Log in

No account? Create an account
Roy Janik [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Roy Janik

[ website | Parallelogramophonograph ]
[ userinfo | livejournal userinfo ]
[ archive | journal archive ]

Reading the Newspaper and making it funny [Jan. 27th, 2010|11:37 am]
Roy Janik
Last night we had a Research and Development rehearsal for This Week Tonight, our weekly improvised take on the news.

The basic structure of the show has been stable for awhile now. There's an editor-in-chief who hosts the show. The premise is that he or she is putting together a newspaper. 5 Reporters take turn pitching stories to the chief... aka setting up and directing scenes or games based on the news. After each scene or game, the chief decides whether to print or dump the story. If it's dumped, the the reporter is given a special assignment, which can be anything from "Yell I'm a TERRIBLE REPORTER from the bottom of the stairs" to "Donate money to the Red Cross". Each reporter takes turns directing scenes until the show is over, and then the chief leads the reporters in a final game of pan left/pan right using audience suggestions.

If you're familiar with it at all, you can probably tell that the structure of the show is loosely based on Johnstone's Gorilla format.

One thing I've wanted to for a while is to figure out how to spice the show up... how to hit the news angle harder and to massage the show into something that I can really get inspired by. I'm happy with the basic structure outlined above, but I think we can do more with it.

So anyhow, semi-inspired by Johnstone's workshops musing about using the news in an improv show, we decided to have an experimental rehearsal last night where we just played around with different ways to use the news. One of the stories Johnstone told was about seeing Peter Cook and a friend reading the newspaper in a University lobby and making it tremendously funny. I thought it was worth a shot.

So we just had pairs of people go on stage. One would read an article, and the other would just comment on it, interrupt, saying anything that came to their mind.

I gotta say, the results were better than I expected. Sometimes it would just be both people riffing on idea after idea... sometimes, it would be a classic straight man / absurd man routine, where the interrupter would be harassing the reader and doing whatever they could to stop them from getting through the article. We also did a group variation, with one reader, and everyone on stage making comments.

I'm not sure how you'd fit it into the show and whatnot, but it was fun, and there's definitely potential. We might actually just do that to record some podcasts and hype up the show.

Another thing we tried, to less success, was reading the headline and first few paragraphs from a story, and having each reporter pitch ideas for scenes... the editor would then pick one to see on stage. It was problematic because often the description of the idea would kind of take the steam out of the subsequent scene.

Finally, we stumbled upon a line game that has potential, which was just Valerie reading off the ridiculous names of TV shows as the performers enacted clips of what they thought they'd be like.

So it was fun. I definitely want to do stuff like that more, where we're just exploring and playing to generate ideas, without too much judgment or thought about how to cram it into the show. Like brainstorming on stage.