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"Whom must I fuck or pay to get a quotation at the top of your blog post?" - Janie Junebug

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

New Experience Challenge Week 42: Improv Night

I don't even know exactly what I went to on Wednesday night. My friend Matthew - one of the first friends I made in stand-up comedy - invited me to come and do some improv comedy with him and I just said 'Yeah, sure.' I was expecting some sort of open mic-type scenario where average punters could come along in teams and give it a go. But it became clear that that wasn't the case when we were having pizza beforehand and I looked at my watch and mentioned we'd better get going. Matthew waved the suggestion away and said that's just a loose time. We'll get there when we get there.'

"There" happened to be a dingy little pub on Hindley Street that was completely empty save for one man writing on a whiteboard in the middle of the room. What few tables and chairs there were had been turned up at the edge of the room and the only place to sit was a couch that ran along the wall.

The man in the room was Josh. I think he was preparing for a show in the Adelaide Fringe, and he had a group of people who would get together every week and practice for it. Two more people turned up - a tall, muscly guy named Jack and a lanky guy with a small walrus moustache named Shane.

'Alright, let's get started,' said Josh. 'The first game is called Freeze. Jack and I will start acting out a scene, anyone can shout "freeze" whenever they want and the actors will freeze. Then they tap one of them on the shoulder and replace them, starting a completely new scene.'

It took me a little while to work up the courage to participate. I was trying to think of something fast enough to keep up with the actors, who were talking very fast. When I finally called freeze, Jack had lifted Josh onto his shoulder and Josh's feet were resting against the wall.

Shit, what am I going to do with that? I thought I may as well dive right on in, since I was already wading into the deep end. I tapped Jack on the shoulder and he transferred Josh from his broad shoulder to my tiny frame. The only thing I could think to do was to swing him around and sing the theme from The Bodyguard. not a good start. The next time I went up, Matthew was sitting on a stool, leaning at a table. So I sat down across from him and presented my arm for an arm wrestle. He grabbed it and we stared into each other's eyes.
'One...' he said.
'Two...' I said.
'Three!'
I lunged across the table and pretended to make out with him. The crowd liked it. That was better.

Two more people arrived at that point. A small-framed girl in business attire who was named Angie and a shy-looking friend named Leah that she'd brought just to come and watch. We began a game called Reasons, where we begin a scene and the reason behind the scene is revealed to the actors half-way through. For example, I was paired with Angie and told I was her boss. I'd called her into a meeting to fire her, but I wouldn't know why until they wrote the reason on the whiteboard and showed it to me. I sat down at the table and pretended to be writing some memos when Angie knocked on the door.
'Yes, hi. Please sit down.' Angie sat down opposite me. 'Now, how's your work been going?
'Yes, good thanks.'
'Really? Keeping up with it okay?'
'Yeah, absolutely.'
'Okay... How long have you been working for us now?'
'This is my third week.'
'Right. So you haven't really had a chance to settle in. That's a shame, because I don't think it's going to work out.'
'What do you mean?'
'We're going to have to let you go.'
'But, I've started here! You can't let me go!'
'I've got no choice.'

Josh came up on the stage with his whiteboard.
'Excuse me sir, here are the files you wanted.' He showed me the whiteboard. It said "Crippling fear of leaving the house". Typical over-analytical me, I didn't think it made sense. If she couldn't leave the house, why was she here? If she was here, why would I need to fire her for it?
'I have to let you go because you keep making fun of my crippling fear of leaving the house,' I said and the audience chuckled.
'What, that's ridiculous!' she said. 'I'm not making fun of you!'
'I heard you, you were making fun of me.'
'Well maybe if you weren't trying to run this business from your house, it wouldn't be so sad.'
'I like running it from my house. All my stuff is here. You guys have just made yourselves at home. You've filled my bathtub up with ice and beer, it's unacceptable.'
'Well I hope your house gets hit by an earthquake!'
'I'm going to have to ask you to leave. Open the door, run through it and shut it very quickly if you can.'
'Fine!' and she stormed off.

I was happy with that, we'd gotten some good stuff out of it. The next game we played was called Lie Detector. At any point in the scene, Josh could press a buzzer on his phone and whoever had just talked would have to pretend that the last thing they said was a lie. I was paired with Angie again. We'd made a pretty good team last time.

'Okay, here's your scenario,' said Josh. 'Angie, you like women.' Angie looked at him strangely. 'Yes, I know. You like women in this scene too. You've sent off to Japan for a mail-order bride. But what they've actually sent you is a male-order bride. Take it away.'

Angie sat at the table and stared off into the distance. I walked up behind her and in my most comically deep and blokey voice, I said
'G'day, did you order a male order bride?'
'Yeah, where is she?' replied Angie.
'She's right here!' I said, motioning to myself.
'No, that can't be right, I ordered a woman. Can you go get her for me?'
Before I could stop myself, I said 'Yeah, sure,' and walked off. I had to figure out a way of getting back on track, so when I reached the side of the stage, I jumped back onto the other side of the table and said 'Just kidding, it's still me!' That got my biggest laugh of the night. I had settled into the whole improv thing.
'No, I didn't want a male, I wanted a female!'
'Well, I'm whatcha got. We may as well make the most of it.'
'Don't you have ANY women there?'
'Nope, not one.'
BUZZ! The buzzer went off.
'Well, we do have one Japanese woman, but she mostly does our admin.'
BUZZ!
'I mean, sits around doing a lot of cocaine.' I don't know why that came out.
'Well why can't I have her?'
'She's too busy living it up on that sweet, sweet male-order money.'
'I can't do this, I've never been with a man before.'
BUZZ!
'I have been with a man before. But I didn't like it.'
BUZZ!
'I did like it... But I don't want to try it again.'
'Look, you won't regret it. I'm very good in bed.'
BUZZ!
'Okay, that's a lie. But I'm very thankful afterwards.'
'No, I can't do this. You're going to have to go home and send me my money back.'
'But I just got here!'
BUZZ!
'I've been here for a while, watching you.'
'I don't care, I don't want a male bride!'
BUZZ!
'I, uh... Really?' She said to Josh on the sidelines.
'Look,' I said. 'There's no point fighting it. This is clearly only heading in one direction. Let's head to the bathroom and make love.'
She huffed a grabbed my hand and we walked off stage together to strong applause. I was really happy with that one. The scenes were getting better and better.

Next - a game where audience members would place us into weird position and we'd have to act out our scenes without moving from those positions. I was paired with Shane, the hyperactive one of the group. All night, his brain had been darting back and forth around the place at the speed of light, drawing connections between things that were weird, but hilarious. We were told that we were long-lost brothers that were reuniting at the airport. Matthew came up to mould me into my position and Leah came up to work on Shane. Shane was slumped on the ground and leaned against the wall and I was faced in another direction with my rude finger sticking up at him.

'Fuck you man, I'm looking for my brother!' I said to the apparent homeless person in beside me.
'I've got news for ya man, I am your brother!' he said in his drunken drawl.
'Jerry? Is it really you?'
'Well it's not Alvin and the Chipmunks, is it?' he said, dropping the drawl.
'Wow, Jerry it's great to see you!' I was still turned away and sticking my rude finger up at him. 'How have you been?'
'How have I been? I'm a mess! I've had to do terrible things to stay alive. Those antelope never saw it coming,'
'Oh Jerry, I'm so sorry to hear that.'
'That's nice, can I have some money?
Stop!

The audience members came back on stage and remoulded us. Shane was stood up and I was put on my knees, facing him, with my hands clasped together.
'Please! Let me go!' I cried. 'I've given you all the money I have and I've had to beg for money from others to keep paying you!'
'Yeah yeah, back to the begging floor.'
Stop!

I was faced away from Shane in a bow (head on the floor and bum in the air), so I couldn't see what Shane looked like.
'Look mate, I don't know what you're game is, but I don't swing that way. I'm more of a lady-boy kind of guy. Which is why I'm standing like this.'
'Look, I've gotta be honest. I can't see how you're standing. I'm too busy begging to pay your support cheques.'
Stop!

I was stoop up again, facing Shane, but this time with my hands over my eyes.
'You're a disgrace!' said Shane. 'Our mother would be ashamed of you!'
'I-'
'How am I supposed to fund my singing career (laughter) if you keep standing there with your hands over your face?'
'Well, I-'
'I think I might have to fire you.'
'Look! I've already had to sell my eyes to keep up. Don't you think I've paid you back enough?'
'Pfft, no! You've got like, eight other organs left haven't you? Now get back on the operation table!'
And scene.

There would be two more scenes to act out tonight. The first one was called "Secret Word, where actors were given ridiculous words to try and weave into the conversation. Myself, Josh and Jack were a boy band, being interviewed by Matthew, the talk-show host. He was given a list of words and we were given a list of words, and whoever got through their list first would win. Josh and Jack were too fast for me on that one.They powered through the list while I sat next to them shouting "Yo, dawg!" and "Fo' sho'!" at regular intervals. They somehow knocked out the last three words (monkey, Monopoly and quest) in one go to narrowly beat Matthew. Then Angie and Leah left and the guys rounded off the night with a Mystery Job Interview.

Matthew and I were going in for a job interview conducted by Jack. We simply had to figure out what the job was during the interview.
'Hello guys, how are you?' said Jack in a slightly creepy voice.
'Good.'
'Good.'
'Now, I'll get straight to it. How much experience have you had with women?'
Matthew: 'Oh yeah, a bit...'
Me: 'Tons. Can't shake 'em off.'
Already I was thinking it was some kind of pimp job.
'Really? Okay... And what's your experience with men?'
A very INTERESTING pimp job.
Me: 'They love me.'
Matthew: 'Can't complain.'
'Interesting... How much influence would you say you have over men?'
Matthew: 'Well, I'm perfecting my mind-control device at the moment...'
'Really? I'm not sure a device like that would be useful here, but I'll make a note of it.'
'I appreciate it.'
'Now, obviously you'd be spending  lot of face-time with the clients. How are your people skills?' I thought I'd test the water here.
Me: 'Oh, fantastic. I blow people's minds.'
'...Do you?
'Yeah! I rock their world. They always come back asking for more.'
'I'm sorry... More what?'
'Um... Y-you tell me...'
'Do you actually know what the job is you're applying for?'
'Yeah absolutely! Keep going.'
'Alright then... Are you both currently in relationships?'
Okay, this must be something to do with interaction between men and women. What jobs fall into that category?
Matthew: 'No, I'm not.'
'Why's that?'
'I'm abstaining from sex for a year.'
'Interesting.' I couldn't tell if that was a good answer or a bad one. 'Well our clients may try and have sex with each other, so we need someone who's knowledgeable in that area.'
Hm... Where do men and women constantly try and have sex with each other? And why would we need to oversee that? Jack got the signal from Josh to wrap it up.
'So I'm going to cut straight to the chase. I'm still not convinced you guys know what the job is, so unless you can tell me right now, I'm going to have to ask you to leave.'
Me: 'Oh, that's unnecessary. This is clearly an interview to be... the workplace... harassment... officer?'
'Oh, good guess!' yelled Josh from the audience. 'But not quite!'
'It's a dating coach,' said Jack.
'Ah.'

Last one - I became the interviewer and Josh was the applicant. Jack picked the job title... Rhino Slapper. I liked that.
'So! I see you've got nice strong hands there. That's going to help with the job,' I said.
'Yes, I work them out daily. Pulverizing animals.'
'Oh good, so you've worked with animals in the past?'
'Yes.'
'What kinds of animals?'
'Ants.'
'Ants?'
'Yep.'
'Well, the animals you'll be working with are approximately 8 million times bigger. Will you be okay with that?'
'These were some pretty big ants.'
'Okay, well-'
'Can I ask you a quick question?'
'Yes.'
'Where are we at the moment?'
'At the circus.'
'Ah, I remember now. We're at the circus.'
'I just said-'
'Can I ask you a quick question?'
'Sure.'
'Will these animals be high maintenance? Because that may be a problem.'
'Well yeah, you may have to show them who's bos-'
'Can I ask you a quick question?'
'What?'
'Nothing. Never mind, go on.'
'Okay, so will you-'
'Can I ask you a quick question?'
'...'
'What would my hours be like?'
'Long.'
'Ah, that'll be a problem.'
'Well,-'
'Can I ask you a quick question?'
*sigh* 'Go ahead.'
'What would you like me to do with these animals?'
'Well, you-'
'...'
'You would be-'
'...Yes?'
'You would be using your h-'
'Can I ask you a quick question?

I was in a fit of giggles by this point. I tried in vain to ignore him and keep a straight face. Jack was giving me the "wind it up" signal.
'So you'll need to be able to avoid horns. Have you ever worked with horned animals?'
'Yeah, rhinos and bulls.'
'Oh really? Should have mentioned that at the start of the interview.'
'I'm weird like that.'
'So do you want the job?'
'Yeah, I'd love it. What is it?'
'Seriously?'
'Nah, I'm just pulling your groin. This job I've applied for is a... bull... pummeller?'
'Get out of my office.'

So that was it for the night. It was fun, but overall I wished I was better at bouncing off people and not just worrying about what I was going to say next. I guess I'll have to go back and practice.


37 comments:

  1. It sounds like you've got a real knack for Improv! You did great, considering it was your first time. Improv is big, big, BIG here in my city. There's been an Improv Soap Opera running here for, I kid you not, something like 20 years. It's called "Die-Nasty" and this year features nothing but Vikings. Vikings Doing Improv.

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    1. That sounds awesome! I really want to do it more often, it's fun!

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  2. I think you were most convincing as a male order bride. You ought to work on that role or maybe become one in real life. :)

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    1. I'm not starting off with a very good customer satisfaction rating...

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  3. My friends use to drag me to improv (we were only spectators), and they played the same improv games that you played. It amazes me you are on the other side of the world, yet the rules were the same.

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    1. I'm pretty sure they all copy off of Who's Line Is It Anyway?

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    2. I think so. Though I'm not sure because I never really watched that show... which may explain why I found the improv games so hard to follow sometimes. And all this time I just thought I was stupid!

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  4. If you hadn't done so amazingly well at the pole dancing, I'd say you found your niche with improv. This was hysterical, Michael. I laughed so much just reading through this, I'd have been in stitches were I in the audience. They're likely still laughing.
    My favorite line: 'Okay, that's a lie. But I'm very thankful afterwards.'
    BRAVO!

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    1. You've certainly become my favourite commenter ;)

      It looks better in writing because there's no way to include the pauses and mumbling that happened in real life :P

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  5. I'm envious of anyone who can do improv without bombing. I can write comedy, and I can perform it, but I can't come up with it on the fly like that. The Lie Detector one would especially be the most unnerving - essentially take back everything you just said and say something funnier instead! I'd say you nailed it. Well done, sir.

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    1. Thanks guys! For you guys to say I do comedy well is a big compliment!

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  6. Pole dancing, improv, what's next? I salute your courage and motivation; just reading this made me break out in a rash of chuckles!

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  7. What a fun way to keep the imagination going, that sound like it was a hilarious night of fun! I'm visiting from RawknRobyn's...she's over there telling us how funny you are, and she's right! :)

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    1. She does me too much good ;) Thanks for coming :)

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  8. Robyn sent me. So, you can blame...uh...thank her.
    Crap?
    Oh, I do crap, too.
    I think we'll get along just fine.

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    1. It sounds like it :) Can't wait to hear about your crap!

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  9. I can write and do it if I know what I'm going to say, but on the fly i may bomb, but you never know. Sounds like great fun. Robyn sent my little rhyming ass here too.

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    1. Well you'll never know if you don't try. There are a lot of things I've done this year that I didn't think I could do previously.

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  10. Robyn sent me. I'm following you now. I look forward to getting to know you.

    Love,
    Janie Junebug

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  11. I could never be so uninhibited or think so fast and give clever retorts. Nice to meet you from Robyn's blog.

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    1. This is the smoothed-down version. I did say all those things, but they weren't really that fast or succinct ;)

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  12. Meeting you from Robyn's blog. Now a follower. that's some crazy stuff. But sounds like you are doing well. My husband and I visited Australia in 2005 - loved the Aussies. Hope to come back someday. Great blokes. Cheers.
    check me out www.wordsplash-joannefaries.blogspot.com

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    1. A lot of us Aussie are good blokes. Others are racist drunks. Our average is higher than other countries I guess :P

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  13. Any friend of Robyn's has to be awesome! Nice to meet you :)

    I think the more you do it, the easier it will become. It's like any other exercise, practice makes it easier.

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    1. Completely agree. You can teach yourself to do anything if you give it enough time.

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  14. This sounds like fun! I'll have to try it some time, but I know I'd have the same problem as you. I can't help but worry and try to think ahead. Maybe practice and relaxation is key for this.

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    1. It's definitely fun, particularly when there's no paying audience to cater to.

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  15. I took some improv classes in college, but was never brave enough to perform unscripted in front of an audience. Sounds like you did a great job! Robyn sent me over, and I'm glad she did! Looking forward to reading more of your adventures, Michael!

    Julie

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    1. Well finding a little group who'll perform in front of each other might be the best way to ease yourself in.

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  16. I love it - so many of my awesome friends have joined your clan. See what you get for being a nice guy! At least it works in blogland, if not in real life. That is, nice guys and gals don't finish last in the blog world. And I know I'm nice too, but not so nice as to not say I'm nice, yet nice enough to realize that it feels good to pay-it-forward because so many blog friends (you included) have been kind to me. =)

    PS Your pole dancing prowess didn't hurt either. Smiles.

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    1. You are very very nice and I'm very much indebted to you :)

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  17. I came by from Robyn's to see what you have to offer and was not disappointed in the least. Your pole dancing piece was exceptional and this one on Improv - well I love it. This sounds like so much fun. I would love to try my hand at it sometime.

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    1. It was especially fun because I didn't have to worry about a proper audience judging me ;)

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  18. You need to combine pole dancing with improv comedy. Now that's a show.

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    1. That's a great idea! I can call it impole!

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