I’ve been leading improv classes, improv for the workplace workshops, and jams over Zoom for almost six months, and what started out as a stopgap measure to keep things rolling for however long the Coronavirus health emergency would last, has ended up having some interesting benefits and challenges compared to our normal in-person workshops and classes. Here are a few observations I’ve had:
Online Improv is verbally wittier
By necessity, the verbal gymnastics that pop up in online improv classes have become even more prevalent than their in-person counterpart.
Once people get comfortable and rolling, we’re finding that the verbal quips come fast and loose. I’ve been posting many of them as part of our ‘Overhead in Improv Class’ blog series. Sentences that probably have never been uttered before come flowing out of people’s mouths during improv.
In-Person Improv is more physical
One thing that I do miss from in person improv is the physicality for characters and scenes. Object work is limited to just the window on the screen. Physicality is limited to simple gestures. I miss the Silly Walk exercise and passing a Bowl of Spaghetti while dodging stray ninja throwing stars and ducking falcons flying overhead.
Online Improv isn’t a complete replacement for in-person improv, but it can be an enhancement
During the handful of outdoor improv classes we’ve been holding around Virginia and Maryland, with students that have been regulars in our online Zoom improv sessions, I’ve noticed that the in-person scenes have been supercharged.
Putting the physicality back in has totally enhanced the verbal, and I’m seeing some of the best improv scenes that I’ve ever witnessed from these groups, with complete freedom and effortless execution. Very, very, very funny scenes have emerged when we have been able to bring back in (with proper social distance) physical movement to the mix.
I’m realizing that the limitations that virtual improv imposes has had the surprising side effect of strengthening improv in person. Like wearing ankle weights while running.
Online Improv and In Person Improv both provide connection
In both versions, whether its a grid of videos scattered around the country, or a group of people standing next to sports cones in a park, improv’s signature yes/and has provided a sense of connection and community, which has been desperately needed during these tough times.
That tends to happen when you’re laughing hard together.
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