One of the hardest things to do in improv is not to break character and laugh in the middle of a scene. Sometimes you are put into a scene where you are being something so silly that it is really hard to not laugh – but if you can pull of a straight face and keep the laughter at bay you can really create some very strong scenes that creates really strong humour – especially in short form improv.
So is this a good thing or a bad thing? Well let’s have a look at both sides –
The wonders of improv is that it doesn’t matter if you fail on stage because that is where the humour lies! People like it when improvisers start laughing mid scene because they realise that both them and the improvisers are on the same side and both find the same thing funny.
It can be really hilarious seeing improviser come out of character on stage – you can see the reaction and how the improviser is dealing with the said suggestion. I have seen many improv shows by the professionals where you see this happen – their realisation of what they are doing and then the initial snigger of trying to battle through it. Then it gets to a point when they break down on stage and it can be really funny.
Ok, so there isn’t actually a lot of negatives of breaking into laughter in front of an audience because if they are laughing too it’s great. However, if you break down in laughter because of something like an inside joke from rehearsals or something then that could be a problem also if your comedy is going to a grey area and the audience is not responding and you laugh then it can also be a negative thing….
HOWEVER saying all of this improv is meant to BE FUN so if people see you are laughing in a scene they won’t judge you they will see the fun you are having on stage.
You can play games that play on the idea of laughter. I have seen this played two different ways on stage. One way where you tell the audience that two improvisers are going to do a serious scene about a serious topic and then whenever the audience laugh you have to tap one of the improvisers out. The audience will the get the gist of the game and will laugh more so you have to rotate more.
Another way to play with the laughter and what I have seen The Noise Next Door do in one of their early tours is make a game of the fact they laugh on stage. They gave two audience members water guns and whenever the improvisers on stage in the scene laughed the audience members were instructed to squirt water at them. This was a great game at making the audience laugh and also the improvisers try to not laugh.
So as you see, laughter may be something you are concerned about, but never fear, it is all part of the fun!