Chicago Improv Summer: I'm Gonna Wear Your Vagina as a Hat


the whole class!

Photo by me via Flickr (click on photo for more)

I know that provocative title will get the right wing upset and my regular readers confused, and I promise to explain by the end of this post. Bear with me. Day 4 of my Improv Olympic summer intensive was beautiful. We pulled off a mini-Harold!

Improvisors make no money



We started off Thursday with a positively inspirational lesson from Professor Jessica: improvisors make no money. Great. Now I'm pursuing two forms of comedy that don't pay!

When improv teams perform at the iO, for the most part, they're not being paid. Here's how the improvisor maketh the loot:

  • Start your own show, rent the theatre space, negotiate a cut of the door and pray

  • Do corporate gigs. The Improv Asylum in Boston is a good example

  • Perform on the Second City Mainstage (oh, ok! that's all??) since those players get paid

  • Go on tour with Second City (again. knowing this makes life easy)

  • Teach improv

  • get a job, any job


The Doo-Wop Opening



I've already explained the concept of the Opening. We first learned "The Invocation." Yesterday we got some singing in with the Doo-Wop opening. As with all that we're learning, the initial seed is an audience suggestion. The goal is the "find the meaning of the spatula" so you don't create a whole show about actual spatulas. In this case, we use the magic... of song.

The improvisors line up in a row, and one person starts a repetitive chorus. In the one I was in, the suggestion was "childhood." I kicked off the chorus with, "I fell off my bike" in a bass voice. Then other players came in with "I like to play" and "New Jersey has no parks" and "Nerd!" until we had a vibrant thing going.

After than, each person steps forward, one at a time, to sing a verse expanding on their chorus line. When the soloist starts singing, the chorus line lowers their volume until he's done. Everybody gets their shot, then all the players return to the chorus, and somehow, figure out how to end it.

This was a lot of fun. I love making up little meaningless songs on the fly. I'm such a dork because I do this all. the. time. in my free time, but I previously had no outlet. I need to rock the doo-wop opening!



More two-person scenes



After that, we played with more two-person scenes after being given a setting (eg. 100 years in the future) and character roles (e.g. real estate agents). In that example scene, the improvisors had purchased England, which turned out to be a horrible decision. In my own scene, I was running a sewage treatment plant. In another scene I was in, we had to use the soap opera genre, and I was twins with a white female improvisor. My need in the scene was to keep her from knowing that we'd made her albino to improve her job prospects. I failed, BTW, and just told her.

We performed a mini-Harold!



After lunch, we spent our time doing mini-Harolds! The idea of it was so intimidating, since I'm still figuring out just what this Harold thing is, but Jessica had us do just the first part, a bite-sized Harold, if you will. And we did great!

The Mini-Harold consisted of an opening and Beat One (which is three unrelated scenes that all connect to the original suggestion and themes raised in the opening).

Our group's suggestion: pipe cleaner

Our opening was the Invocation, and we had hella fun with that one, using a LOT of energy to explore the IT IS (brissley, long, yellow, etc), the YOU ARE (what I use to brush my teeth when no one is looking), the YOU ARE (the cleanser of the pipes that deliver my water) and the I AM (confidentiality, cleanliness, etc).

Our scenes: I feel bad that I can't quite remember the first one. I was busy absorbing our opening and trying to catch snippets of scene 1 without getting too involved, leaving enough mental space to conjure my own character. I did scene 2 with Leanne. I decided to be an architect building a bridge between Chicago and Toronto, uniting the two countries at last. Leanne said she was excited, and in a moment of complete non-thought, I asked her "Why?" It was hilarious because that was my inside voice trying to figure out who she was in the scene and thus who WE were, but I didn't mean to say it out loud, and the audience new it and laughed it up.

Leanne jumped right on it. She was so excited that "after seven years, you want to know what *I* think." So at that point, I know that she's worked for me at this architecture firm for seven years. Apparently, I thought she was ready to step up, but there was more going on between us. It turns out that we were in love, and I had been too afraid to broach the subject. By the end, we discover that we're not only building a bridge to Canada but also a bridge to each other's hearts. The scene was actually beautiful and full of anticipation for that close, but neither of us knew that at the start, and who could have thought that the suggestion "pipe cleaner" would lead to true love?

Dang. I can't remember scene three right now either! That's what I get for waiting so long to post this. Whatever it was, it turned out great.

The other group (our 15 person class (oh yea, forgot to tell you we added one dude named Gabe on Wednesday) was split into two mini-harolds) had the suggestion: pillow.

Before they started, Jessica asked that they try to make things more positive. Almost all of our scenes had focused on conflict and negativity. There's one scene from the pillow mini-harold I will never forget. It was between Amy and Nick.

Nick starts off the scene really excited to perform in an upcoming rock concert.

Amy is supportive and agrees things will only get better for his music career. Not only that, she can't wait to be with him through it all. They are happily married, and she'll go along with anything.

Nick pushes the limits. Yes, he agrees, she'll be with him through it all: the shows, the travel, the high life and the Nick-sleeping-around-with-groupie-chicks.

At this point, Amy wants to say no, but Jessica's "keep things positive" kicks in, and she agrees: "Yes, I'll be with you when you're bangin other chicks."

Nick tags on, "of course, because we have an open relationship."

Amy raises him: "Yes, and I'll be sleeping around with the boyfriends of all the chick's you're sleeping with."

Nick raises: "yes, your vagina will be so worn down, I'll wear it as a hat."

I'm paraphrasing, but the moment was hilarious. Anyone from class want to add stuff or correct things, do it in the comments.

Whatever the exact words, Day 4 was the hotness. We're all gonna miss Jessica a lot. For many of us (including me), she's our first improv instructor, but we get a different teacher for each level, so Monday we start level two with Rachael.

Classmates Leah and John were nice enough to bring celebratory beer and cupcakes.

Oh, and we've named our improv team: Team Lawyer Money!