The Improv Diaries – part 26 – Brad Sherwood and Charlie Granville

This week is I returned to the world of Improv (hooray!) and was welcomed back into the world of silliness after two weeks of nothing! This week I had so many ideas for case studies in my head in relation to what we learnt last week, however, the shows i watched the other weekend are still really fresh in my head that I think using two members of each troupe to make my point will be better then using others as they relate to the points I am going to make about this weeks lesson and those two people that are going to be case studies are Brad Sherwood and Charlie Granville but more on that later.

This week we returned to improv with Ian teaching us, we started off the lesson with warm up games which were really fun to play. We played a new one which was each of us were a fruit which had a really short name such as Peach, Pruner, Grape etc and someone would stand in the middle and have to say that fruit three times before the person who is that fruit jumps in. It was a great way to develop the attention span that is needed for improv and brought you right into the room. The next game that we played was the word game where you say a word and make eye contact to someone across the circle and they then have to do the same to someone else but the word has to be something completely unrelated to the word that was said before. This is another game that is really good at keeping you focused and in the room of improv.

Before we started the main part of the lesson we had a sit down with Ian to discuss areas that we feel that we need to focus on and work on as Improvisers and what we feel we need to develop. There was only about 8 of us in the class so it was easy to define what needs to be looked at and focused on in the up and coming weeks. Various people made many different suggestions such as speaking too much in scenes, being nervous to start a scene etc. I mentioned about keeping in character as from watching both Whose Line and Noise Next Door next week I noticed that i need to up my game in that area.

We set up the room to do scene work to have a look at the first thing that was mentioned – talking less in scenes. To work on this we went up in pairs and didn’t say anything unless we were directed to by Ian. This was to progress us in how little it takes to make a scene and that expressions can be the thing that make the scene. It was really interesting to watch how simple something can be to make a scene.

The next thing on from this was to do a scene where noone can stop talking there has to be someone always constantly talking in the scene. This was really fun to play as you sort of let go of the nerves that come from the scenes with no talk as there was no time to focus or develop on the character but just blabber on and some of the results were fantastically funny. Like Amy and Karam in a supermarket playing on the facts in Amys first day and she doesn’t know when to stop speaking to let the customer speak. My scene was with Carl and we were attending a funeral of a friend who  just died and lead to funny results as we kept expanding in graphic and in depth details about how he died and where.

The next game we did was to make people feel comfortable about starting a scene so, someone would go up and say what they were going to be and then someone would burst into the scene and endow that person. For example Jackie was a road sweeper and then I burst on to stage saying that i just dropped loads of cereal on the road and the rats were about to attack.

Case Study 1 – Brad Sherwood 

I felt that Brad was a good case study for this post because out of all the Whose Line troupe that I saw last week, he was one of the strongest and funniest at setting up scenes, some was because of his own doing and others was because of the way he reacted with audience members.

In a lot of the games that Brad was in he was setting up the scenarios and delving into being the first to perform and create the scene. He is a very strong improviser and was so fun to watch.

My favourite scene of the night involved Brad and it was him that made me laugh so much I couldn’t breath. My favourite game to play and watch is the Puppet Game where you either get two audience members or fellow improvisers to be the guide. There are two improvisers that are ‘the puppets’ and it is the job of the improvisers or the audience members to tap them or pull their body about to make them move in the scene.

Brad was a puppet in this game alongside Colin and there were two audience members who had to move them. The member of the audience who was in charge of Brad was not thinking about the moves he had to do and some improvisers would of eased it a bit and moved a little bit more with the lack of hits she was doing to make him walk but Brad was very strict with his movement which made it so funny to watch as he very nearly ended up doing the splits due to only moving when he was touched.

This is a great case study to analyse as an improviser because whilst he was ‘the lead in the scene’ he had no control over what he was doing and had to justify the movements he was put in. This in some ways can be looked at in a Metaphor in a game you cannot control what happens and you have to take it as it is. If something happens and you don’t expect it you have to go with it no matter what. From watching this game it had such hysterical result that sometimes its a great feeling to not be in control of anything.

Case Study 2 – Charlie Granville

Charlie is one of the members that make up the 5 team troupe Noise Next Door (also known as the White ‘Tie Guy’). I wasn’t going to write about him or Brad this week but they both had parts in their show that reflect perfectly on what we learnt this week in lesson. Charlie, just like fellow group member Matt, can be very physical with his type of improv.

In this weeks lesson, we did scenes as I have already discussed about not saying anything and only talking very rarely. The first ones that we did of these was directed by Ian however the second time we worked with our partner, we just had to ‘go with the flow.’ I am a chatter box and quite a active improviser so when i am told I can hardly talk and to slow the whole scene down i find it sometimes really hard and this week (maybe because of the two week gap) I had this issue. I didn’t really know what to do when I entered so just started twirling my hair and instantly regretted it as i didn’t know where to go with it and didn’t really want to go with it but just had to ‘roll with it.’

At the show of the Noise Next Door they played a game where Charlie has to be saved from being stuck to something by Big Tom and the audience suggest what to be stuck to and how. Now as you remember last week, there were kids in the audience but this suggestion came from an adult saying that he should be stuck to Big Ben by his exceptionally big hairline. From the photo above you will see that Charlie has quite ‘whooshy’ (My own terminology) hair and has got bigger since the last time I saw them live for definitely and has styled it differently so that it is higher. You could tell from his face that he really didnt want to use that as a suggestion but did because both the audience and his fellow improv mates found it very funny.

Seeing a fellow improviser in a situation of a suggestion that they don’t want to do is really interesting to see because that is exactly how i felt. Whilst I put myself in that situation, i have been in others before in love shows that have come from the audience that I haven’t been that keen on but just gone with it. The one thing i suppose that is good about this is that even if you don’t like the suggestion and you ‘fail’ it will make the audience love you for it.


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