JENGA! JENGA! JENGA!
Improv and sketch shows are like the block-stacking, stack-crashing game of JENGA. See how high you can build it.
The audience sits, excited to see a great, professional show. They are expecting to see something wonderful and need to be taken care of. As the ensemble, we owe it to them.
But every little misstep, another block is taken from the stack.
Show starts late. We’ve already lied to the audience.
The first block is removed.
The cast enters and their first impression is completely unprofessional and out of control: maniacal energy, jumping around, laughing at each other, clapping at the audience. Or, they come out with a negative energy, looking like they don’t even care about the show.
In other words, desperation.
The second block is removed. But the stack still stands.
The cast is dressed worse than the audience. They don't know how to walk on a stage like a trained professional.
The third block is removed.
The cast is uninspired by the suggestion. Worse, they seem to hate it. Even worse, they chastise the audience for the suggestion and ask for new ones. They are literally saying to the audience that they don’t have their back. They didn’t like, and refused to be inspired by, the gift of the suggestion they gave you.
The fourth block is removed. The stack starts to sway. And we haven’t even started the piece.
The first scene start with negativity, with a bothered sigh. The scenes are not played to the height of their intelligence. Instead, stereotypes and caricatures. Hating each other, the scene they're in, the location they're at. Bullying the nerds, the weirdos, instead of protecting them. Mugging to the audience, laughing at how clever they are onstage. Not supporting or justifying; instead, calling things out in order to be “right” rather than playing in that world. Denying. It's obvious they don't have each other’s backs.
Ignoring the one simple rule that we promised we’d abide by: yes, and.
The fifth, sixth, seventh blocks are removed. The stack starts to topple over.
The show is over.
There is no thanking the audience.
The bow is poorly executed or non-existent.
Appears they hated their own show and can’t wait to get off stage.
Bye bye stack
We’ve spent the whole show lying to the audience. Ripping apart our beautiful Jenga stack.
This also applies to sketch comedy.
Show starts late.
The first block is removed.
They walk on stage unprofessionally.
Second block is removed.
Lines that the writers spent time on, writing and rewriting, are paraphrased. Individuals get laughs at the expense of the show
Third block is removed.
Poor transitions done slowly. Timing is already off. Pacing too.
Bye bye fourth block. Stack is teetering.
Simple stage directions that you learn in your first acting class: Volume, blocking, not upstaging, walking with purpose, posture, keeping your face out the audience.
You have to know how to move on stage in order to command the stage.
The timing is all over the map.
Fifth and sixth blocks are removed. Stack is still together.
There is no acting or emotions. Every scene seems the same—clever word play.
Seventh block, gone.
Unprofessional bows. It's obvious the cast has not prepared enough. We’ve spent the whole show lying to the audience.
Bye bye stack.
We didn't have each other's back.
More importantly, we didn't have the audience's back.
*The audience is the most important part of your show. *
Treat them with respect and love.
Do you have their back?
Live - Laugh - Love.
As Martin deMaat said, “You are pure potential.”
Thank you for reading.
Please help by sharing this blog post on social media. Every bit helps.
If you’re feeling particularly brave, share your experiences in the comments section below.
You will find hints and suggestions to improve your performance as a troupe or an improvisor. We also cover stories from the field of performing on the stage as well as teaching improv. Sometimes we include case studies of our corporate work to show how improv can boost office productivity and morale.
Should you have any questions about our classes, our work, or our essays, feel free to contact us and start a conversation.