There is one thing that fascinates me about improv and that is how it is portrayed in Television and Film. This is becoming more and more apparent in recent years because the comedy art form is sort of in fashion. There are some interesting topics that we can gain from these ways they are displayed so every so often we are going to look at different scenes from different shows and films.
The Big Bang Theory
Today we look at The Big Bang Theory, a show you would not probably associate with improv but there’s one particular episode that does focus on this comedy form in quite a unique way. In season 4, episode 14 Sheldon Cooper visits his neighbour Penny to learn how to do improv. The reason he does is because he wants to improv his teaching skills. Here is the clip below.
I think this is a really fun and interesting depiction of improv because it looks at it from a literal way and it sort of in some ways defines how you feel when you first start doing improv – you feel silly and being spontaneous and going with the flow can be really hard to accept and to do. I think it really highlights some of the emotions you feel performing in a made up universe and getting used to accepting the weird.
I think that it is a great scene this one as it gives a fun look at initially accepting the word Yes in improv. When you first start out, accepting anything that is thrown at you seems really weird and a lot of the time you want to say no. Whilst this is represented by a very theoretic and realist character like Sheldon Cooper, it also does convey part of the emotion that you are actually feeling.
Another thing I think this scene is fantastic for is more of a niche idea that only really improvisers may hold onto and that is the idea of adapting to the scene when needs be. In the scene Penny keeps trying to change the scene so that it adapts to what Sheldon says, she initially sets up a shoe shop but Sheldon wants ice cream so she says fortunately they sell that too. She becomes frustrated when Sheldon just won’t co-operate and keeps altering the scene.
As an improviser it can be really hard at first to accept that scenes change and that you have to adapt to make things work well on stage. The main key of improvising is to believe in what is coming your way to paint a picture for the scene.
This may be a short scene but it is very funny and as an improviser you can enjoy them on a completely different level altogether. They are enjoyable and delightful, even if you are not a fan of the show, give this a watch its good fun.