There is a conversation that lingers around the world of improv and it is something that I have had many discussions on a number of times. Should you be working for your laughs or should you go for the cheap laugh that you know is going to get you a response from the audience?
Maybe I should explain a little bit more especially for people who may be new to improv or comedy. There are things that will always guarantee a laugh from the audience – a joke about sex,a fart joke, a swear word etc and these are known as cheap laughs – something that you know will get you some reaction from the audience and will guarantee a laugh.
When you are in an improv group, especially a short form troupe, you have to have these conversations to talk about your aim as a performance as a whole and what you want people to see you as. Do you want to the that group that gets remembered for that cheap joke or do you want to the group that is remembered for working for a laugh?
It is a discussion we have had a lot in Punderstandably this is something that we aim not to do and try and get laughs because of or wackiness and energy on stage. When we had our big show back in May the one thing we wanted was a back up game, this was if the game was bad for any particular reason we put in a game we call the ‘cheap laughs’ game as we know that it gurantees laughs because the last times we have played it in front of a crowd it has always made them laugh alot.
We tend not to do things smutty to get a laugh however, if an audience suggest something then we will give the audience what they want. We did a show on the West End in front of a crowd that was predominantly non improvisers so in true comedy style alot of their suggestions were only dirty suggestions and nothing else so we had to go for it. We play a game called Mirrors where I am not in control of my movements and have to copy everything that James does. We ask the audience for a profession and true to the nights other suggestions it was a dirty themed one that was a strip club. We first spun the suggestion on its head and made it about getting ready to ‘perform’ but I decided to give the audience what they want in regards to the rudeness.
On stage I tend to not swear and be cheeky to an extent but I never really use it as a way to get laughs only if it fits. This particular night I knew what they wanted and they gave us these suggestions to try and catch us out but I used it to my advantage and took it a chance to take them by surprise and completely make them laugh.
I turned it into a scene about preparing to dance with a raw chicken outfit and spun out every sexual innuendo I could and the audience loved it as they were not expecting it and it made them laugh and then all my guy troupe couldn’t look me in the eye which was hilarious.
Sometimes I will go for a cheap laugh to sort of play with my improv troupe. Many times I have deliberately spun a scene to a cheeky innuendo as they were not expecting it and I adore the look on their faces when i take it to a place that they were not expecting it. I do this a lot in rehearsals especially, we will be playing a game like Nursery Rhyme Chat Show and I will deliberately spin it to a place they were not imagining it putting usually Mike into a really random situation that you can see the look of shock and hilarity in their eyes its great!
Whilst you shouldn’t use Cheap Laughs as your fall back in a show, they can be very fun to do now and again really just to have some laughs.