The Armando and its variants, UCB’s ASSCAT & TNM’s The Megaphone, employ a special component in each show other formats do not, a monologist. This is both what makes the format risky and enthralling. If you’re not familiar, the megaphone has a special guest share stories that improvisers use as inspiration for the show. The surprise element comes from the guest and their experiences which has the potential to be a harrowing experience (like those that attended the Del Close Marathons in 2011 where it was reported that the monologist retold a date rape incident as the perpetrator) but it can be, and most of the time it is, a magical experience of sharing and crafting that everyone in the room experiences together and becomes one like a gaseous breathable intoxicant. There are a few elements that are key to the latter event occurring and I happen to believe this is pretty easy to achieve.
The Monologues are Honest.
The stories, or monologues, must be truth. I could nerd out for days on why and how all comedy is rooted in truth, and will gladly do just that if approached with such a request, but will assume some of you are reading this for the subject matter it was presented to you. But all comedy is rooted in truth. Also, we are truth detectors. We are so world champion, ninja level, freaky savants, at telling when people are disingenuous that it hardly even registers as anything above a low lying feeling of “meh”. Conversely, our eyes and hearts open like our first beer when we feel and see truth. So, it’s imperative that your monologist not make up a story for the sake of comedy. It reads as disingenuous and at the very least irks the audience and at the most leaves the performers with nothing more to play with than the idea that you’re a liar.
The Monologist should not feel charged with being funny.
This is tied to the first key element, that the stories be rooted in truth, but more on the actual context of the story. If you have the incredible opportunity to have someone come to your show and share their experiences for the sake of your craft and the audience’s entertainment do everyone a solid and remind the monologist it is never to be assumed that they be entertaining in any way. Because we respond to truth in such a way (see above argument) this is an unnecessary bourdon for the monologist to carry. As an improviser in the megaphone show you should also know that you absolutely carry it. The monologist’s story about how their wood-glue dried is a totally acceptable story and anything above that is solid gold for your show.
That being said, there are elements we love and those that allow us to manipulate the story into a relatable premise. Sure, stories that contain concepts, explicit details, ideas, perspectives, philosophies, metaphors, and names all trigger flags in a megaphone players brain like the first chords of the ice cream truck but we’ve also worked diligently to make our brains work that way.
The beauty of this form is the way in which we relate to truth, interpret ideas, and most importantly the opportunity to all be in on the same joke. Much like anything else we do, complicating this with rules retracts from the experience.