Saturday, June 27, 2020

Weekend Post

There's a thing in improvisation called "space work."  Basically it's mime.  Some improvisers are great at it.  Others, like me, struggle.  Here's a hilarious video showing what would really happen when hapless improv people like me try to do space work.   This is a group out of Toronto.  I think I've been guilty of all of these except the lipstick.  Enjoy. 


Frank Beans said...

This is what my everyday life is like anyway. I'm just an unpaid improv comedy act with no applause.

Is it an exaggeration to say that American life as a whole has just become one big unfunny joke?

Mike Bloodworth said...

I too have been guilty of such infractions. However, much of that is due to the "stand around and yack" style of improv that is so pervasive today. Most improvisors are so worried about what they're going to say next that's all that matters.

Here's a hint. Space work can actually help you think. If your mind goes blank focusing on an activity disguises the fact that you can't think of anything to say. Yet, it keeps you in the scene until you can find your next line. That is definitely preferable to the "deer in the headlights" paralysis some get when they have nothing to say OR do.

Space work is also great for subtext. Using the cucumber example. Imagine how you would chop up vegetables if you were really mad versus blissfully calm. One of the rules they drum into is is "Show. Don't tell." In other words, your space work can demonstrate how your character is feeling.

Several years ago I had the privilege of taking a workshop with the late, Richard Schaal. He was at the Second City in the early 60's.
One day he was berating us for our poor space work. So, we said, "Let's see you do it." He blew us away. He was so good. We could see every object He handled. He stayed consistent. He never let anything disappear. It was amazing to watch him work.
From that moment on I wanted to improve my space work.

I'll still walk through a table now and then. But not as often as I used to.


Troy McClure said...

Ken, I've never seen a Natalie Wood movie (I'm sorry). Which do you recommend I start with? Splendor in the Grass, West Side Story, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice?

Mark said...

On the other extreme, did you ever see Richard Schaal do improv?

DBenson said...

Speaking as an old community theater nerd, it feels like a collection of bits that amateur actors try to shoehorn into whatever play they're doing. Heck, I had a truckload of imitation Dick Van Dyke moves, which really don't work when you're short and fat.

Many of these might work in the context of a scene where somebody was sufficiently distracted / angry / drunk / stoned to be that clumsy or ineffectual. Even Laurel and Hardy, who could get plausibly confused walking through a doorway, generally framed such bits as impeding Hardy's desire to make a good impression, or their ability to carry out a seemingly straightforward task.

Even the guy pulling himself over the kitchen counter could be made to work somewhere. On "The Office", it's the sort of thing Michael Scott might do if he felt he was being ignored at a small party. The early seasons of "Big Bang Theory" presented the guys as desperate nerds; any of the guys (except Sheldon) might try something like this to convince a girl he was 'athletic".

stephen catron said...

Good Stuff. Love the phone guy.

Mike Bloodworth said...

Sadly, no. He was already retired, except for the occasional workshop and in failing health by the time I met him. But I would have loved to have seen these early masters in their heyday.

Matt said...

Hi Ken (or Mike Bloodworth,

The most prominent I provers for the last 20 years are probably the guys on Whose Line IsIt Anyways. I was wondering if you have worked with or done improv with any of them? What is their reputation in the community?


Jeff Maxwell said...

Space Work = Viola Spolin

It allows you to be anywhere and do anything with nothing around you but space.

You can even go into space.

Mike Bloodworth said...

I can't speak for Ken, but I've only seen those guys on TV.