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101 Improv Games for Children and Adults by Bob Bedore
101 Improv Games for Children and Adults by Utah Improviser and Quick Wits owner Bob Bedore



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Bob Bedore

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Risk  
  Started at Fri Dec 29 11:07:49 2006
Okay... we've heard a bit over the past few weeks and I'd love a little discussion on the topic. Keep in mind that this isn't for attacks and all opinions are just opinions. None of us are experts.

What exactly is riskier about long form?

I personally say that all improv has risk and reward and can't really say that one from has more risk than the other.

Short Form has structure which is a good crutch (but also forces you to stay within boundries), but Long Form has "freedom" which should take away risk (but the lack of structure makes it tough).

Anyway, I'll step away for a moment to see what comes out of this.

Play nice...

 
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Jack Diamond


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Re: Risk  
  Reply #1 Posted at Fri Dec 29 13:27:37 2006
Hmm..... That's a great question, Bob. I'll take a stab.

Here's my two cents:

When you see really good longform, the overwhelming reaction is the same, "That was brilliant." Not, "That was the funniest freaking shit I've ever seen in my life."

Brilliant.

People will say it's funny and a hundred other things describing it, but what I've always been left with as the most recognizable flavor of great longform has been, "Brilliance."

The issue with longform deals with the risk/reward ratio.

I have a show tonight at the Terrace Plaza Playhouse. I'm excited and looking forward to it. But in no way do I have any butterflies, or trepidation leading up to tonight. I know I'm going to be funny and I know that funny is all that that audience expects.

If I was doing a longform tonight, I'd be shitting my pants. Not only would I not know if I was going to be funny with whatever format I was doing, I don't know if I could pull off, "Brilliance."

Longform challanges me in a way that shortform doesn't. And I've had a lot more blah longform shows than shortform. If I'm typical of an improvisor in Utah, then I would say my response is also fairly typical.

Longform is riskier for the average Utah improvisor because there's a different expectation for yourself that you may not be able to reach.

For the record, I enjoy performing shortform more than longform and enjoy watching longform over shortform.

I think it's because I'm beholden to those few that can perform really great longform.

This is just the perception from an introspective point of view. Maybe I'll post later about more quantifiable elements of performance.

-Jake


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Re: Risk  
  Reply #2 Posted at Fri Dec 29 15:06:25 2006
It's riskier here in Utah because there is less training and experience seeing good improv that is sustainable for more than ten minutes. That's just one portion of why I think it's riskier.

Here's another:

Part of a short form show that makes it easier to produce is that you can constantly hit the reset button and constantly reinvest the audience. As an audience member, I feel invested in the show when my suggestion is used or I get brought on stage to help out. It's a lot of fun.

In long form, there is more of a disassociation with the audience. True, they are there and perhaps ready to be used at any moment, but 90% of long forms I see get a suggestion from the audience and are on their own for 25-30 minutes. If they don't keep the audience's attention, there's no dipping back into the well to re-energize. You have to find other ways to keep that up and sustain.

-Jesster


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Re: Risk  
  Reply #3 Posted at Fri Dec 29 15:17:07 2006
I never thought of it that way. Long form IS kinda like going to see a play you have never heard of. It might be something you like and it might not. You have to invest yourself from the get go. With short form I might have to sit through a game I dont enjoy but I know if I tough it out, they will play hecklers and Ill pee myself.




I cut it three times and its still too short..
 
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Bob Bedore

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Re: Risk  
  Reply #4 Posted at Fri Dec 29 15:25:35 2006
Cool... good to get your feelings on the matter.

I will admit that my experience isn't big in long form. I've only done about eight in front of a crowd so that's all I have to go on. But I will say that I felt no different going into them or out of them then I do with a normal QW show.

In a way, to me a QW show is like it's own long form. That's just how I look at every show. I can't look at it one scene at a time. I'm always judging the flow of the show to see where it can be taken. My mind set is the exact same at all times.

Maybe I'm not doing it right. But I still can't think of any stage thing that would give me the fear of soiling myself (by the way, I made a note not to be too close to Jake before a Long Form). To me Improv (and the scene) is going to come to me no matter wht happens. I can't force it, I can only ride it out.

And maybe it's my view point. I have seen "brilliant" improv in short form. I've seen "brilliant" moments in Long Form... Basically I've seen them in Improv.

Aas for risk, I still don't see it as different. A few years ago QW entered a Trolley Brawl without any real thought of what we would do. We created a form (though I'm sure there is something like it in real long form) and it went very well. I talked to the actors afterwards and they all had just treated it like a "short form" game that didn't end. The next night we tried something else new (actually figuring it out mnutes before going on) and it didn't go so well.

Maybe that's the risk, but it's a risk we take in short form all the time. We started going through a list of how many games were actually created at QW shows (many that are used by other Utah troupes) and we remember the risk we took in doing them.

I'd also say that it's funny that you brought up that you worry about "being brilliant". I used to tell the QW to "be brilliant" before shows. In fact, Joel did a movie about the very thing. But in truth you should never worry about that. Improv can't be forced to be brilliant. You just have to go out there and make something out of nothing.

That's the risk. And it's one that every improvisor takes when they step on stage.

As always... just my opinion on things...

Bob

 
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Re: Risk  
  Reply #5 Posted at Fri Dec 29 17:10:45 2006
Many short form groups treat ths whole show liek an improv, calling back bits and hitting on themes. But it's that re-investment with the audience that differentiates that from a long form.

I think too many people trying out long forms forget the lessons learned from short form. Especially ENERGY. I don't want to see a pretentious piece of "art" and hear languished remarks of how the audience doesn't "get" long form. I want to see DIFFERENT ways to re-engage or re-invest the audience. Don't play at one note. Keep variety going and never let the audience rest. At the same time, don't get frantic.

It's a lot to do with jazz.

-Jesster


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Bob Bedore

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Re: Risk  
  Reply #6 Posted at Fri Dec 29 17:38:59 2006
I made a statement on a different thread where I said that I have a hard time watching a long form-only show and I have sat back since then and thought about why I said the statement. I still believe it, but why. So I thought about the long forms that I've seen and what started to get to me.

Jesse actually pointed one of them out here in this thread -- maybe not actually stating it, but making me think about it.

As an audience member I sometimes feel that I'm not really important. I (or someone else) give a suggestion and then the scene begins, but often the suggestion has nothing to do with the scene(s). The first 30 seconds might bring it out, but then it's gone. The actors come and go, often doing nice work, but I often don't see the connection.

I get the feeling that I'm seeing several short form scenes strung together and it's about what ever the actors want to discuss, not what the crowd wants to see.

Jesse brought up Jazz and it hit me. I have a friend in Denver who is one of the best musicians I've ever seen. I love to watch him perform. He also plays in one of Denver's biggest jazz groups and I've seen them do hour long "jam" sessions. Frankly I get bored with it. Occasionally I hear wonderful moments, but mostly I'm watching these great musicians fiddle around trying to find a groove. They are fine with it all, and there are those in the crowd that love it. But I'm a guy who wants to be able to hum along from time to time.

I called him and talked about Jazz and Improv (He did some Quick Wits shows years ago) and he could see the simularities. He loves being in a Jam session and even enjoys watching them (though not near as much as being in them). But he also knows that it's not for everyone. In his words there are three types of people in the crowd, "those that love it, those that are bored, and those that pretend to love it so they seem smarter".

He has seen long form and thinks it's very much like a Jazz Jam session.

And as always, I'm not anti-long form. But I think I see why it's fun for me to do, but harader to watch. It's a Jam session and I want to be a part of it (ego) and when I'm watching something I want to be able to hum along more than just watch talented people "jam" (the structure lover in me).

Just another long-winded thought...

 
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Re: Risk  
  Reply #7 Posted at Fri Dec 29 18:15:28 2006
You know I just realized what I liked so much about the long form that was done at otw on the 22nd. It was just one big long scene. No cuts. No fades, just one 20 min scene that I was able to stay tied to.

There are so many more types of long form then I will ever know about. It kinda creates a mystery around the form. Is it an armondo or a harold? Whats the dif?

That scene on the 22nd tho, even I could follow that. And I loved you guys for making me feel smart enough to follow along. I tend to get lost in the other long forms.

thats just me


I cut it three times and its still too short..
 
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Re: Risk  
  Reply #8 Posted at Sat Dec 30 00:51:09 2006
Thanks Josh!

The hardest part about the long scene (mono-scene) is how to reinvest or re-energize. If you can't see when to take a break without an artificial edit or emcee breaking it up, it drones on for one note and gets dull real fast. Being able to do that with two other guys with a ton of long form training was amazing. We played with one thing and knew without having to call it out when it was time to move on and leave that one thing for later.

But that experience doesn't come for free. It took time to get there (as in years of individual experience) and we rehearsed for two hours just to get the feel of working together before the show. We approached the show and each other with respect, and the audience rewarded us for it.

-Jesster


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Re: Risk  
  Reply #9 Posted at Sat Dec 30 04:37:09 2006
My opinion on the why Long form is riskier has to do with location and the market for long form in Utah. Its this humble improvisers opinion that there isn't a large or strong fan base for it to justify doing it. And as for trying to build a fan base for it, I don't think the general population will go for it. Short form has a better chance at retaining audience week after week, its almost like a hang out for those that don't wanna go clubbing. Long form is like supporting the arts, people will go but wearily, and not often especially if not done well. Short form for some reason lets the audience forgive and forget bad scenes more often because of interludes between scenes.

If I'm wrong about any of this, happy to argue it.


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Bob Bedore

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Re: Risk  
  Reply #10 Posted at Mon Jan 1 19:32:10 2007
I thought I'd throw out a little thing about what makes Short Form Risky... though keep in mind I happen to feel that there are risks in both.

People seem to feel that Short Form is not as risky because you can end a game that is bad and then do another game. But in reality that is where the big risk comes in.

I have had many times where a game didn't go all that well and when the next game starts up there is a risk that it won't go all that well either. You just never know what is going to take off and what is going to fizzle out, so saying that just by starting another game you're going to be all right is a little incorrect.

I love improv and love watching it. I know that I can see one bad skit and just shrug it off, but if I see two or more within a short time I quickly start enjoying things a lot less. An audience that is not as forgiving will feel this a whole lot more.

In a QW show I always have to be reading an audience to see what it is they are reacting to and sometimes change up the show to fit their needs. There is a lot of risk in that... I'm making decisions on the fly and hoping I've made the right ones. And I have to be very careful not to make too many wrong ones on a given night.

Matt mentioned the audeinces and that is the key. In Utah people are more used to seeing Short Form, but that can also make them harder to please. They are more educated to that form and many of them feel like they can step right up and do it themselves. That is another place where risk comes from.

I can't in all honesty say that one form is more riskier than the other. As an actor there are highs and lows to be gained by all forms of improv... in fact, we haven't even gotten into serious/dramatic improv -- I see a lot of risks in that form as well as a lot of safe zones.

My goal in this thread was to try and break down the feeling that you weren't taking true risks as in improvisor if you weren't doing one form over another.

To me the biggest risk comes in playing with people you're not familiar with. I don't feel risks when I'm with the other Wits. I can't speak completely for Jesse, but I don't think he's really worried when he's on stage with Joe (and visa versa). And I think it's that way for everyone when you're on stage with people you're comfortable.

Want to take risks? Step away from makes you comfortable on stage. For some of us that means playing Long Form, for others it means trying to master short form. For some it's getting on stage with a cast of people that they know nothing about, and for others it's a tank of sharks.

Risks are risks and improv is improv...

Bob

 
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Jack Diamond


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Re: Risk  
  Reply #11 Posted at Tue Jan 2 16:18:54 2007
Last Modified at Tue Jan 2 16:20:36 2007 by Jack Diamond

I just had a thought and wanted to share it.


Judging by past performance, shortform venues are more successful in Utah. Ergo, longform is riskier.

It's harder to get Utah audiences invested in a longform troupe performing just longform. No one in Utah has done it successfully. So for whatever the reasons why that is, it shows that longform is riskier.

(Riskier meaning that it's harder to put on a great show that people come back to see)

What do you guys think?

-Jake


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Re: Risk  
  Reply #12 Posted at Tue Jan 2 16:52:24 2007
I agree that short form is more in utahs sytem than long form, but Jokyr and JessTer in my book are succesful with there long form.

Long form is riskier in Utah becuase most improvisers are scared to do it because there is the major risk of faliure. These are my two cents if they are even worth that.

Calvin


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Josh Nufrio


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Re: Risk  
  Reply #13 Posted at Tue Jan 2 17:40:35 2007
Honestly... Getting on stage without ant pre-written lines is risky. It doesnt matter if you plan to be there for two minutes or twenty. What we do is risky. I dont know that either form carries more risk. I think, because of my skill level and experience, that it would be riskier for me to be in a long form. The risk,my friends, is on the performer not the art form.




I cut it three times and its still too short..
 
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Bob Bedore

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Re: Risk  
  Reply #14 Posted at Tue Jan 2 18:19:14 2007
So when you do a long form in front of a "long form" crowd is there no risk in doing it? Or if Quick Wits were to do a show in front of a long form loving crowd does that mean that we would be taking a big risk?

To me "risk" is one of two things. It can be a bit of fear, which is understandable because you're going out there naked (figuratively speaking). Or it's a convienent excuse to explain why it didn't go over well.

The audience just wants to see a great show, regardless of what form it is. The QW crowd just wants to see some fun comedy. If we did one twenty min. scene that had them laughing they wouldn't care what we called it. Just like I know that JoKyR and Jesster can come in to any short form show and drop in their bit and people would love it.

So in the spirit of expirimentation we will give this theory a test. I'll get a couple of the guys to practice up a long form and we'll do it to see what the crowd thinks.

We'll practice the form a bit because I think that Jesse hit it right on the head that you have to know what you're doing and feel confident about it. I'll let you know when we're going to try it

If it works (like I think it will) it will show that an audience will except long form -- as long as it's done in the style they want to see, which in our case would be comedy. There will be no mousetraps or buckets of water, just good old acting from the hip.

In all honesty I don't see much risk because I know the actors really well and we work off each other very well. I also know what our audience wants to see and know that we can give them that.

We'll see what happens...

Bob



 
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Bob Bedore

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Re: Risk  
  Reply #15 Posted at Tue Jan 2 18:31:38 2007
Oh... and I want to be clear that I'm not doing this to slight those who have put a lot of work into Long Form. I have all the respect in the world for all the people who have put a lot of study into this. (I don't want to name them because I'll leave someone out).

I have just gotten very curious about ways to "re-energize" improv in Utah. I really wanted (and still do) to put together the competitive thing but I just don't know if I felt the same excitement from more than a small handful of people. Then I started paying attention to all this talk about risk.

My first thought was -- maybe I should be doing something riskier. After all, I've been at this for a long time and I've pretty much done the games about every way I can, and even with the new games that we develop they still run their course.

Now I want to see if my audience will notice if what we do is Long Form or not. We've done long form, but it was always in front of a crowd that came to see long form, so I want to see if it's different in front of our usual crowd.

I'm sure that what we do won't be a perfect example of Long Form for the purists, but we'll do what we can and rely on our overall improv experience.

Anyway, I just wanted to make sure that I didn't come off as slighting anyone. I really think that this could be a positive thing for everyone. If we can get people watching some LF mixed in with our usual show maybe we can help change some people's minds. I think that might be the easiest way to make it happen.

Bob

 
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Josh Nufrio


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Re: Risk  
  Reply #16 Posted at Tue Jan 2 18:46:15 2007
It worked at Off the Wall a couple of weeks ago. They came for short form and stayed for long form. It was a great show and the long form was well recieved. The trick is to get them to come back when you bill it as a long form only show. I think both forms have merrit and I dont believe one is any better then the other. I would love to see more long form at OTW. I would love to have a long form show to see, on a reg basis, that I dont have to drive into salt lake for. Im going with "Improv is Improv". Its my new mantra. Good luck to all improv players be ye short or long!!


I cut it three times and its still too short..
 
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Re: Re: Risk  
  Reply #17 Posted at Tue Jan 2 19:15:05 2007
Long Form Show, Short Form Show, how ever you label it most people dont know what improv is.

Josh your new mantra is awesome. I agree with you fully.

Calvin


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Josh Nufrio


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Re: Risk  
  Reply #18 Posted at Tue Jan 2 19:16:11 2007
Last Modified at Tue Jan 2 19:17:10 2007 by Josh Nufrio

its bobs line I have just decided to scream it from the roof tops!!



Improv is improv so why should it be, you and get along so awfully....


I cut it three times and its still too short..
 
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Bob Bedore

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Re: Risk  
  Reply #19 Posted at Tue Jan 2 19:18:27 2007
And there in lies the point... why bill it anything but Improv?

I've never billed Quick Wits as "Short Form". I've always billed the show as "comedy improv".

If you plan on doing your improv in a comedic form you can do that just as easy in long or short. Don't come out on the stage and say... we're going to do something very different now and I hope you like it. Just go out there and make them laugh, or be entertained, or whatever your goal is with the scene.

The audience will decide if they are satisfied, but if you set them up by saying... this isn't what you're used to... they will automatically give it two strikes. Just go out there with energy and show them that you're confident in what you're doing and they will be much more receptive to it.

I've gone completely 180 degrees on this. I didn't think that a "long form" only thing would work, but now I do. As long as it is billed as an improv place and the actors put on good shows. But if the people running it want to set it up like they're doing an "art gallary" version of improv and if you don't like it than they must not be educated enough to get it... it won't work. At least not in the way that some other troupes have seen success.

Just do good improv and sell it on stage like this is the best thing going and you'll find your fan base.

OTW proved that an audience will enjoy it if you have some of the best LF improvisors inthe state. I think the same thing can be done with people less knowledgable about the form, but who know their audience and each other well enough to take their passion of performing into a different type of "game".

I see LF as nothing more than a different type of improv game. Or scene, or whatever you want to call what goes one between the start and completion of a scene. I think the audience will see no difference either if all they're told is that they're going to see some great improv.

Bob

 
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Josh Nufrio


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Re: Risk  
  Reply #20 Posted at Tue Jan 2 19:26:32 2007
Aww we all agree....Lets hug. We have something here that we need to take advantage of. We have a brilliant group of performers who love to entertain. Bob is right... Why bill it one form or the other? Lets just call it all IMPROV and give the best shows we can. From now on to me a long form is just improv. Short form is just Improv. I would love to do a 20 min scene of any kind. I stand by what I said. The risk is in the performer not the form.

Improv is Improv.......


I cut it three times and its still too short..
 
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Jack Diamond


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Re: Risk  
  Reply #21 Posted at Tue Jan 2 19:28:44 2007
Too much to respond to. So I'll just say that the things you folks are talking about excite me. I want to be involved.

-Jake


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Re: Risk  
  Reply #22 Posted at Tue Jan 2 19:44:09 2007
I believe the way that OTW and OBT have gone about introducing long-form would be perfect. With show ending long-form pieces or like IMPROV THE MUSICAL. They begin with the recognizable short form games and throw in a splash of something different at the end or even at the beginning.

I know Calvin and I are always open to that idea. Anyone wanting to add some different improv to their set just let us know.

Yay!!!!

Kaytlin


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Re: Re: Risk  
  Reply #23 Posted at Wed Jan 3 11:01:53 2007

On Tue Jan 2 19:18:27 2007, Bob Bedore wrote: (read quoted post)
I've gone completely 180 degrees on this. I didn't think that a "long form" only thing would work, but now I do. As long as it is billed as an improv place and the actors put on good shows. But if the people running it want to set it up like they're doing an "art gallary" version of improv and if you don't like it than they must not be educated enough to get it... it won't work. At least not in the way that some other troupes have seen success.

EXACTLY!

That's why Joe and I have a lot of fun. We keep short form energy in a long form show. We always get compliments and comments about how much energy we have on stage. That's the lesson short form teaches. Long form teaches how to sustain a scene.

I just got my chocolate in my peanut butter.

Doing something because you are trying to do something right/artistic is boring. Doing something artsy for fun is awesome!

Risk = Get outside your comfort zone

-Jesster



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Re: Risk  
  Reply #24 Posted at Wed Jan 3 13:52:18 2007
Last Modified at Wed Jan 3 13:52:38 2007 by Austin Nava

I think it's safe to say that using a script requires absolutely no risk.



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