Describing Your Improv Troupe

(Editors note: Improviser X is an unedited column written by an undercover improviser that covers whatever the mystery man/woman chooses. Maybe not always nice, but always real. Enjoy!)

You’ve been booked at an improv festival and you have to come up with a description of your improv troupe. What do you do? You do comedy on stage so do you have to be funny all the time? You’re really proud of your incredibly unique format so do you have to explain it? You’re married to your troupe mate or you’re all the same sex or you all like the same TV show, do you have to say those those things in your bio? Let’s learn from some weird examples that we found on the internets.

“This husband and wife duo are just as funny on stage as they are at home”
We’ve never been in your home so I guess we’ll just believe you? Wait, nevermind, we don’t believe you.

“They create characters and allow them to grow into a story1
Hmmm. Some people spend too much time on their show description and others just do this.

“A series of improvised scenes based after a disaster suggested by the audience. Watch the players improvise their way through a chaotic scenario…will the characters stick together or fall apart? Will this world live or die? Will you laugh or will you cry?”
Will you ever improvise or will you rehash the same stuff you do every time?2

“Our shows are completely made up on the spot. Nothing is prepared beforehand.”
Now there’s an idea. Here’s another: when applying to festivals, re-write your show description. Because the one you use for the theater that books scripted shows, burlesque, karate competitions and improv shows doesn’t apply to the one where quite literally EVERYONE knows you are doing an improv show.

“We take a suggestion from the audience and our comedy scientists put it through a series of tests and out of the other end comes a completely improvised show that will cause you to laugh your labcoat off.”
I can’t decide if this troupe performing in actual lab coats would make them even worse or completely redeem them.

“We believe in awkwardly presenting our love of obscure pop culture references and tendency towards dark humor to a captive audience.”
This is like the time that magician explained to us how the audience volunteer is so flexible that she’s going to be able to squeeze herself into a tight ball in the first compartment of this wood box so don’t freak out as he’s sawing through the middle because she’s actually cooped up in the first compartment. Then we watch him do it and we aren’t as impressed. BECAUSE HE TOLD US EVERYTHING ALREADY.

“A cross between Seinfield, Curb Your Enthusiasm and Shakespeare.”
I couldn’t help myself. I made this one up.

“We begin with a group scene that quickly becomes a series of two person scenes through rapid fire edits. As the show moves forward we call characters and situations back as the audience loses their mind with laughter.”
I’m printing this out and taking it with me and if you don’t do exactly what this says then I demand a refund.

“…loud, full of energy, and will make you laugh so hard you’ll squirt milk. Don’t drink milk? Doesn’t matter.”
This one is actually pretty decent. It kinda describes the show, doesn’t give much away and contains one joke that isn’t so jokey it’s annoying. Well done.

Show 2 footnotes

  1. What happens if they don’t “allow” them? One day I hope the characters just take over the show and do whatever they want. That would be cool.
  2. Can we get a suggestion of a disaster? “Tornado.” Can we get another one, we got Tornado last month. “Hurricane.” Oh, we get that one all the time. Anyone else? “Earthquake.” Can we get a suggestion please?

Photo Essay: FunFunFun Fest 2011

All three New Movement cities came together to perform at FunFunFun Fest in November 2011. This is photographic proof! All images by Henry Linser.

There once was a festival that was known for the great performances that happened there.

This is the story of how the west was Fun Fun Fun.

We scolded.

And snickered.

And spoke Spanish

to celebrate the roasting of Butch Cassidy!!

We squawked.

And swayed.

Townspeople from all walks of life came together and danced.

We reminisced about the good times and the bad.

We laid the past to rest.

We rejoiced in our future!

We came from the Old West and stood for solidarity and UBH.

To the fun fun fun times ahead!!

Take Your Show On the Road: Preparing for Festivals

If you’re thinking ahead, or just barely ahead, to applying to improv festivals this year here is a break down of the most relevant info for festival virgins & the festival semi-inexperienced.

So, your troupe has gotten some great shows under its belt and you’re thinking “even with all the opportunities within my community, we want to branch out and see the improv world and the mysteries of its festivals!” Here is a short list of what you have to have in your satchel to make that happen:

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  • 1)    A great video of a full show, unedited, with adequate light and sound. A “best of reel” won’t usually cut it. You want the show to be funny but the video quality is going to count for something too. Ideally, this is not the one show you taped, but the best of several filmed shows you have in a bank

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  • 2)      A purdy photo of your group & a description of the kind show of you perform.

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  • 3)      Some cash. Almost all improv festivals require troupes to lay down around $30 for a shot at performing in them. 1

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  • 4)      A web presence. It is standard for festivals to expect you to have either a website or at least a facebook page with a significant number of “likes.”

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The good news is that numbers 1, 2, & 4 are great things for your troupe to have to be a “real” group, even aside from traveling, so if applying to festivals helps you get these things together that is another advantage to embarking on the process.

If you want to apply to some improv festivals before the year is out, here are a couple whose deadlines are just about up (for those of us who work best impulsively).

 Before January 15th

NYC ImprovFest     Host: People’s Improv Theater

ChicagoImprov Festival    Festival takes place at several theaters aroundChicago

 Before January 20th

DallasComedy Festival     Host: DallasComedy House

Show 1 footnote

  1. The Megaphone Marathons & Hell Yes Fest are exceptions to this rule, since for the first there’s no cost for submissions and the second is a “invite only” festival, financed by sponsors and show sales (not submission fees), similar to the way that music festivals are run.

Fun Fun Fun Fest 2011

 

Last weekend The New Movement participated in Fun Fun Fun Fest, and it was all the things that we are.
There was the admirable amount of hustle: we were represented in 6 different shows on the comedy stage! The winsomeness, rawness, courage: this could be illustrated by innumerable images of our infinitely silly old-timey western costumes, Mikey DoDo slathered in whip cream and making sweet love to the air, or Christrew.biz pacing the Anarchy wrestling ring. The simple revelry and coolness: I will not lie to you, I love that we get to walk around with an “artist” wristband that, however superficially, affirms my suspicion that we’re all in the exact same genus as Slayer.

However, beyond all this, is what we most are, in the core of our being.

Something that is, to me, nearly ineffable and unmistakably divine.

If I try to express this moment, this quality of our community I fall short of words. Love. That is the only one I really have for it.
You see, when we gather there is a freeing of energy like a force of nature. We are so intent on joy, so passionate about each other, so willing to envelop the moment and risk our full selves in the support and celebration of each other.
It just gushes out and there are moments of playfulness that define the word itself.
In the fields of auditorium shores we exploded in dances, games, acrobatics, purelove.

[testimonial name=”Cris Skelton ” ” last_box=”no”]

In short, The New Movement is one of the best things that’s ever happened on this Earth. I’m ecstatic and humbled to be a part of it. Thanks for this weekend, guys. I will remember it forever.

[/testimonial]

[testimonial name=”Rob Gagnon”  last_box=”no”]

The people involved in The New Movement have changed my life, I’m happier, I’m more consistently funny in ways that make me proud, I’m performing more and more on bigger stages, depression stays out of the way more often, I don’t worry about being cool, I enjoy spending time with people as much as I enjoy spending time alone… so much of my pride and accomplishments stem from this group of people.

[/testimonial]

[testimonial name=”Lisa Friedrich” last_box=”no”]

This weekend served as a reminder of all things accomplished by truth, beauty, freedom and love. the support and love i’ve seen first to ninth hand is incredible.

[/testimonial]

[testimonial name=”Chadwick Smith”  last_box=”yes”]

Maybe even the best weekend ever. But those moments during the M83 show with The New Movement just doing our thing and getting everyone invovled was pure magic and love. UBH all around.

[/testimonial]