Monday night, Automatic Improv was invited to perform in Catch 23 at The Earl– It’s Atlanta’s Friendliest Comedy Deathmatch!
If you’re not familiar with the Catch 23 format, here’s a tutorial:
Each team has 23 minutes to complete 4 rounds of play. After each team’s scene, the audience judges it on a scale of 1 to 5, then a judge….well… judges. Man, that judge is an asshole. The teams are told their remaining time at the beginning of their last scene. Their last round has to run until their 23 minutes are up. If their previous scenes were short, they may have 7, 10, even 15 minutes left. Once their time is up, the lights go out, and they are DONE. Finished. Fin.
The highlight of the show, for me, was a team based out of Dad’s Garage, called The Men’s Section.
I know, I know, this is Automatic Improv’s blog. Let me tell you something, missy: the improv community is just that- a community. You’re going to listen to this story about another troupe, and you’re going to like it.
The Men’s Section did a very simple scene about neighbors enjoying the sunshine, until a third Canadian neighbor confides that he has a deadly, incurable illness. The scene ends with the three players making a human tower and sending the sick guy into the sun. The most logical conclusion, obviously. It was pure delight. Those were real tears streaming down my face.
Let’s take a minute to discuss why this scene was so successful (“Successful” is improvisor-speak for “I laughed my goddamned ass off.”) In addition to the great story arc, the thing that defined this scene was the positively positive positivity, and the clear agreement at the top of the scene. They had an established relationship, a past, and are currently friends with lots in common- the love of a beautiful sunny day, for one. The introduction of a third neighbor starts with the same energy, but then- UH OH!- he throws a wrench in the works- awful incurable terrible disease!
Something that we concentrate on in workshop is starting scenes healthy & happy. The funniest things often come from a place of happiness & positivity. I’ve said positivity about 4 times in this blog. Do you get it yet? Good improv doesn’t have to be about crazy fighting. It just has to end with a human tower to launch your neighbor into the sun.
Very simple principles, yet so hard to put into practice. If you want to learn more about making great scenes, Automatic is starting up Level 1 improv classes next week. You’ll be taught by HUGE improv nerds, Andy Cohen & Ian Covell. They rock. And they’re not really huge. Their improv boners are pretty impressive, though.