How best to teach stand-up comedians and officey-type beginners in the same class?

Hi, all,

This isn't necessarily an AI question, but here goes. I had a mixed public class of rank beginners from officey type backgrounds, plus a few newby standup comedians looking to expand their skills, and boy was it a challenge! The stand-ups would improvise in a vaccuum, completely bulldoze the other players, or bring in content that was purposely confronting. This was harmful to the group spirit, and intimidating to the officey folks.

I don't like to be authoritarian, or, especially in a public class, demand that the content be 'safe,' because I think it leads to safe, boring improv and the idea that being supportive is about being 'nice.' I also like to be more of a facilitator rather than a leader. I also recognize that feeling safe on a basic level is extremely important to learning and working with a group and encouraging the brilliance of a groups' mind.

How do you work with aggressive or egocentric improvisers without resorting to finger-waving?

Love to hear your ideas.


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Here are a few thoughts, based on my own experience in Brighton, UK:

- move the focus away from "comedy" and "getting laughs" to exercises which focus on the creation of narrative and story flow - narrative and story flow are more archetypal and are accessible to all human beings more readily than "laughs" which are (especially in workshops with comedians there) seen as more the territory of jokers, clowns, and comedians

- move into silent mask work where the "laughs" come more from simple gestures. Words can become a crutch; mask work is another great equaliser. In fact some of the managers may be more natural comedians with mask than would-be stand ups. Exercises in gestures, playing out comedy and tragi-comic scenarios - all kinds of stuff. Belina Raffy and Paul Z Jackson on AIN might have some input here.

- use exercises that rely on slower forms of improvisation. Slow-motion miming can be fun, "statues" and human tableaus can al be playful but do not use comedy wordplay as a crutch.

- use exercises that make use of props and using each other in ways that require cooperation; where the success of the exercise isn't based on one person upstaging anyone else.

best wishes

Paul Levy


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