This week, I am happy to be taking some much needed time off work while I check out Kansas City with my girlfriend. However, as I sit on the couch of our AirBNB apartment, I know that if this post isn’t wrapped up by the time she gets out of the shower, I will be in big trouble. So this week, I thought we’d do something a little different.
Two weeks ago, I posted an interview with Improv Shop co-owner and Bluebeard teammate, Andy Sloey. Unfortunately, due to some scheduling conflicts, I was unable to record a scene before the interview was posted. Since then, we’ve had a chance to get his comedic talents captured on film, but rather than simply post the video, this week, I thought I’d walk you through the scene and explain how I approached it, my own thoughts in the moment, and some commentary on what I thought worked or flopped.
First, watch the full four-minute scene.
Now, let’s break it down beat by beat.
Typically, I use the suggestion to inform the environment of the scene. However, I’ve gotten tired of that and have found my scene work a bit flat. I’ve been trying to use the suggestion to either inform some aspect of my character, or I have been taking Todd Stashwick’s advice from a recent Improv Nerd podcast:
Jimmy: You start with a physicality and that drives [the top of the scene]?
Todd: Your mind can wander but your body is always in the space. And, if I continue to use my body and engage with the space it does this little trick where it keeps me in the scene.
In this scene with Andy, I began with a physicality – resting my leg on top of the chair – and I let that help define who and where we were. In my mind, I had no idea where we were going with the suggestion of “cotton.”
When Andy let out a deep sigh, in my mind, we had messed something up. Based on our physical positions, I assumed we were in a locker room, and with the suggestion of “cotton,” I thought of baseball uniforms. These three pieces of information informed our first few lines.
Andy and I begin talking about how I got hit by a rogue pitch. This information adds some color to the scene and will be important later, however, in the moment, I felt stuck because I wasn’t sure where the scene was going. Is the scene about how I got hit or is it about the game we just played?
With that awkward silence, we transition to a new branch of the scene.
Drawing on my own experience from getting owned in rec-league kickball, Andy and I add background about what just occurred. We begin to find the game of the scene – he and his friends not only suck at baseball, but are also huge pansies. Apparently, my character is much tougher than their normal stock.
At 1:10, I say “cunt,” and I get pretty self-conscious about it. I have been trying to cut bad language out of my scene work when possible, but it’s not always easy. “Cunt” always provokes a reaction – whether a laugh or discomfort from the audience – so I occasionally will abuse it for comedic effect. In that moment, I judge myself for saying it, and immediately apologize in the scene.
We deepen the scene – although Andy’s character thinks I’m really cool and tough, I am very self-conscious about my performance and position on this baseball team.
Andy bolsters his argument by talking about how I am young and bring fire to the team. I assume Andy does this based on the reality of our lives – that I am a younger improviser, and he maps that reality onto the scene. This move works for me because I am able to draw on my experiences at work and in improv, where I am a lot younger than my coworkers and other improvisers, a source of my own self-consciousness and discomfort.
I draw on my own experience that, despite somewhat athletic looks, I have no sporting skills.
We pull all the elements together. Despite my own sports-related incompetence, Andy is still happy to have me on the team because I am young and tougher than everyone else. We bring back the injury from the first minute to illustrate his point.
Andy goes one step further to raise the stakes, noting how important this team is – it’s a brotherhood. Perhaps he’s drawing on his own experiences with his theater?
We wrap up the scene by brining it back to the fact that, despite this heavy topic of “brotherhood,” we still suck at baseball, which brings it back to the initiation. The scene feels very complete.