Improv Corner – How Has The Community Adapted to Improv Online?

Photo by Pixabay on

This year has been a weird one, it has meant that a lot of the improv community has had to adapt to performing shows, rehearsing and teaching in an online environment. Throughout the year we have asked a lot of the acts that we have interviewed what they have learnt from this new way of performing and today we have some of their answers below! Enjoy there is some really helpful advice.

What have you learnt from adapting Improv to an Online World?

Hideout Theatre

1) Eyelines are hard! You have to really think about where you’re looking; I think generally I suggest to actors that the best thing to cheat zoom eye contact is to have the non-speaking actor look at the camera, so that when the speaking actor looks at them on screen, they can see a reaction. Although, when you’re making up dialogue, that can get tricky! 

2) End your sentences with a full stop. Zoom doesn’t work all that well with talking over each other – be clear and intentional with your lines. Speak until you’ve finished a thought and stop. (You should probably do that in real life too). 

3) Use the tools that are unique to the online space! One thing that’s fabulous about being on camera is that your audience can really see your face, and the emotions passing over you. Use proxemics, props, backgrounds, perspective – just fuck about and be curious! Instead of thinking in terms of how we’re limited by being online, think about all the new things we can do that we couldn’t do on stage. 

Donovan Santiago

1)    Improv works online.

2)    I always had freedom in person, but I feel like you have more freedom online. I mean that in terms of producing shows. If you ever wanted to try a strange concept or theme you can now try it online first and see how people respond. I loved testing out new stuff on stage before, but now I like the online stage being the first test so to speak.

3)    Different show types work online. If you think it won’t work, I bet it will. It is awesome how many new types of shows you can try online.

Sue Harrison

I’ve learnt that:
1) I love being in the same room as people
2) I miss being on stage immeasurably and erm…
3) remember to unmute yourself?

Brooke Hoerr, Big Smoke Comedy

One thing I’ve learned is that we are definitely not on the big screen, but rather quite the opposite.  Often people are watching passively from their digital device as we come through in 2-D.  It’s a great challenge for live entertainers to overcome and amazing for us to witness them do it each week.  

Secondly,  performing online requires a lot more imagination from our audience, especially when improvisers are piping in from separate locations to perform to together; much more like a radio show, where viewers must picture improvisers together in a particular scene location.  Of course, we can still enjoy the incredible expressions and clowning within this context.  It’s all quite experimental.  

Thirdly, improvising online is bringing performers to a far wider audience beyond perhaps a usual network of fellow improvisers in a particular geographic area.  In other words, we’re on a frontier converting new fans.  It’s an opportunity for improvisers to be ambassadors toward others who might not have been very familiar with our art form.  We gain far more viewers who may never have considered attending an improv show before, but then become pleasantly surprised.   

Ultimately, this brings us one step closer to our goal of improv taking over the world, which, of course, is what every improviser swears allegiance to at the end of our introductory coursework.   

easylaughs, Amsterdam

fall cast photo shoot + rehearsal

When using free software, you get what you paid for.

You don’t have to just be a talking head.

Time lag changes everything.

Katy Schutte, The Improv Place

The top and perhaps most obvious thing is that online improv is different. A lot of people are trying to squish stage improv into a screen and that has limited success. We sure learned a lot in live spaces, but there are loads of cool things that we can do in Zoom etc. that just aren’t possible on stage. Let’s not dwell on what we lost, but explore what’s new and exciting.

They Don’t Know The Half Of It

1) It’s not as scary as we thought it might be

2) There’s a whole world of new things we can try online – props, backgrounds, set, camera work, proxemics, technical wizardry. It’s actually quite exciting to be diving into what is essentially a brand-new artform for us! 

3) Being on camera is much more exposing than being on stage! That can be a great thing, because it means we can really indulge in grounded, naturalistic acting, but it means we have to be much more deliberate and reserved. 

Sarah Davies

Listen, listen and then listen some more! It’s all about communication!

The improv ethos of celebrating failure and mistakes is so important – because tech failures will happen, and you have to incorporate that!

At some point, there will be a cat.

What a year it has been for improv! It is going to be interesting to see what happens in 2021. Improv Corner will return in the new year. Thanks for reading and see you in January!

Feature Photo by Pixabay

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s