What do Dick Costolo (CEO of Twitter), Al Franken, Dave Delaney and Bayard Saunders have in common?Improvisational theater training. Based on the work of Viola Spolin and her son, Paul Sills, improv has been taught since the 1930’s, influencing generations of content creators and performers.
BoxLot was ranked 2nd to eBay in the online auction market, specializing in the unique and hard-to-find, and ran a series of very popular radio ads, all developed using the principles of improvisational theater games. For this ad, “Tennis Ball Machine,” the writers were playing a sound effects game, doing their best to replicate the sounds of obscure auction items, when during the playing/brainstorming, one of them imitated a tennis ball machine. They had an “AHA!” moment, and within minutes the final draft of the :30 second radio spot was written.
The average age of the bowlers in the United States is somewhere in the late 60’s. Ebonite Sports bowling ball brands were looking for ways to make bowling relevant to a new generation. They called on improv comedian Dale Jenkins to develop a series of videos for YouTube, ranting on the theme of “They Ruined Bowling” (by engineering the new balls so well that a player’s skill matters less). His character posted on professional bowling discussion boards and social media groups, engaging the public and real bowling professionals in the discussion. Watch all the videos at http://TheyRuinedBowling.com or http://YouTube.com/DaleJenkins165
As part of the launch of the 2013 Nissan Pathfinder, Nissan sponsored “An Improv-Tastic Road Trip” – a 12-hour long marathon of improvisational theater games by members of The Second City, developing and recording music videos from suggestions submitted by viewers.
The Second City improvisational theater music videos remain on Facebook for viewing on-demand. Certain to be #1 on the charts: Lindsey A.’s Rap. And a tip of the cowboy hat to Abby M.’s Country. Watch them all at http://improvtasticroadtrip.com
Improv Everywhere uses improvisational theater games along with other brainstorming techniques to come up with large group “experiences” or street-theater “happenings” or flash-mob activities. They are probably most famous for the “No Pants Subway Ride”
For more than a decade, Improv Everywhere has staged an annual “No Pants Subway Ride”
Improv Everywhere stages the “Black Tie Beach” event, where participants in formal wear go for a dip, fully-clothed, in the waters of Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Improv Everywhere stages an improvisation with the public on escalators: “Rob Wants to High Five You” – it’s like the old Burma Shave signs along the highway. See how many people do give Rob a high five! Event marketers should be taking notes.
If you grew up in a neighborhood, what was your favorite group game to play with the other kids? …Improvisation as we know it began with Viola Spolin teaching children’s theater in the inner-city, paid for by a WPA Grant. Instead of technical training, she discovered that highly structured group games brought out the most creative and innovative results, and wrote about it in “Improvisation for the Theater,” considered the definitive textbook on theater games. She and her son, Paul Sills, introduced theater games to Chicago in the 1960’s, giving birth to comedy theater companies The Second City and The Groundlings, and influencing television shows like Kids In The Hall, Saturday Night Live, Whose Line Is It Anyway? etc.
Viola Spolin and Neva Boyd developed coaching techniques for directors and teachers to help students achieve better scene content. These same rules could be applied to group meetings, brainstorming sessions, and used to guide creative or strategic development of ideas between working partners. Adopted into a corporate culture, they would certainly help create a better working environment, and a very positive and productive working group dynamic. And the results of ideas born of these true flights of fancy (or real dances with the muse) are guaranteed to be better content, certainly more funny and genuine (a requisite to viral).- Say “Yes, and…”- After the “and,” add new information- Don’t block- Avoid questions- Focus outward (no “I” or ego)- Make your partner look good- Stay in-contact- Work on the problem- Avoid making lists- Show, don’t tell- Let it happen, don’t plan or invent
Developing content from theater games has driven the improv industry to create opportunities for access: training and performance experiences, as well as corporate communications development. Around the country (and in Canada!) organizations such as The Second City, The Groundlings, ComedySportz, i.O.West, Theatre Asylum and Upright Citizens Brigade, not only entertain the public and graduate comedy stars of tomorrow, but also provide everything from corporate events performances to content development.
Locally the Nashville Improv Company offers bi-monthly performances to the public, and corporate events and content development to agencies and brands. More information at http://NashvilleImprovCompany.com
Theater Games Rules for Better Content• Say “Yes, and…”• After the “and,” add new information• Don’t block• Avoid questions• Focus outward (no “I” or ego)• Make your partner look good• Stay in-contact• Work on the problem• Avoid making lists• Show, don’t tell• Let it happen, don’t plan or invent
#bcn12improvBayard Saunders Dave Delaney@miiacom @davedelaneyMiiA.com DaveDelaney.meNashville Improv Company@iheartimprovNashvilleImprovCompany.com