The Improv Diaries – Part 29 – Bottom TV Show

This week we returned to improv lessons and what will be probably my last set of improv in the North East – well, maybe until the middle of August but I think I have approximately  4 lessons now left in Newcastle as I am moving back to London for my job but never fear it does not mean the end of the diaries it just means a new chapter!

Anyway, this week we delved back into the world of improv by doing lessons which focus on training us up even more on endowment and building up a scene by doing an array of different scene work. This is really helpful in improv because even though the lessons are hard in this, it makes you naturally develop skills that you never really thought about when performing and it really helps you subconsciously without you realising.

The first scene work that we did was all about letting a scene build from something that was brought on stage. Somebody would pretend to bring or work with something and the other person would come into the scene and establish what it was that the person was working with. So for example, the first scene saw Ian playing on a laptop and jackie coming in and saying that he is in trouble at the office because he is surfing the web for dodgy things. Once the scene was slightly established, the other Ian, leader Ian, froze the scenario and got someone else to tag one of the characters out and asked them to make it worse  / make the scene bigger then it was. This was a great exercise because you had to think how you can change a scene to make it different to up the stakes so to speak.

The next set of scenes we did was all about endowment – we had to constantly endow the person that was on the stage with us as it naturally builds up a scenario and a relationship of the people on the floor. So people didn’t over think what they were doing or to focus too much on anything else apart from the endowing, Ian made us sort through random books like we were in a bookshop so that we just shuffled or flicked about. Both of these exercises were really good as they developed your skills of building a scene and really bringing it alive in the most vibrant and simplest ways.

Case Study – Bottom

I was flicking through catch up on Sky Go the other night and went to Comedy Gold and came across the stage versions of the British Sitcom Bottom. Now I used to really like this show, as I have stated loads of time before on this blog, I am a big fan of Rik Mayall. This show was always mainly about the violence and how much Rik and Ade Edmonsen can beat the crap out of each other. However the live version had some interesting concepts that relate to improv.

I didn’t watch all of the show but I watched the first 20 minutes of the stage show they did called Bottom  Live 3 – Hooligan Island and this was enough to make a very strong point that is relative to what we learnt this week and how to build a scene. In the part of the show that I watched, there is only Eddie and Richard on the island and because there is only two of them the most important part is setting up the scenes and working together to create great comedy. Now, whilst a lot of this is scripted and already prepared it does not mean that it is a bad case study.. why? because there is only two of them and the way that they work together to produce a comedy which doesn’t need anyone else to fill the scene is pretty magical and makes Ade and Rik fantastic comedy actors.

When the opening happens it is Rich on his own for a good while trying to find where Eddie has got to. To build up the scene he has to interact with the scene around him and really build up the impact. He uses the scene and to really build up a scenario and really interacts with his surroundings. This is so important in Improv to do this as it is a vital key to get to the audience to understand where you are and also so that other improvisers also understand where you are in the scene.



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