Improvisation is about exploring ideas and emotions without a script. Of course, comedy comes into play, but what about the ideas? Where are we without the idea of something more? Longform improvisation, especially the Harold, is about grander themes and motifs than simple comedy. What is this Harold really about? What is it saying about the subject matter?
I’ve been watching a lot shows lately and I must admit I’m a bit disappointed in the lack of attention being paid to the suggestion. Of course, the suggestion is a starting off point- it’s an initiating spark and shouldn’t be the sole focus but it also shouldn’t be completely forgotten. Openings, when there is one, are mostly pointing at things tangentially related to something else, as opposed to an exploration of ideas and concepts. We’re going wider and further afield as opposed to deeper and more elaborate.
Recently, I saw two shows that got some pretty great suggestions.. they were both relatively obscure terms (“Dred Scott” and “the Restoration”) and the show pretty much ignored them. Now, I don’t expect people to be fully conversant in either of these items, but let’s take a moment and maybe ASK the audience member. I’d much rather take those 30 seconds to clarify and then use the suggestion fully and wisely than to jump right in and treat the suggestion as a nonsensical word. Let’s be as smart, if not smarter, than the audience.
I love the Harold and I like watching smart, fun people perform do their versions of it. Keep em different! Keep an eye on the other teams playing that night… call an audible and change up something you usually do if it’s similar to the other teams. Change what you usually do if two shows in a row are similar. Make each show unique and special in and of itself. Each performance should be the “(suggestion) Show.” It’s a new show based on the suggestion as a theme or motif.