Impro World Tour

Ramblings and Wonderings of a world of Improvisation




A character pulls a weapon and the audience turns to you… What will you do? How will you react?   Your reaction – NOT THE THREAT is the scene. It is the drama that makes us want to watch or turn the channel.

If you’ve ever heard of magician David Blaine, you’ll remember that his first massive impact on the public was with a tv show On May 19, 1997 called “Street Magic”. It wasn’t the magic that made the show, it was the reaction from the audience.  Penn Jilette (Penn and Teller) said:

  “The biggest breakthrough done in our lifetime was David Blaine’s Street Magic, where his idea was to do really simple tricks but to concentrate… to turn the camera around on the people watching instead of the people doing. So to make the audience watch the audience, which that first special Street Magic, is the best TV magic special ever done and really, really does break new ground.”

David Blaine didn’t SELL the trick like most magicians begging us to believe the importance of his work.  He under-stated it with phrases like, “Does this look weird to you?”  He let the audience reaction move us to believe it was totally weird and amazingly amazing.

The reaction tells us the level of importance about the act.  It also informs us.

If you laugh, cry or scream, you supply important information about the scene. You tell the audience who you are and what might happen. Do nothing, and the audience is left outside. If you do nothing and then continue to do nothing, the audience feels that you are part of another tribe that eventually they will lose interest because they can’t relate to someone who they have nothing in common with.

There’s an interesting game that Keith Johnstone sometimes plays with students. Basically he makes you do a scene with a stuffed animal. It’s important that the animal has big, “alive” eyes. The roomate walks in and the stuffed animal is sitting there on the sofa staring forward. The performer speaks to it:

“I know, I know, I promised I wouldn’t go out to the casino anymore but I lost our money…”

What does the audience do? Most of them look towards the stuffed animal.

These aren’t stupid people. They know that the wide eyed, fluffy, blue bear will do absolutely nothing.  Hard wired into our beings is that desire to see what the story is.  And the important part of the story is the REACTION from our partner. You can picture your ancestor waving a stick at a wild beast and watching if the fanged creature shows signs of fear or anger. The story is important. It’s life and death.

React big and the audience reacts big with you. React artificially, out of context of your character  and the audience will pull back. But, as most of us UNDER react, there’s a lot more room for response than you might imagine.

Give something back when an offer has been made. Let your partner know they’ve been heard. Show the audience who you are. Those who argue that the perpetual straight face, immovable, stoicism is dramatic and strong might want to watch any of a number of Hollywood bombs where the hero is impervious to any emotional change. They succeed in defeating the villain and the audience leaves as unmoved as the hero.

posted under Ideas, Information

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