Improv Corner – What Did You Just Say?

The other day I was just checking my social media feeds before I went to bed and I went onto the Instagram stories just to be nosy at what people were posting and stumbled across a live feed by actor Zachary Levi (Chuck, Thor: The Dark World, Tangled) . I don’t really pay attention to Live feeds like this and ignored it until I came across the recorded live feeds from earlier that evening. In the first part of three very long recorded feeds – he opened discussing that he had recently caused an uproar on social media because a word that used to have a really innocent meaning in the recent months or so due to the younger generation have created a new meaning for something.

I won’t go on about it on here as if you read or look at any of his feeds you will see what I am talking about and a live feed that I thought I would turn off in a few minutes I ended up watching it for nearly an hour to see other peoples views and to see the responses and things related to it. The terminology that they were talking about became famous through the television show F.R.I.E.N.D.S and since a lot of the Millenial Generation have a problem with that show it does not surprise me that a term that was used has changed terms recently.

However, listening and watching these feeds on Instagram Stories, it actually inspired me to write this article about an area of improv that I have heard people talk about regularly in lessons or rehearsals etc – What is OK to say on stage?

Now there are many areas that this covers and are talking points when it comes to performing – unlike other comedy forms such as stand up or sketch comedy, it is very hard to censor improv because it is off the cusp and made up on the spot. However, there are areas that whilst improv isn’t censored, that should be considered:

Language – Most improv nights are for people that are over 18, I have been to many many improv shows and I would say that swearing is used maybe 10% of the time. Usually the improviser on stage only swears if it brings something to the scene and is relevant to the actual scene that is happening, it is not used every single sentence or all the time.

I got taught by an improv teacher ( I can’t remember who exactly it was but I remember it was exactly but it was someone who had done a lot of shows) that you should really not make swearing the aim of the scene – if it pops in fine but you shouldn’t rely on swearing constantly – unless your a format that relies on it and it is the aim of the game!

Slang – Like I said when I started this article I told you that a common slang terminology created a buzz on social media because the terminology had changed to a word. In improv, slang  / street talk is something that can be used to create fun in the scene. The great thing about improv is it sort of acts on a different level to everyday life whatever happens in the scene is truth and you abide by that and can make a fun scene.

The Personal – I didn’t really know what to call this topic because it covers a lot of areas – to me this is the tick box that you have on application forms where it asks you personal questions such as relationship status, religion, sex etc. All these themes do tend to come up a lot in improv and can make a core of a scene, well relationships especially can. Whilst improv is an uncensored format of comedy, it is still important to be respectful to these topics as you do not know who is in the audience.

Now, I know that contradicts what I said earlier about improv being an uncensored format but you should still make sure that what you are saying is not offending anyone or taking the mick out of something that you should respect. I have to been to many shows and the improv community is very respectful to these topics and if a scene is steering into territory it shouldn’t then people are very good at steering it in a different way and taking it somewhere else.

There has only been one improv show where I have found one of the acts highly offensive to a religion as they knew their limit as the audience responded but they went over the line and were allowed to continue saying inappropriate things. I am not a religious person but I thought it was out of line and walked out through their set.

I find with any show of improv, you should really consider the audience as much as you can. Whilst it is a comedy format that shouldn’t be censored, at the same time you should really be thinking to yourself – if you feel its something that you wouldn’t say in real life as you know it’s not right, then probably don’t say it in a show….

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