Performing and Coaching Improv Online – The Pros and Cons

Last Tuesday I was asked to be a part of a google hangout  improv show for a website called e-improv. e-improv is a website that streams live improv shows via Google Hangout. The show I was in was called Let’s Get Serious Guys! Hosted by the lovely Juliette Everhart from the Kansas City Improv Community and The Recess Players. We were also joined by Founder and Artistic Director and old student/friend of mine Dylan Rhode from Backline Improv Theater and The Omaha Improv Festival in Nebraska. Like anything in improv I always like to do new things and I saw this as an opportunity to give it a try. I’ve also coached online improv with a Kansas City group that Juliette is on and I’ll go into detail about that experience as well.

The Show: e-improv

For the show on Tuesday, I was exciting and nervous all at the same time. Playing with people you haven’t played with, but also it’s online! Will I be able to hear them? Will I miss some moments? How will it go? The first part of Juliette’s show was an interview session which she asks Dylan and I to come up with a theme in improv that we enjoy…

For Dylan and I it was easy, “Community” since we are both in the building community game we felt compelled to talk about it. Then after that we go into an improv jam for 10 minutes. We get a suggestion from a book and then here we go. I will say this, I had a fun time…Was the improv great? Not the best, I’m sure all three of us would agree, but still a fun time.

Technology still needs to catch up I think. Sometimes the delays in technology slowed the timing down and it was hard to hear. Talking over each other is nearly impossible to do online because of the way it is set up…Maybe that’s a good thing! 🙂

My overall view of it is that online improv will never replace a brick and mortar establishment, but what I do love about online improv is the fact that you can do it with anyone in the world at anytime and that is the best takeaway from this experience. What a way to build a worldwide improv community. I don’t think the founders of the site, which I intend to do a follow up blog with and interview with them, are intending to do.

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I think they are trying to just build community and you know what…I’m on board with that. It never hurts to do something that brings improvisors together. Hey if you have fun and it makes you laugh, then follow that.

PROS – Meeting and playing with people from all over the improv community that you would never get the opportunity to play with.

CONS – Technology makes improv connections hard and there is limitation in physicality. You are pretty much doing talking head scenes.

Coaching Online:

I was really hesitant to do this. Call me old school. I coached a team in Kansas City, MO. So in the spirit of yes, and… I did it and I don’t regret it. Yes, you are limited in what you can do as a coach.

It’s hard to get physical or get up there with them to demonstrate and there are certain exercises you can’t do. But I coached them for almost a year, off and on, and I saw an improvement in them and they felt an improvement in their play. My motto is this, if they feel they’re getting something out of it and I see improvement then it’s worth doing.

PROS – Getting coaches from around the country to teach you their style and philosophies along with some of their exercises. Coaching online can help improvisors grow.

CONS: Limited in what you can do with teams and technology can some time crap out on you. Also, it can be hard to hear or see things depending on visibility of the camera and mic set up.

 

Nick Armstrong

Nick is Camp Director and Founder of Improv Utopia an improv retreat for adults in California and Pennsylvania. He is also one of the founding members of the National Improv Network and performer and teacher at iO West as well as member of The Sunday Company at The Groundlings. He has also taught many workshops around the country.

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