I really cannot convey how much I am enjoying it out here. There is so much that is thrilling me, and it is nuanced by bits that I don’t understand, some bits that make me think, yeah, well maybe, and then those bits that make me just go, this is the best thing since the bread knife (way better than sliced bread in my opinion).
The Annoyance classes are one of those things. I am loving the classes I am taking at the other schools, and I am learning a massive amount, but this harps back to Rachael Mason’s description of the different types of improviser and the way the schools cater for that:
Rachael Mason’s 3 types of improviser.
The Heart: who start a scene by doing
The Head: who start a scene by saying
The X factor: who start with whatever the fuck they like! They fuck shit up. This is good.
The Heart. This is the physical comic, the character improviser, maker of emotional moves.
The Head. The game move maker, the reference dropper, the editor, the initiator.
The X factor. Can be conscious (strategic, does it to bring the scene to life), unconscious or malicious.
Both unconscious and malicious are also useful, the push the comfort zone and much of the genius in scenes comes from the excitement and the dealing with the left field.
The best team has all three.
The best improviser has a bit of all three. Rachael suggested that an improviser should be 45%, 45%, 10% – Heart, Head, X factor.
Build the part that you are weakest at.
If you make the X factor look good, which is your job (show your scene partners off to be artists, heroes and poets), you will help create a scene that will be way more interesting than it otherwise would be.
The X factor can be scary to play with. Do it. It will make you a stronger improviser and it will give your scenes that chispa of je ne sais quoi.
Work to work with the X factor, the X factor is important.
The X factor uses their brain differently, but that is what makes them special.
How to develop the other parts of your own improviser
To play more X factor style, make simple, declaritive first lines of dialogue. Remember the “because”.
Conscientiously come on doing something you would not ordinarily do. Be in juxtaposition to the others, or choose a different reference from their noticed word.
If you are a Heart, to be more Head, start by speaking.
Remember, gift: Yourself, Your scene partner, The location or situation.
If you are a Head, to be more Heart, make a strong, bold character choice.
There are 6 ways to create character:
1 Bend your spine – lead with a specific part of the body
2 Pick a total body physicality (i.e. old, young, crippled, itching all over)
3 Pick a character inspired by an animal (i.e. a chicken, a lion, and amoeba)
4 Pick an intention (walking as if late or guilty or in charge)
5 Pick an emotion. Remember to include an adjective and to personalise it
6 Pick a fully realised character from a genre
The Second City is a Head school (I have some of the best improvisers in the whole town teaching me here, huge fun)
The iO is a Heart School (I will have some amazing teachers here too, ultimately most of my classes will be here, this has yet to start)
ComedySportz is both Head and Heart (wonderful teachers, this school has a real family atmosphere. This is the breath of fresh air after all the long form, a way to relax and play)
The Annoyance is the X factor (amazing teachers, including, soon, at least a class with the legendary Mick Napier!)
Where does this leave me? Well, I am enjoying all my classes, and I have ridiculously good teachers in all of them, but there is something about the classes at the Annoyance in particular. I find that the Annoyance challenges me in a way that I feel out of control, and yet the scenes there feel very real, with so much pathos that, for the viewer, I feel they look like they might be the real thing.
Am I naturally X factor or am I just drawn to it? I suspect that I am mainly Head and X factor, however I find X factor more exciting. Heart is definitely an area I must work on. I commit but, being British (or whatever excuse I wish to provide myself – being a bloke maybe), to a degree I struggle to listen to my feelings and emotions and then translate them into actions. Doing a whole week with Susan Messing (physicality) and Rachael Mason (form via physicality) as my starter course for this whole expedition was a lucky and perfect way to do this.
The next several weeks may change both me and my point of view. I hope that they do. This is deeply exciting. I hope to return to the UK a much more rounded improviser, someone able to handle himself and handle anyone else. I do believe that the Annoyance theory of protecting yourself first works well, because saving yourself means that your life raft is already inflated when you come along to save your friends. We will see how much heart I can develop and add to the mix.
Enjoy the journey. Well, that I am. I hope you are enjoying it with me, vicariously via the blog.