Wednesday, August 1, 2007



As hubristic as this may sound, I'm starting to "get" Harold. I'm getting a sense of what I want to see in the third beat, I am figuring out what choices make for interesting scenes, and I can see the seductiveness of the form: how it builds itself, how it encourages reincorporation, how you can say something important by bringing evil character X into family scene Y and how that can be very beautiful.

Last night, I thought I had an experience with "Harold", the dude, the one who supposedly tells us what to do on stage. I made a move that went something like this:

1. In the first beat, there was a naked clown. This was very clearly defined. Naked. Clown.
2. Some other members of my ensemble initiated with: "Man, this nude beach is awesome!"
3. I walk on and say "Hey, guys, your elephant is shitting everywhere, you should do something about it."
4. My scene partners try to yes/and. I follow up with a detail about Ringling Bros. or something.

Okay, so I can see why that wouldn't pop like I expected. By the time I was saying "Circus," I was trying to help out my scene partners so they could button and we could get out of there. Still, I felt pretty good about it, in that it required no thought or work to come to it, and it was using the already-established reality of the piece. It was one of the only times that I've really, really reincorporated something in my short improv career. And I did a few other okay callbacks in the third beat, which pleased me. It wasn't so much that we had done a great Harold, it was that we had done one, and that the above move especially had made perfect sense in context of the piece we were doing (to me). My synapses fired and I could think of nothing else but that clown = naked.

Maybe my thinking was flawed, because I came off the stage feeling pretty good about what I had done, far better than I have felt about any other intersection I've had with Harold. And then we got notes.

I learned that all of the moves I made in the third beat were wrong. I'll readily admit that all of them could have been better. I initiated a boring scene, I was in a scene that took too long to get to the button, etc. But I was really demoralized that my elephant walk-on seemed so stupid to everyone. Nobody got it. The people in my class are smart, funny people and for some reason, they didn't understand that the naked people on the beach were clowns. It wasn't that the people couldn't be clowns, it's that no one understood that elephants are somehow associated with clowns. I can think of a few ways I could have done it better:

1. Hey Bozo, Chuckles, your elephant is shitting everywhere!
2. Sir, this is a proper nude beach, please take the red nose off of the head of your penis.

Okay, that's stupid. The first two would have made more sense. Hell, I could even leave out the elephant shit. It's just that, for me, the elephant connection made perfect sense.

Does this mean that I'm unfunny? If I make the easiest move I can make and nobody cares, why should I bother with it? I mean, I asked around, and got responses like this:

Me: If I say that someone owns an elephant, what do you think they do for a living? What kind of person are they?
Response: Zoologist.
Response: Elephant Trainer


Goddamit. I'm just disappointed by that and can't get it out of my head. So here I am, writing badly about improv that I do badly.


the dynamo said...

#2 would have been the appropriate response. It's about the naked clowns and what else they do, not about their elephant. Wait until we start playing together. I get every move, ever.

Julie Stanton said...

They should have picked up on the circus thing. I would have said "Sorry, but since this is a nude beach, I had to leave his Pull-ups in the trunk...." Funny on several different levels, yes? I really have to go next time. No yes/and's allowed!