Human beings learn by making associations between things (e.g. Pepsi is like Coke, except without all of the good taste*). Improv is analogous to a great many things; herein I consider one specific example – Euchre.
I was in Boise, Idaho for a wedding this past weekend, and had the opportunity to play Euchre with some old friends. For those of you who are familiar, you should message me about getting together to play sometime. But for the vast majority of you who are probably unfamiliar, Euchre is a trick-taking card game played with 4 players, 2 teams of 2, and you sit across from your partner. It is very popular in the Midwest (or with transplants who have moved away from there, or with anyone who has known anyone from the Midwest for a substantial period of time). Euchre is a great way to meet new people and, surprisingly, has a lot in common with improv.
- As with any trick game, you have to trust and support your partner. Sure, in Euchre you can choose to “go alone,” but this only works to your advantage in rare circumstances. In improv, you have to give your scene partner the opportunity to use their ideas, and trust that they will help grow the scene.
- Sometimes you have a great hand, maybe even a loner, and your partner calls trump. Sometimes you have a great idea and your partner makes an offer and your idea doesn’t fit anymore. Let it go. Having both bowers of a trump suit is awesome; having two jacks is garbage.
- Read between the lines. Table talk is prohibited, but there is a significant difference between a partner who mulls over picking up a trump and one who snatches it up the moment it’s their turn. Pay attention to body language and how things are said, and give meaning to them.
- You have to be aggressive. At the beginning of each round, you have the option to choose the trump or pass. Picking the trump is scary, because if you don’t take a majority of the tricks, you get “euchred.” But passing every round is a great way to lose very slowly. Taking risks wins hands; great scenes come from taking chances.
- Sometimes hands go awry. Sometimes you get euchred. Sometimes a scene goes bad. Best to do your best going forward, and take time to learn from your mistakes, but not while you’re still playing. Get your head back in the game.
- Pay attention. Remember what’s been played. You should always know what trump cards are outstanding. In a scene, the best endings come from something that happened in the beginning.
- Sometimes, if you are making an obscure reference, it’s best not to explain it. The audience members who don’t get it won’t care, and the ones who did will feel cheated instead of feeling in on it.
-Randall Clifton Reed, Jr.
*This views expressed regarding the taste of Pepsi products are held by Randall Reed, Jr alone**, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Automatic Improv or any other cast member.
**And anyone else who has tasted both Pepsi and Coke.