The Painhole

Ben’s Pain-Hole for the Week of April 5th

Hi All!

Some brief updates to start:

Buddy Night has been moved back one week to April 17th. There have been alot of people who told me that they wouldn't be able to come to Improvs this week because of the holidays. I, being an idiot, completely forgot about Easter/Passover when I approached Louis about having a Buddy Night. I apologize if this caused anyone any stress and I want those of you who have already signed up to know that I will hold your place for the 17th. If you can't make it that night, I apologize, but if this one goes well, we'll probably have another one. There are still slots available for Buddy Night on the 17th, so if you want to sign up, just e mail me or see me at Provs.

I am starting to get alot more feedback on the issue of women at Improvs and I want all of you to know that I really appreciate it. I really think that if we can get some positive discussion going, Improvs will be much more fun for everyone.

No one seemed to want to help me with the fact that I needed to be spanked (see last week's column). If you can't or won't help, I guess I'll just have to take matters into my own hands.

OK, enough silliness. On to business.....


This week's column is
Suggestions: an improvers best friend and worst enemy.


Ok so I know that many of you have never been up on stage. No matter how much I beg and plead, I know that I will never get everyone to try improving. I can dig that though. I know its not for everyone. Some people get performance anxiety at a drive-through window. That's cool. The thing that you can do to make yourself part of the show, though, is to make some very good suggestions when the host calls for them. So that brings me to the point. Just what is a good improv suggestion....

I know that many of you may think that its a good idea to give a really funny or outrageous suggestion. I can see why you might think that. First of all, its a good opportunity to be able to make people laugh without even having to leave your seat. Its also a way to let out some frustration when you were raising your hand desperately to get on stage for your favorite game and you were passed up yet again for that guy in the Magic- The Gathering tee shirt or that chick in the lycra body suit with the dead tooth. I can feel your pain. I understand your frustration. I gleam your cube. In other words, I know why you are doing that. One problem though. It isn't good for the show or the players on stage. When you come to improvs and you want to see some really funny scenes and some great improving, the worst thing you can do is to give a really specific suggestion that may be really funny for about two seconds to the audience, but completely ruins the scene you will have to watch for the next ten minutes. Don't try to be cute. Don't ry to be funny. Don't give people things that you know damn well they never heard of just to show how smart you are. It is selfish. I guess that is really the main problem we have at improvs in general. People are selfish. Believe me, I've been doing this long enough to know that the more general the suggestion, the more room it gives the players to be flexable in the scene and get a couple of their own ideas out. Since they were the ones with the guts to get on stage and the talent (hopefully) to entertain you for the next couple of minutes, afford them the courtesy of leaving some room for their imaginations to shape the scene. Here is just exactly what I'm talking about....

1. Disgusting Suggestions: Don't do it. Why? Because some people who get up on stage aren't comfortable with gross or sexual material. If you suggest it, they are locked into it. Let the people on stage decide if they want to turn your general suggestion into something pretty sick. Believe me, even if you don't suggest it, you are guaranteed to see at least two or three gross or offensive scenes a night (if you enjoy that kind of thing). It just happens. There isn't anything wrong with it, but if the suggestions start to force people into doing things they aren't comfortable with, or if we end up having too many of these kinds of scenes, both through their natural occurrence and a million gross suggestions, improvs becomes boring and childish and no one wants that.
2. Don't make inside jokes or use what you learned that day in Philosophy of Ancient Biological Historians class to give your suggestion. No one cares how smart you are or how cool you are because you and your friends have made up some word or seen a movie that no one else has seen. Go back to your dorm rooms and talk about your personal shit. An improv suggestion is not the place to air it.

3. DON'T BE SPECIFIC. If the host calls for a relationship, don't say "the third storm trooper on the right in the fourth scene of Return of the Jedi who I, by the way, met last Thursday at the big convention and was really cool and Mrs. Garret from Facts of Life, but only when she was played by Cloris Leechman in the later years." This completely pigeonholes the performers on stage into doing your idea. And what (and I know this may sound crazy) if your idea for a scene just wasn't that funny? Let the people on stage fail from their own screw ups and not from your lousy suggestion. If you really want to see that scene with a Storm trooper and Mrs. Garret, then you get up and do it when (hopefully) someone else gives you a suggestion general enough for you to allow your own ideas into a scene.

That's about all I can think of for right now, but I want to stress being GENERAL when making a suggestion for a scene. It really is very important and I wouldn't waste my time writing this if it wasn't. Think about the last time you saw a really bad scene at Provs. Was it the performers doing a lousy job, or was it a way-too-specific and briefly funny suggestion that didn't allow them to really improv and ruined the scene? I'd be willing to wager it was the latter. I know that a good improver should be able to take any suggestion and work it into something entertaining, but we aren't always dealing with experienced players in an all audience participation show.

Hoping this column wasn't too
bitchy but continuing to look
out for your best interests,


PS. Have any suggestions about suggestions? Write back to me by clicking on my name. Or, write in to the Hot Rim for everyone to see. Or, just write to me and say "hi". I'll write back. That's a promise.