This blog is the journey of Lorenc Consulting and Entertainment as we continue to encourage creativity and innovation by using the concepts of improv comedy in everyday life. Any kind of group or organization can benefit from our improv-based corporate training, focusing on team-building, hyper listening and communication skills, and thinking on your feet.

Improv Comedy versus Stand Up Comedy: Different Worlds of Funny

by Toby Lorenc

I can't tell you how many times I've told someone that I do improv comedy and their mind immediately snaps to images and assumptions of stand up comedy. The first response is amazement because very few people want to get up on a stage and have the pressure of entertaining an audience. But as we talk about it more, they make statements like:

"Maybe you can do your routine for us later"

"You should use that in your material"

"Tell us some of your jokes"

(HINT: All these statements would be more adequately directed at a stand up comic).

At first it annoyed me a bit that very few people knew about this art of improv comedy. But the more I've shared it with people over the 10+ years I've been doing it, the more satisfaction there is an educating an audience ready for entertainment of the world of improvisational comedy. So, here's a basic break down of the differences.

STAND UP COMEDY:

There's often a friendly banter between stand up comics and improv comics, often the comics arguing that the OTHERS art is harder to perform. For instance, I have never done stand up comedy and I can't imagine I would be that great at it. Although I can write, writing a humorous dialog that I later have to recite is not my idea of fun. I have decent timing (something that is crucial for a stand up comic), but mine tends to come naturally and practicing to place it in the right spot wouldn't be my forte. A stand up comics jokes, tone, character and even staging can often be an exact and careful process which requires hours of brainstorming, writing rehearsing, re-writing, performing, some victories and some failures on stage, which lead to starting the cycle over again. Stand up comedy is basically a small play they have written and performed - a one man show.

This also means that if you are in the regular comic track of your city, following the comedians from venue to venue as they perform, you're going to hear a lot of the same material and see a lot of the same comics. It's part of the process - they have to try new jokes, practice their current ones, and wrap it into a neat and fluid set. Certainly, some stand up comics will mix in some improv as well, heckling the audience, making up a song, or ranting on some bit the audience seems to enjoy but for the most part it's a brilliantly scripted play.

IMPROV COMEDY:

Some joke (myself included) that improv actors are the lazy ones - we didn't write anything, barely prepared anything, don't have to memorize anything, and if something goes wrong we don't have to do anything about it. It's true, and it's part of the reason improv found a place in my heart quickly. I had done theater in high school and college and it wore me out memorizing lines, repetitive rehearsals, and the same show every night. The first time I did improv, I knew I had found my niche in acting.

Improvisational comedy at its finest is taking a suggestion from the audience and then a team working together to create an amazing story, dealing with the unexpected and justifying their decisions. There are many variations and tweaks that change how this looks for instance one-man improv, long form (extended scenes) versus short form (typically more gimmicky games), but the roots are making it all up on the spot. If you're not sure what to do next, the audience is typically very forgiving (much more than if you're alone on the stage as a stand up comic), plus you have a team of people who can incorporate their ideas. 

Off stage, typically the only preparation is learning the structure of the various games and planning a basic schedule of which games will be played for a show. Personally, I think one of the most important ways an improv actor can prepare is spend time off stage with his other actors. Getting to know each other, how they'll react, what they'll provide, and how that blends with you is a crucial skill in an improv team. Improv can be a very personal view into the actors life and psyche, because we're taught there's truth in comedy. That means, the more real and the more experiences we can incorporate into a scene, the more potential enjoyment and connection there is with the audience.


Although some improv actors are also stand up comics, I would say there's a small percentage that do both and especially who do both well. The skill set is very different, although either can be taught and learned. We're all comedians, actors, performers, and entertainers. Most of us picked our craft for a reason and now you'll be able to distinguish which type of comedian you're talking to.



SWOT some sense into it

by Toby Lorenc

Ever feel confused where to go next with potential opportunities?  Try the SWOT analysis: a quick and easy way to evaluate new programs, ideas, and strategies.


During a strategic meeting today, the leadership team was dropping the phrase, "We should do a SWOT on that" and our admin assistant finally asked me what the hell they were talking about. I'm glad she asked the question - and it made me realize there are some incredibly effective techniques for dealing with new opportunities that many people are not familiar with.


Do you know what SWOT stands for?  It's okay if you don't - you're here to learn.  SWOT is an acronym (that's a word where each letter represents a word - wow, you're learning all kinds of stuff today! including some terrible grammar and punctuation from this blog post!). Anyway, it stands for STRENGTHS, WEAKNESSES, OPPORTUNITIES, and THREATS (S.W.O.T.).  As you work with it, keep in mind that typically the 1st two (strengths and weaknesses) are typically internal to the team or organization, the 2nd two are usually external (outside of the company, team or organization).


Here's an example, which hits close to home and is totally transparent:


  • Lorenc Consulting and Entertainment wants to launch corporate training to companies worldwide, using the concepts of improv comedy:
  • (S) STRENGTHS:
  • * We've been doing it for 8 years
  • * Whenever we do it, we get rave reviews
  • * We can customize the training for groups and companies
  • * Our trainers are very knowledgeable on improv
  • * We have worked with large, worldwide clients already
  • * We have a niche market for team building using improv comedy
  • (W) WEAKNESSES:
  • * Schedules of trainers make it tough to schedule
  • * We don't currently have a worldwide reach other than previous clients
  • * Our costs are prohibitive for smaller companies or organizations
  • * Communicating the importance of our message
  • * Creating a sales pitch that encompasses what we do 
  • * Helping organization and teams find value before they see the results of the training
  • (O) OPPORTUNITIES: 
    • Using our connections through Center for Creative Leadership and other worldwide organizations to promote our training
    • * Finding non-profits to "donate" our training hours with hope of word-of-mouth advertising
  • * Making more connections to Organizational Development (OD) professionals
  • * Networking with individuals with whom we've done Confidence Coaching
  • (T) THREATS:
  • * Larger improv groups and training companies taking development money 
  • * Online training and low-cost solutions

Make use of this valuable analysis in your groups, teams and organizations to develop strategies and best use of resources. 

Don't let your confusion stall you from making important decisions. Now that you have this information, you are "in the know" and as GI Joe reminds us, "Knowing is half the battle" - you're welcome for that 80's flashback :)



Trading services and products can be a creative way to run your business

by Toby Lorenc
Colorado Springs, CO
For months, I looked all around Colorado Springs to find a venue where I could teach comedy improv classes.  I met some incredible people and venue owners who were truly passionate about promoting the arts in the city of Colorado Springs. However, we all have businesses to run and bills to pay which meant that I was either going to pay an hourly rate to rent space to teach classes, or I would end up splitting proceeds with the venue at the end of the event.

In October 2010, I attended the Business of Arts Luncheon and was honored to have Colorado Springs Children's Chorale staff at my table.  We started talking and soon I was presenting them with my challenge of needing local space to teach my classes.  Fast forward through some creative conversations and innovative thinking, we were able to create a win-win situation for both of us.

Now, the only cost to me is my time. All Children's Chorale students attend my classes for free and I have an incredible space to hold publicly-advertised classes.  We're both getting mutual promotion, marketing, and exposure through our partnership and it's not costing either of us any hard money.

Plus, both our organizations are getting additional exposure, providing better opportunities to our clients, and creating publicity for ourselves with press releases and event listings.

Does your business participate in trade?  Whether you provide services or products, there are many companies and individuals you can benefit from trade, and share marketing, promotion, and the rewards of a growing business.

Additional Resources:
How to Barter Services Online
Barter on Craigslist

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