Smarts

(Originally published Summer 2001)

What say we call this "Throw out your TV”?

One of the great things about the Second City style of creating material through improvisation is the focus on using your intelligence, your book smarts. Because our theatre was started at the University of Chicago, there’s been a legacy of smart, challenging material, uniquely connected to both what's going on now, as well as a knowledge of history. It makes us stand out, not just here in LA, but wherever we have theatres and schools or where our touring companies have played.

What's my point? Be smart. There's a wonderful challenge to playing with someone who's smarter than you. They make you think outside of your world. They make you go to places you may have never thought of going before. In other words, they make the scene exciting and unpredictable, exotic and alive.

I challenge all of my students to make small changes in their lives while studying with us. The changes can be as simple as taking a different way home from class (as opposed to a different way to class, which may get you lost-and late!), to aggressively listening to people when they speak to you (or eavesdrop, if you're sneaky). Listening or seeing things in a new light makes you think differently. Thinking differently causes a chemical change in the neurons in your brain, which leads to creative thought and problem solving. (Actually I'm not quite sure that that's true, but what the hell.)

The next time you're at the magazine stand looking for a little light reading, pick up that Entertainment Weekly along with something you'd never think about, like Plastic Civil War Action Figures Collectors Monthly, or alum Amy Sedaris' favorite, Knocked Up and Gun Totin'. Or when you have a free night to see a film, see one at an art house. Do something to inspire you in new and wondrous ways.

These little details tend to pop up in our material, whether we're aware of it or not. If on stage you challenge me in ways I'd never imagine, it can't help but to make our scene a little more exciting, a little richer.

And if you want to really throw a wrench into your daily routine, the next time you shower, change the order of what you wash. Who knows? It may end up inspiring you. Or it’ll cause you to forget what you've already washed, and starting all over again. Either way, it's something new.

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David Razowsky

I have a simple approach to improvising: Your present awareness is the only thing you need to create compelling, smart, truthful, and surprising scenes. Period. No games, no preconceived premises, no ideas, no ego. All that matters is now. The actor’s level of improvisation experience doesn’t matter, for all you need to bring to my workshop is your present presence. All you’ll leave with is your joy and excitement and confidence. And after all, what more do you need?