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  1. [Impro For Storytellers, Keith Johnstone]

    Fools’ Paradise

    Fighting the laughter creates benevolence, because when the audience laughs, it laughs in unison, whereas ‘cheap laughs’ fragment it.

    It can be entertaining to watch clowns play the piano wearing boxing gloves, but the novelty wears off. This is easy to understand, intellectually, but players are conditioned to be funny every time they walk on to a stage. They don’t hear the trickle of the audience’s tears, or the crackle of tiny goose pimples, but they’re responsive to every chuckle (‘They’re laughing! We must be on the right track!’) Yet if the laughs don’t come, and there’s nothing on offer except gags, the players can be embarrassed for weeks.

    The solution is to base Theatresports on storytelling. Stories hold the interest even when the audience aren’t laughing, so it’s unfortunate that the easiest way to get a laugh is by undermining the story. If your Oedipus has a dog called Rex and your Macbeth has a ‘kilty conscience’ then we’re back to square one.

    Laughter misleads. Sometimes it’s just drunks, teenagers and other improvisers who are laughing, while the bulk of the audience sits with folded arms.


    Destructive Feedback

    Pick your nose in life, and we’ll discourage you, but do it on a stage, and some fools may laugh or even cheer and this ‘validates’ the behaviour. Drool on stage and a chuckle will encourage you to drool again. Should this process continue unchecked, you’ll be known as ‘the drooling comedian’, which was not your ambition.

    Rock stars are under similar pressures. If they move their hands near their pelvis the teeny-boppers will scream. This coaxes the unwary to move their hands nearer and nearer to their crotch until they’re leaping about the stage clutching themselves (it’s even become a fashion). Oprah Winfrey asked Michael Jackson why he did this and he said, ‘I think it’s just me,’ unaware that audiences had conditioned him to do it.

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