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.



Generate your own fresh ideas on the spot

by Toby Lorenc

As improv actors, we're frequently having to come up with fresh ideas based on the suggestions given to us by the audience. So how do we quickly think of stories and scenes using these suggestions? There are really 3 simple categories from which you get information:


1) Experience - you've been through something personally. It could be a situation with an annoying neighbor, or a probing from an alien.  Either way, you know first hand what it feels like, tastes like, looks like, smells like, sounds like, etc. 


2) Knowledge - you heard it, read it, saw it, and know it for some reason. It's book knowledge over real-life experience.  Although it is possible to gain knowledge from an experience, the two don't always go hand-in-hand.


3) Creation - you have nothing to base it on and you're truly making it up on the spot


So, which do you think is the most powerful source to use when creating a story? And which is the quickest way to inspire a fresh idea?  


Our answer: whenever you can tap into your emotions and personal experiences, you're going to access much richer and long-lasting content.




Don't change who you are, just figure it out

by Toby Lorenc

Confidence guyWe work with various individuals as part of our Confidence Coaching program - basically, it's an opportunity for you to claim what you are good at, become aware of what you need help with, and be intentional about getting better! 

Everyone is different, and we're not about changing you.  Simply, we want you to have the opportunity and safe environment to try new things, plus get direct feedback about the good and bad. 

Let's not change who you are - your talents, personality, mannerisms, and even quirks define you as a person.  Instead, let us help you be aware of these unique factors and learn how to use them to your benefit.


I am good at...

by Toby Lorenc
Wordle: IamGoodAt

We're all part of teams, groups, committees, clubs, etc. which are working toward a common goal. And wouldn't it be nice if we knew what tools we had right in front of us to accomplish that goal? All you have to do is ask!

 

One of my favorite activities to do with a group is simply having everyone complete the sentence: "I AM GOOD AT..." Have them individually stand up and confidently proclaim what they're good at.  Sure, you're going to get a variety of answers: some people just want to be funny and get attention, some want to brag about something they've done or are working on, and some won't know what to say at all.  Just make sure when you're explaining it that everyone knows there is no wrong answer and it can be as simple as "tying your shoe" but make sure everyone contributes something. The first round, you'll get lots of personal things like sports, musical instruments, parenting, and more.  For the second round, encourage everyone to think of something they're good at that could benefit the group, specifically towards the goals you are trying to accomplish.

 

Do a quick debrief once you get everyone's answer and help them realize they can't work together well unless they know who to turn to when there's a need.  Plus, now that they know what interests people have and what excites them, you're more likely to connect to passion and get better results when specific skills are needed. Between Tim who's "good at being tall and reaching things" and Lacey who's "good at organizing" you just found two great candidates for arranging the storage closet with high shelves.

 

Take it a step further: I have all my clients who I do confidence coaching with write down 5 things a week they are good at.  Keep this list in a notebook - it's tough once you start getting past 10, but that's because people are usually overthinking it and lack confidence. You'll be amazed and encouraged in a few months as you realize the breadth of your skills.

 

For more information on our customized solutions and in-house training, please contact us.


Your lingo may not be right on

by Toby Lorenc
As I waited for an appointment with an HR person recently, I was reminded of how important our words are in our quest to present ourselves.

I sat in "Sally's" office while she talked with a prospective employee.  She was very kind to the candidate on the phone, but as soon as she hung up she blurted, "Are you KIDDING me?!?" in frustration.

The individual was getting information on the hiring process at the company and kept repeating, "right on" after Sally told him their hiring protocol. He immediately closed the door to any opportunity with this company because of his language and gave himself a thumbs-down rating with the HR gatekeeper.

Certainly, we all know not to drop curse words and questionable jokes while talking to prospective employers, but have you thought about other jargon you use when talking to others?

Sally wants professionals and grown ups at her company, and Mr. Applicant was portraying just the opposite with his college-based grammar.  He will probably never even have the chance to interview at this company, which he felt was "right on."

Keep in mind that there is never a second chance to make a first impression. Your language can create an impression that will stop you cold and you'll never even have a chance for a face-to-face interview.

Certainly, the words and phrases you choose can create a lasting impression and it's debatable which specific jargon will stop you cold in your tracks. But be conscious of how you're presenting yourself (even over the phone) or your "right on" might become a "write off."

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