If no one is writing our lines of text, if nobody directs us or chooses the interpretation for how we do what we do, it basically means one thing — we are the content of everything we improvise. Everything we are, everything we know, love, hate, think, heard of or experienced ourselves, could and should be legitimate material for our improvisation.
Improvising does not mean being anything different than yourself. It means being yourself in different ways. It means taking the experience of being a human being in this complex, wonderful world and pouring it into the scenes/story/character we play.
»I didn’t buy a ticket to see how smart you are,
I came to see a good comedy show«
I think that understanding that helps us to make interesting choices while we play. By interesting choices I mean honest/emotional/human choices which will enrich the story, serve and move it forward. Rather than having it stuck in one place while negotiating, fighting or trying to win! I call improvisers who choose to »win« all the time and be the funniest, smartest, fastest »the smart ass improviser«. Nothing touches them. Nothing goes through them and they never see beyond their own nose. As some people like it, I think it’s a good waste of the audience’s time. I didn’t buy a ticket to see how smart you are, I came to see a good comedy show, there’s a big difference.
The more advanced improviser can see the bigger picture. They can follow what Tim Orr describes as »the internal logic of the character, and the external logic of the story« and use their own honest experience in order to enrich it.
Sometimes it would mean your character looses everything or to be the bad nasty person who everybody hates, or to bring in some political issue that is super relevant to you and is somehow surfacing in the show/scene. Sometimes it would be something completely different.
»Improv (as I do it) is comedy.«
Having that said I want to bring up two other things that I find important:
Improv (as I do it) is comedy. Forever comedy. It means using all I know, am, think, heard of, read, saw, wanna be or not be, in order to play a richer comedy that can make people think, cry, doubt, care and of course laugh!! It is not about giving yourself a psychodrama therapy session while diving into the dramas of your life.
The other thing in bringing myself into my shows is that I want to refrain from making propaganda. I want to avoid educating or convincing the audience that my beliefs/points of view are the right ones. I wanna make sure that this choice of content that I bring will — above all — serve the story/scene and will enable the story/scene to be richer. Richer for me means that it might say something about life, humanity, relationships, love, hate and more. My job (as I see it) is to provoke thoughts and feelings in the audience as I make them laugh. Not to educate them. This is why I do improv and this is why I love it. There is so much I can use in so many different ways and it is all an expression of who I am. Another person, you maybe, will do it in a completely different way — isn’t this amazing?