“Can I get a location where our next scene can take place?”
“I heard bowling alley, our next scene is inspired by a bowling alley.”
It was 10PM at Sick Puppies HQ and we are rehearsing for our upcoming show. The stage is dark and my scene partner Julie and I are frozen in our starting positions on stage. An improv scene is about to start in .0003 seconds.
I am on my knees with my hands to my sides, very stiff. I have a brilliant idea. It’s hilarious. I’ts going to be so awesome. Get this, I’m a bowling pin! HA! How funny is this going to be?! Talking bowling pin! I giggled internally at my beautiful mind.
Julie is the first to speak.
“Jethro are you going to just kneel like that or are you gunna bowl?!”
Bowling pin is out.
Great idea, but it can not happen now. If I try to keep my idea I deny the reality Julie has already set forth. I accept my role as Jethro the hillbilly slack-jawed bowler, and we continue with our scene.
Julie did me a huge favor. Julie probably saved the scene. Julie not only painted herself, but she also painted me. It’s a huge gift in improv to tell your partner who they are.
It happens sometimes. We want things. We want to run with our own ideas, but some jerk, or in this case a hilarious beautiful woman comes along and calls you Jethro. It ruins your plans, your ideas, and the direction you saw things going or wanted them to go. So what do you do?
It’s in that moment when you have to agree. You feel it. It feels like letting go and it hurts like letting go. Like giving away your morning coffee to someone in the office, but it’s for the best.
The scene went on like this: We find out my character is extremely weak. He bowls with a 3lb ball, he’s afraid of getting married to Pauleen because the ring will be too heavy, also he can’t sit for very long because his butt muscles are just so weak. Jethro the incredibly weak bowler who is so weak he can’t even sit for long periods! THAT is funny! That’s way funnier than a talking bowling pin.
I could have sat frozen on that dark stage for days, months, years and not come up with Jethro. I was only able to find him because I dropped my own ideas and married Julies ideas with my own. The result?
The audience laughed. Not hard to do with a regular crowd, but a little harder to do in rehearsal since it’s a room full of sober improv professionals. Well…improv professionals.
We did it! We had a great scene and it happened because we both agreed I was not a bowling pin.
What about at home or at work? What are some ways you could agree and drop your own ideas in favor of someone else’s? Where could it lead? Better ideas? Grander plans? A promotion? Let us know in the comments below.