It’s odd doing a scripted show. I did the Treason Show for 2.5 years, which is scripted, but I’ve been solely improvising since August and I’m reminded of how different - and how similar – sketch and improv are.
The writing process itself is very much like improvising. Writing is improvising on paper, it’s only the looking back over it and editing it that’s different. In Tonight’s Top Story with the Maydays, we pick up a newspaper article and then start a scene with an interesting angle. Perhaps an extreme situation can be paralleled with something everyday. What’s a dictator like over breakfast? Or can we look from a different point of view; is any world disaster the Gods having a violent game of Risk or Battleships?
With writing, you can put in all the ideas (and jokes) that annoyingly come to you after an improv scene. That’s the plus, the minus is that sketch is unforgiving. If you improvise a scene, there is an audience joy and forgiveness for the instant way you are coming up with what you are doing. The audience often get the joke at the same as the improviser. If the audience know it’s pre-written they are expecting more.
Re-hashing improv would be like trying to relive a funny conversation you had in the pub; ‘you had to be there’. That’s what improv is: ‘you had to be there’ because THERE it’s really funny. The tip for sketch to take from this, is that it always needs to come across as fresh, you have to be enjoying it and finding it as funny as you did the first time you did the sketch. My Dad’s a children’s author and one of his best tips to me as a child was to always remember how you felt about an idea the first time it came to you. If a joke made you laugh, if a plot made you excited, if a character made you empathise, that’s how it’s going to come across the first time someone else hears it.
Happily in the Treason Show I was working with other improvisers in the cast and there was an improv language we used beneath the script. I’m gonna do something funnier than my line now because I just though of it and you’re gonna go with me.
I’ll be back in improv land at Music Box next Tuesday (15th March) and doing NewsRevue Thursday–Sunday for the next six weeks. Come see some funny stuff; scripted or instantly scripted.