View Full Version : anthropological study

April 19, 2004, 10:16 PM
I'm writing a rockin' paper (due Thursday (':roll:') )
about symbols in the improv community for my Anthropology/Philosophy class.

Would you be so kind as to talk about a few things, such as:

:any personality traits and behavioral patterns among improvisers you've noticed--and what they might mean

:social etiquette in the improv community--and, again, what these rules really are trying to accomplish

:what the art of improv itself means to you

:why is it such a "community"?

Thanks! I'll totally put you in my bibliography.

(email me at dchang@email.unc.edu if you happen to have something you want to say but don't want to post)

Jeff Sconce
April 19, 2004, 10:39 PM
"Why is improv such a community" and "personality traits"...
Improv survives as a community because all of us improvisors are so totally open with each other. Trust and respect are the foundation for this openess. I know that if I am ever in a tough situation, I can lean on fellow improvisors, and I'll do whatever I can to help when I'm needed. We shoulder our burdens together, and because of that, as Ross would say, we only have to put out 33% as individuals to get 120% worth of results.

April 19, 2004, 10:46 PM
I'll go:

Watching improv helps me feel less isolated, because it often is other people depicting some very thing that happened to me...

on stage these things become more straightforward, concise, and laughable. They spotlight aspects of relationship that in real life is awkward or difficult to discuss.

Improv people love the internet.

Improvisers love doing bits, I think more so than the average non-improviser. Obviously, improvisers are drawn to comedy as a way to communicate--maybe because it helps them make friends, maybe to deal with emotional pain, maybe it stimulates the mind, maybe just because it's fun.

Improv can feel a lot like church at times. If this is true, then maybe the theories in Durkheim's "The Elementary Forms of Religious Life" apply to improv as well--like, (i think this was the theory) the entire [art of improvisation comedy] is a result of people needing a community, order, and power....

April 20, 2004, 12:45 AM
Needy, alcoholic, perpetually adolescent, startlingly intelligent, caring. I think it's causal, people like this are drawn to improv.

Zack Bly
April 20, 2004, 09:29 AM
Improvisers love doing bits, I think more so than the average non-improviser.

Do you ever notice how when most "regular" normal folk start doing a "bit" they cut it off immediately with a rushed "no, Just Kidding." People at my old High School used to do this all the time. It's as if they're really concerned that whoever they're talking to will not know that they're joking, and might really think that they were kidnapped by aliens or possessed by demons when they were little or something. I've had friends who would tack on a gasping "no, just kidding" whenever they made some sort of jokey "ad lib..." in the same breath. Yeah right, Christall. I sincerely thought that you had a crush on the American History teacher. Oh, wait, you're just kidding? Oh, okay then....

Does anyone else know what I'm talking about?

Does this relate to your subject, Ms. Hurricane? I hope.

April 20, 2004, 10:13 AM
Improv as a community:

When an art form is shown as a collaborative process I feel that a community is very likely to form with close friendships, partnerships and relationships sprouting. We are taught day in and day out that although you may push yourself individually, ultimately your goal is a group effort where you only contribute your certain percentage of the work. Everyone is forced to support both the underdog and the hero in a group because without everyone's input the group will fail. By taking the emphasis off "how good I am" and putting it on "how good we can be" improv opens a door to collaboration both on stage and off; people who work well with groups are more likely to seek out groups to work well with.

A community, ideally, is a network of supportive relationships in a general area, that area being based on location (a neighborhood), based on shared experience (war veterans) or based on common interests (improv). In the example of DSI, we're based in the same area, have all worked on-stage and are all interested in gaining more knowledge and experience. Outside of DSI our community extends to other improvisors throughout the country, also based on shared experiences (we all know what it's like to be on the stage in front of people) and that common interest in improv. Since we all know and do the same things, we are a community.

I guess what I'm getting at is that since we all have an interest in performing improv and that we know what it is like to constantly support and be constantly supported it is only natural that we would band together in a loose/tight community (I waffled on that because some are more in than others). It helps that we have a constant meeting place or event so that the community can check in with itself constantly. Those gone for a while are immediately welcomed back while new members are supported. It make take a while to really get into the community; that may just take a time investment on the part of the new prospective member.

Looking at the DSI community I see a lot of supportive inter-personal relationships developing. People are romantically involved. People choose DSI community members to travel with or go to the movies with. Everyone is eager to work on-stage with community members in some new project or even just go to the bar together for an afternoon. We're comfortable enough with each other based both on limited knowledge and common interests and experiences to live with each other. What other communities can boast that?

April 20, 2004, 05:13 PM
This is so good! Thanks! Thanks! Thanks!

I'm also interested in personal stories... How did you get into improv? What problems do you deal with? What are you planning on doing in the future? What are other peoples' reactions to your interest in improv?

Oooh....I'm thinking of making it something like:

"My mother worries about me being an improviser because she thinks it makes me appear crude and uninhibited, making it harder for me to attract a decent boyfriend, making it harder for me to end up with a good husband."
-Denise, 21
Student at UNC Chapel Hill

April 20, 2004, 05:26 PM
Peoples' reactions to improv:

No one understands it but that's not to say it's a fault of theirs. Improv venues are limited and unless you head out of the house to seek these venues out, be it above a porn theater or in the front of an ice cream shop, you won't see long-form improv. Short-form improv is a little more accessible to the mainstream in that it's performed on television, where people can catch it without going to aforementioned ice cream shop. Nine times out of ten if you tell an aquaintence or relative that "I do improv" you're going to hear the line "Oh, is that like Whose Line Is It Anyway?" Kudos to Whose Line for getting into the forefront of popular improv comedy, however the improv scale stretches far and wide and that particular style is one of many. The debate rages on as to how to market ourselves successfully - look to a great IRC thread on this from a few months back. Improvisation in the mainstream is either regarded as Whose Line short form or Christopher Guest mockumentaries, both of which are fine examples that do little to explain long-form improv. In simplest terms, when confronted with the question "what is that?" I say we create a 25 minute play based on the ideas generated by a single suggestion.

Sometimes it works...sometimes they say "Oh, like Kids in the Hall."

Kit's Alter Ego
April 20, 2004, 05:45 PM
How did you get into improv?

I tried out for improv my sophomore year in high school and didn't get in; I am extremely glad I didn't. Back then, I thought that improv was just letting go of all your inhibitions and hoping people laughed at it. The next year, I took a closer look at what was being performed, and I realized that improv is more about finding common threads: between player and audience, between player and player, between player and ideas. Once I saw that, I could move forward.

What problems do you deal with?

The general public hears 'improv' and thinks, "Oh, shortform." The majority of the national improv community hears 'improv' and thinks, "Longform, duh." Getting longform improvisers to see the excitement and challenge inherent to shortform is even harder than getting first-time audience members to perform a Harold.

Improvisers are taught "Yes and..." from Day One, and so it's difficult for us to say, "No, do this instead." That's why good coaches are solid gold and why an improviser's worst critic is automatically himself. We hear compliments and shrug them off, certain that the bulk of them are coming from people just being good offstage scene partners.

What are other peoples' reactions to your interest in improv?

A couple years ago, I'd say that I was an improviser and be asked, "Oh, like Whose Line Is It Anyway! Drew Carey's so funny." There was no respect attached; it was as if improvisers were playing TV-Land Wannabes. Now, when I tell people I do improv, there are raised eyebrows, appraising glances, measuring me up to the standards they've come to expect from improv they have seen. It's evolved; it lends us more base support.

--Kit, 22
Chapel Hill Resident

Zack Bly
April 20, 2004, 09:15 PM
How did you get into improv?

Probably because I saw my mom's students in the East Chapel Hill High School Improv team Randomax (google that (http://www.techatl.com/wrek/images/GRS_741020.jpg)) and thought it was totally awesome. I tried to do improv in high school and failed, since Orange H.S. wasn't ready for it. It may never be. When I got to UNC I skipped a tap dance lesson on Monday Night to go to CHiPs auditions and was lucky enough to be put into the incubator program. More followed.

What problems do you deal with?

When I first was accepted into CHiPs proper I was pretty up in my head. I would come to practice and worry almost the whole time straight: "am I doing this right? Am I agreeing right? Am I making good offers?" You know, technical things. And I was also scared stiff by the rest of the team. I was the only freshman in the group. There were all these seniors who were top-notch, and absolutely hilarious. It's pratically terrifying. "Oh god, why am I playing with them? They're so much better than me!" Everyone knows that feeling. Doesn't everyone go through that? But eventually you ween yourself off these questions, because if you're constantly freaking out over whether or not you're doing something right, then you will never take a risk. And risk is what we do. We're professional risk takers. Maybe that's why people who see improv think it's so fun. Because they like to see us take a risk on stage ("I'm a moon rock!") and see the actor escape from the clutches of embarassment ("I'm Neil Armstrong. Ever want to visit another planet?"). It's like trapeeze art. So I'd say that the first semester I was with CHiPs I was doing pretty cut-and-dry improv, because you can know all the "rules" but if you don't take risks then it can be all for naught.

What are other peoples' reactions to your interest in improv?
Nine times out of ten if you tell an aquaintence or relative that "I do improv" you're going to hear the line "Oh, is that like Whose Line Is It Anyway?"

That is, if you're lucky. Nine times out of ten when I tell someone I do improv they tell me that they like to watch the stand-up on Comedy Central, too. Then I try to explain tactfully what I really mean by improv, using words like "playlet" and "scenic" and "character-based," but nobody seems to understand what these mean. Usually I just give up and tell people that I really like Steve Martin's "Let's Get Small." (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/B000002MSY/qid=1082510052/sr=8-1/ref=pd_ka_1/002-2345345-3604809?v=glance&s=music&n=507846)

-- Zack, 20
Cedar Grove resident, UNC Student

April 22, 2004, 12:48 AM
Thanks everyone! I'm trying to write this paper right now...it's going ok, but I've got pretty severe JunioritisJUST KIDDING junioritis isn't an actual disease so i'm not really severely ill. just so you know.

I just had a thought... I would actually enjoy writing papers like this if I weren't having to use good form and creative vocabulary.

Then I thought, maybe if I just write the way I feel like saying things, the form and stuff will work itself out. True?

April 27, 2004, 08:46 AM
Wow Diana I should get on the boards more often. I think i missed the window and I could have given you lots of insight. (i was an anthro major) AND i am secretly spying on DSI to write my best selling ethnography [shhhh it's a secret ;) ]

Kit's Alter Ego
April 27, 2004, 12:54 PM
We know, Heidi.
We know.
QWERTY-1:S'cw AuwfwkL Tiy;cw rgw qur id ' a'knib~