fellow performers, and we like to make each other laugh just as much as we like to see the audience laugh, and that’s what our pre-show rituals consist of.

We don’t think it. We follow our instincts.
It gets us into trouble sometimes, but we just don’t want to spend our time trying to invest some grand plot for our short little 20 minute show. We operate on themes of emotion and feeling, and on reacting to what happens in the moment. You can read books on how to improvise, and watch shows, or listen to Second City and SNL alum all you want, but in the end, the secret to improv, as far as I can tell, is looking your partner in the eye, absorbing what they just said or did, and reacting to it. You may want to react as you yourself would, or maybe you’re playing a character, but you are reacting as honestly as you can.

Good shows don’t depend on LPM (laughs per minute)
A good show is not necessarily a show where the audience is rolling every single second. I’ve loved shows that have had few laugh out loud moments, but have been touching, truthful, and real. We at H&P are striving to make shows that are so truthful that they leave the audience dead quiet, because these shows are even more memorable and impressive than those shows that have people laughing the entire time. Don’t get me wrong, I love to hear the audience react to what we do, but if you were going to define improvise, as Del Close once did, it doesn’t have to do with comedy. It has to do with reality.

If you want to see these lessons in action, the best way is to check out our upcoming shows!