My improv homework schedule
To truly blossom into an improviser, one has to hone their craft. I talk a lot about how to do that in videos, other blogs, interviews, etc. Just like anything else in life, it takes hours and hours of repetition and exposure. It's an ongoing process. It requires attention.
People do improv for all kinds of reasons, my goal in improv is to make others laugh. I enjoy the art of comedic improv. Most every kind of improv format is going to get some sort of laugh. It's the nature of the art form, however, there are those of us who love the comedic element. What that means is that I not only need to hone the craft of improv, I need to be a student of comedy.
Some people see the world differently or have a natural inclination toward the funny, however, it still needs to be shaped, honed, studied, and practiced. There are real tangible things you can do to understand comedy and thus become a stronger improviser.
Here is my personal improv homework schedule
Watch between one to three episodes of a sitcom or comedic TV show per week. Classic, new, something I've seen before, doesn't matter just watch the episodes. Recognize when I laugh and tact why it made me laugh. Pay attention to the structure and format of the show. Look for any comedic devices or elements being used to illicit laughter.
Watch one to two comedic improv shows per week. Many times this is via YouTube. I also reach out to friends and see if they have any of their performances recorded that I could watch. I shows every week in my own theater and try to get out to other theaters as much as my schedule allows. When I watch, I pay attention to what the performers are doing. Are they saying yes? Are they using patterns? Is there a structure underneath? If I did or did not enjoy the show, why?
Write one satirical piece a week. While I'm not publishing nearly as much as I did last year (which is purposeful) I still write rough drafts. It's important to keep the muscle of satire strong. Writing comedy helps a comedic improviser in so many ways including recognition of patterns, exaggeration, and seeing topics from a different point of view. Even if you have no intention of ever being published or credited as a writer, it's still a good assignment for your homework.
Watch one stand-up special every two weeks. Stand-up comedy is a completely different beast than improv and there are many differences, however, it's comedy and it's important to understand this comedic art.
Read at least three satirical articles per week. There are several satirical outlets on the Internet and most pieces take under five minutes to read. Several things happen when you read satire. You learn how to exaggerate and heighten out of reality, stay on top of trends and current events, and find more about your own lens on the world. A few outlets you can check out are Belladonna, Weekly Humorist, and of course McSweeney's.
So there you have it. My improv homework schedule! Learning never ends and it can only help us become stronger performers, teachers, coaches, and humans.