Hello, my name is Gypsy, and I'd like to ask a question.

Well, right. Everything takes work to be good at, and improv and stand up rely on different skills.

I have a question though. Why do people "not in the biz" always assume improv and standup are the same? Very often when I tell people I do improv, they respond with, "oh, so you do standup?" I've finally come to terms with people thinking that improviser equals comedian, but I still don't understand how people make this leap.


difficult but worth it
Jon and Todd -

If you have any experience sitting through copious amounts of stand up shows, you'll realize that people "jump" on stage too, saying "I'm funny...it's not that hard." Just an aside.

I have never "jumped" on a stage with the intent of just screwing around in someone else's show (which seems to be the problem you guys are having.) Maybe it's a problem in controlling your shows, as producers, and not with the performers themselves.

I am just as "dedicated" to stand up as I am to improv, when I am performing each one. I am sorry if you are inflicted with undisciplined performers.

And I find ironic that you blame standups for being Jokey McJokesters but seem to enjoy the notion of "controlled pimping" - which I abhor from all but the most skilled improvisors.

When you say someone should come into improv, Jon, "untainted with scene ideas" and then say how much you think that "controlled pimping....is a great gimmick" - I mean, what the hey? Where is your credibility? I perform stand up on average of three times a week and improv once. I leave one thing at the door when I do the other.

Either I (and numerous talented people I know) am more professional and less judgmental than you folks and your cohorts, or am deeply mediocre as both a stand up comic and improvisor.
GoldDustWoman said:
Either I (and numerous talented people I know) am more professional and less judgmental than you folks and your cohorts, or am deeply mediocre as both a stand up comic and improvisor.
Definitely not the latter. I once saw Michelle do a great set while having what later turned out to be some sort of heart problem. That is dedication.
I think you are quiet confused with my take on this subject. When commenting on stand-up's I am speaking of those who I have seen on the circuit as MC's,Feature acts, and sometimes Headliners. My "performers" are very disciplined, 8 out of the 17 members of our troupe do comedy as a full time job and are quite successful.

I was simply giving an opinion on a particular subject...which I think is what we are supposed to do on this site.

"Controlled pimping" is simply my way of trying to describe a tool. I perform stand-up routines about 2-4 times a month. So I have no problem bowing down to the knowledge of a "GOOD" stand-up. However I do Improv minimum 4 nights a week, with a group that has been together over 6 years. We pimp the hell out of each other simply to up the stakes. Improv if done correctly with a well-tuned group, should be just that. Anybody who does Improv on a regular bases (and is good at it, by this I mean getting "paid" enough to pay there bills) regardless of how they are pimped should be able to run the gamut with that idea. I have never pimped a good performer and watched them fall on there face.

I would also like to add that in no way am I trying to come across offensive! When I spoke of those I have talked backstage with I'm speaking of Feature and sometimes Headliner performers. I love stand-up and I try to absorb as much of it as possible. If you are able to separate Improv (leave it at the door) from stand-up then that's great. I along with every one in my troupe do the same when they do stand-up. When I speak of those who jump on stage, I’m talking about ones that every-one on the IRC I would imagine has seen. The performers that want complete and utter self-glorification. That will simply drop an “F” bomb when their set is failing. I would hope that none of us work with people like that! However no one who regularly performs and pays attention to the comedy scene can say they don’t see that in other performers.

So with that said one more time I would like to state that in no way am I degrading stand-up’s. I was offering my opinion on this topic, as others have!
Simple Question

At an improv intro workshop I did a few years ago I learnt this technique to help easily play characters. This technique consisted of a list of behaviours that a character would do. Also their might have been a list of acceptable responses to certain behaviours as well.

Maybe the name given was "<Playwright name> List" where the <playwright name> was some Eastern European playwright.

If this vague description rings a bell please answer!

PS Gypsy - Nice first post. I like how you phrased the post to get your point across. It was very humourous. I'll use it elsewhere if you don't mind :)


Queen of Questions

Reading the thread about things people hate made me want to ask - What is this fourth wall? And is knocking it down/breaking it down a good thing, or a bad thing?


difficult but worth it
Gypsy said:

Reading the thread about things people hate made me want to ask - What is this fourth wall? And is knocking it down/breaking it down a good thing, or a bad thing?
The 'fourth wall' I believe is what separates you from the audience - it's not a real wall, clearly, but it's the invisible barrier that makes you 'onstage' and the audience, well, the audience. If you address the audience directly, or acknowledge that they are there, interact with them, you are basically 'breaking the fourth wall.'

Actor people, is this correct? It means slightly different things, and is more or less important depending on the kind of performance, such as a regular play, improv, or stand up, I think, anyway.

Ben Perry

twirling fartknocker
Yeah, that's about it. The fourth wall is the audience's and performer's unspoken agreement that it's not a show- that this is really happening. (the other three walls are behind, to the left and to the right of the performers.)

"Breaking the fourth wall" means acknowedging, subtly or explicitly, the artificality of performance. It happens in every medium imaginable. It could be wink to the crowd, a line spoken in-character that has double meaning to the audience, all the way to completely dropping character to riff off of being on stage (or on screen, in a book, singing a song, etc)

Good/Bad? It all depends. If it's used, it's best used sparingly. Many artists do it 'cause they honestly can't maintain the reality, and decide to play it off as a joke.

Also note that some forms don't have much of a fourth wall. Game shows, Brecht, pro wrestling, Shakespeare (sometimes), stand-up, and a fair amount of improv have give-and-take with the audience built in.

El Jefe

Staff member
Right...the whole concept of the fourth wall is fairly new, because it wan't always a given that theater was supposed to be realistic. Theater's origins are in storytelling and song, both of which tend to acknowledge the audience explicitly.

The Wikipedia entry on this is pretty interesting:
wow Gypsy, nice work!! Best thread I've read yet. Not only has it reminded me of some things I have forgotten about, It's given me some inspiration to try some new stuff. You were mentioning in an earlier post that you were having trouble listening to two or more conversations at once. If that's still an issue, try the ARC. Get three or more of your friends to line up in front of you. Have one friend ask you a question and you repeat it back to them. Next have two of your friends ask you a question at the same time and repeat both of those questions back to them. Then have all three friends ask a question at the same time and see if you can repeat those questions back. Your brain will bleed but once you get good at it you may find your listening skills will improve greatly. Hope this helps!!
don't feel silly asking about the difference between short and longform...that was the first thing on my mind when i started studying this stuff. when basically the only way one can see improv short of going to a longform theatre like IO or UCB is Whose Line, that's a reasonable question. Hopefully ASSSSCAT will be on more. later
Since this is a question thread...let me ask one:

the group i'm performing with does a Harold form but instead of openings and games we've been using monologues. What does anybody think of that? Is that an ok way to go about it? It's been working well so far. Any feedback would help. Thanks


Queen of Questions
Last summer, my kids and I went on vacation with one of my best friends, D, and her family. It was a camping trip to Norfork Lake. While there, we ran out of ice, and wanted ice cream, so D and I made a trip to Walmart a few miles away.

While shopping, a man approached us. He was clearly interested in me. I attempted to deflect him, because what was the point? Even if he and I hit it off great, we were both a long way from home, and seeing each other after vacation was never going to happen. And striking up intimate relationships, even of the non-sexual kind, for a mere two days is not my cup of tea. In fact, it makes me really, really uncomfy. My friend D had other ideas. I can't remember what she said, but she was trying to cast me into a role that I didn't want to play, encouraging the guy to keep flirting. Her intention was just to have fun with the situation, and I knew that even in the moment. But I just didn't want to go there, not even for a laugh. In my head, I kept yelling at her to stop pimping me, I'm not gonna yesand this.

Someone please tell me if I labeled that correctly, because if I didn't, I still misunderstand the concepts.

I sent the man away after thanking him for the compliments. I was flattered by his interest, but no-go. He smiled and told me I couldn't blame him for trying. It ended well.

Ten minutes later, D and I were leaving after check-out. Next to the exit door was a fast-food place, we had to pass it to get out of Walmart. The smell of french fries nearly drove me mad. "Mmmnn, french fries!"
D: You can't have those, they go straight to the hips!
Me: But I want them! (as I pretend to wander in that direction)
D: (Grabbing my shirt to haul me back) Bad girl! No!
Me: But I want them, Mommy!
D: We'll eat something healthy when we get home (back to camp)
Me: (Leaning hard to the left at the waist, doing the alligator mouth/arms thing, clapping them together, as D hangs on to my shirt for dear life, preventing my escaping to the food) WANT FRENCH FRIES! WANT 'EM! PLEEEAAASE!
D: No, no no! Be good, and you can go swimming after lunch.
Me: (forgetting all about french fries) Yay! Swimming! Can I play with the goggles?

The looks on the faces of the fast food employees was absolutely hilarious. In my town of residence, I couldn't play this game in public, but 200 miles from home it was a blast. With D, it's easy to play out silliness just for fun. As we were driving away, I wondered if what we'd just done, without planning or forethought or discussion of any kind was similar to performing improv. I wanted to ask someone, but it seemed too silly to post here.

Nearly a year later, I find I still think of it, and still wonder. So, nearly a year later, I'm asking. Does my ability to play little games like that with one trusted friend mean I might be good at improv, given the chance? Or am I completely deluded in thinking that there's any similarity at all? All I know is, D and I play teeny games like that whenever we get the chance...while talking on the phone, while hanging out with our kids, in public (to varying degrees), etc. We both get what we're doing without vocalizing it, enjoy it immensely, and keep it going as long as we can. Everyone around us thinks we're completely insane or mentally retarded. Including her husband and all the kids.

If I tried to play the french fry game with another best friend, K, she'd say "Oh, you're so silly." and keep walking. She'd laugh, but she would shut the game down.

I keep thinking that these things correlate to what I've learned here. Am I wrong? Am I reaching?


Lost in the stacks.
Ryan Nemeth said:
Since this is a question thread...let me ask one:

the group i'm performing with does a Harold form but instead of openings and games we've been using monologues. What does anybody think of that? Is that an ok way to go about it? It's been working well so far. Any feedback would help. Thanks
That sounds like an Armando, a form devised by Armando Diaz one of the most respected Improv teachers, so you're in good company. As long as it's
been working well that's the important thing. My group tried opening with a monolog but it didn't work out.


Lost in the stacks.
Gypsy, I can't answer your question, and don't have the experience to evaluate your prospects even if I saw you "perform", but I do know a lot about wanting to be an Improvisor and thinking that getting involved with such a thing would be an impossible dream. I saw my first Improv show when I was 16, and was blown away. I wanted to do this. But I thought that being fairly shy, a stutterer and awkward would be too great a detriment. Sure I was capable of doing crazy stuff with friends like you described but that surely wasn't enough, was it. I had this itch for 16 years before I signed up for classes and now I can proudly say that I am a sub par Improvisor.

And by saying I'm sub par doesn't mean I'm down on myself or my abilities. I routinely do things that amuse and amaze the non-Improvisors who come into my theater, but many of the posters on this board would agree that I need a lot more practice.

How I see it, all Improv is is doing silly little games with a bunch of friends who are interested in and practice at doing these silly games. When I perform I don't think about the audience just the other six people on the stage. If you have the time and money to devote to this pursuit I'd do the following google search "gypsy's state" "improv classes" or "major city or college town near Gypsy" "Improv classes". If that doesn't turn up anything you might want to play with the search terms. I tried "improv classes" "little rock" "arkansas" because Norfork Lake is in the Little Rock area and might be near you. I didn't find anything of interest. When I tried "little Rock" "arkansas" Improv I found an local Improv troupe that may or not take students.

In general Improv classes are supportive environmernts and only friends and family of the Improvisors will be at your class show, and if you're reallynervous you don't have to invite anybody. Most of my classmates elected to not have any friends or relatives show up for their class shows.

You'll have a chance to meet interesting people and a chance to blow off steam and you'll be able to say you finally did something you've been wanting to do.


Queen of Questions
My getting near classes is nil. There's no way I can drive 3+ hours one way for classes, it just isn't an option.

I just wondered if my loosely applied words, terms and concepts to what my friend and I tend to do were completely off base, or if the similarities I think I see are, in fact, similarities. Sort of real-life examples to check my understanding of what I've been told.

I know that my friend and I joking around is far, far from the same thing ya'll do on stage*. I was just looking to put to use the ideas of things like yesand'ing, pimping, getting out of my head, using a gift, stuff like that. And wondering if the fact that when I'm with a like-minded individual I can easily play with a different identity/reality and enjoy it means that, maybe, someday, I might not be completely hopeless at improv. You know, should I ever get to move somewhere classes are an option.

*To me, being far, far from home meant that I'd likely never see these people again. It was removed from my true reality. Here in this town, I could be forgiven for acting a crazy fool like that in public on a stage, because it'd be make-believe on a stage. I don't have the option of pretending in that environment here (only at home with a friend), but I can pretend I'm pretending in that environment if I get far enough away from home.


I see long-form improv scenes as "games of cooperation," or in more familiar terms, bargaining situations.

The scene you outline fits that description very well. You have a want and you are driving for it. D bargains with you, and in the end you seem to reach agreement. For me, that's long-form improv to a T. Esp. since you seemed to be performing for the people around you.

The main difference I see between performing (long-form) improv and what you were doing is that your audience don't sound as if they were "in on it." When performing improv, the audience usually knows this, plus they assume they are watching characters rather than improvisers. Your audience it seems from what you describe thought what was going on was between you & D, not between your character & D's character. Not a big point.

Overall, to answer your question, yes, that was very similar to performing improv.

Ben :)