No one wants to be called a hipster. Or rather, if you want to be called a hipster, you definitely aren’t one. But I secretly use the term “hipster” in my Internet searches a lot more than I want to admit: “hipster summer playlist,” “hipster haircut,” “hipster glasses cheap,” and “hipster restaurants in Richmond” are all in my recent Google history. As much as we all shy away from the apparent shallowness of the up-and-coming, keeping an eye on the guy with a fixed gear bike and an ironic tattoo isn’t a bad idea if you want your life to stay fresh…
So I’m excited to present some guilty pleasure improv reading for those of you in the skinny jeans set. Every month, I’ll bring six quick improv ideas that center around keeping your cool in a trend-obsessed world. They will fall under these subcategories: Play This Hipster – a character to try out based loosely on a hipster stereotype; There’s Some Truth To That – finding something valid in the often-absurd hipster mentality; Up and Coming – cool events, books, Internet phenomena, or cultural references that are excited for the modern improviser; Looking Good – photographs and properties of improvisers who dress for success; Pump Up The Jams – great new music that will impress mixtape lovers far and wide to play before or during shows; and a Wild Card. Without further ado!
1. Play This Hipster: The Bored One.
Nothing is less cool than enthusiasm. If you want to be truly hip, you have to be so disaffected that you don’t want to be anywhere or do anything or engage with anyone. Should an actually cool person have her finger on the pulse of pop culture enough to know who Justin Bieber is? No she should not. Who even isthat? She thought his name was pronounced “Justin Gerber,” as in Gerber baby food. The only words hipsters can be bothered to pronounce correctly are the names of obscure German theorists and Ingmar Bergman characters. Really, the only difference between a hipster and a misanthropic octogenarian is just a few dozen years.1
How would The Bored One interact with friends at a carnival? Or at a surprise party? What would happen if The Bored One got mugged on the streets of Manhattan? There are lots of possibilities if you’re working through the lens of a character like this. The one thing I would caution about here is that there is a possibility of getting too reference-heavy. If no one in the scene brings up Jersey Shore (and let’s be honest: if it’s a good improv scene, no one is going to bring up Jersey Shore), don’t come out of nowhere and say, “Ugh, what is that on that television in that store window? Look at all those orange girls with Italian accents. I don’t even know what that is.” Instead, filter what naturally happens in the scene through the eyes of this character. Yawn a lot. Check your watch sometimes (it’s a Casio. But you don’t even care. You just got it for cheap at a fringe thrift store). Playing The Bored One has infinite possibilities, as long as you are patient and don’t call yourself out.
2. There’s Some Truth To That: Like What You Like
Let’s say you’re going to hang out with a person who you know is cooler than you are. You are excited to hang out, because you look up to this person, but you’re nervous that this person – let’s call her Megan – is going to find out very quickly that you don’t know anything about what’s hot and what’s not. You guys get together at the independently owned corner coffee shop, and Megan starts talking about how passionate she is about camping. You hate camping (too many bugs, not enough Internet). But you want Megan to think you’re cool, so you pretend to like camping because she likes camping. Megan starts talking about her expensive REI tent and swimming around in some river, and you are disgusted, but you pretend like this is the greatest thing in the universe, and you nod vigorously, and before you know it, you have scheduled a weekend camping trip with Megan.
Here’s the big reveal: the only reason Megan is cooler than you is because you think she is, and so you’re letting her preferences influence yours. Hip people are honest about what they like; they own their taste; and they refuse to bend over backward if it doesn’t match everyone else’s.
In improv, there are a lot of avenues to pursue. There are two-person scenes, group scenes, Harolds, Armandos, monoscenes, device-heavy scenes, sketch-improv combos, big groups, tiny groups, prop comedy, short form, and on and on. If you’ve tried a monoscene and it’s not your thing, you don’t have to do it. Find the thing you love about improv and do that! There are plenty of principles and ideas people have about what makes good improv; spend some time figuring out what you love, and then love it with all your heart. If a Harold is too structured for you, don’t do Harolds! There are enough people out there doing Harolds. No one will think less of you.
3. Up And Coming:
Improv Everywhere, the New York-based group of flash mob pranksters, have had more than a few great moments in their eleven years of organized mischief (my personal favorite was when they transformed the carousel in Central Park into a full-fledged makeshift Kentucky Derby). They’ve recently developed an iPhone app (available for free through the iTunes app store) that allows users to browse past “missions” in a variety of ways; and italso brings the facilitation of upcoming events into the digital age. On the most recent version of the app, you simply push a button to indicate you’re participating in an upcoming mission, and when the time comes, your phone will play an MP3 file at exactly the right time to smooth the progress of July’s giant “MP3 Night Experiment.” Cool.
4. Looking Good:
First things first, ladies: opaque tights are never going to go out of style. They’re called tights for a reason (and that reason is that they contain the word “tight,” which is a synonym for “cool.”) Pairing black tights with a black shirt is a brilliant move, because it allows you to be matchy without being overly matchy; and Kelly softens the whole thing by throwing in some preppy (but not too preppy) khaki. No wonder she’s standing on that chair: I would want to show off that outfit too!
5. Pump Up The Jams:
Artist: The Rizzle Kicks Album: Stereo Typical Blast This At: A high-energy, fast-paced show – something with lots of games and quick edits.
It’s Hip Because: Hailing from the UK, this duo of rappers rule at playing party-heavy hip-hop, with a strong, hook-heavy pop undercurrent that keeps everything sounding fresh and danceable. They often throw trumpets and wacky percussion into the mix, which lends nicely to a fun, quirky, under-the-radar show that kicks with high energy. Try “Mama Do The Hump” and “Down With The Trumpets” to start out – power plays that will get the audience psyched for the show.
6. Wild Card:
Hot: Doing an improv show where everyone finds creative ways to edit.
Not: Doing an improv show where everyone finds creative ways to edit – and they involve slow dancing across the stage and chanting a non-sequitor 100% of the time.