I have never met a person who doesn’t enjoy improvisation in some way, whether it be as an actor on stage or an audience member who yells out direction. It might be because improv mirrors the unexpected and sometimes non-sensical aspects of our own lives. The only difference being that improv is fun!
People like improv because watching actors navigate the confusing, comical and often times ridiculous scenarios on stage, relieves our own anxiety about the existential, seemingly meaninglessness of our own lives. At least that’s my theory. We identify with the actors on stage when they’re stuck in impossible situations. We want them to succeed. We cheer for them. We even yell out scenarios for them to act out in the hope that an interesting, implausible solution will save the day. It’s a bit like playing God and watching to see how it all unfolds for those poor sods on stage.
If you watched the improv video on the Jimmy Fallon Show, you saw Dakota Johnson play “The Telephone Game”, a game she sometimes plays with her family. Fallon gives her the scenario that she is dating Darth Vader, and he breaks up with her because he’s seeing someone else. We all know the Star Wars movies. We’ve all experienced break ups, however none of us has ever dated an evil being from another planet. (I know what you’re thinking; you’re ex doesn’t count.) It’s the unexpected, ridiculousness of it that makes it fun. I was sorry to see it cut short.
Johnson’s next scenario was to act out the situation of being a clown who does not get accepted into clown school. Rejection, we’ve all felt it in different ways, but we’ve all felt it. Now to make it funny, ah ha, clowns! A quick side note: A teacher friend of mine once had a child in her class whose father had gone to clown school but never finished. He said it was his biggest regret in life. Personally, I think you’re doing pretty well if your biggest regret was not completing clown school. You can’t go back and finish? When are you too old to be a clown? But I digress.
Our heroine doesn’t even get into clown school, and she has to tell her dad, a clown named “Big Fun”. Who among us can’t relate to having to tell a parent some bad news? But it’s the way she navigates the emotions of receiving the bad news, she’s practically crying. Then when Jimmy Fallon changes the scenario, and says that she has gotten in, she’s suddenly happy, then sad once again as he takes it back. That’s a roller coaster of emotion and Dakota Johnson doesn’t miss a beat.
When Taraji P. Henson plays the game with Fallon, we are transported to the familiar world of her television show, “Empire”. Her character on the show, Cookie, is an astronaut in space and receives a call that she must stay up there for another six months. She doesn’t take it well. Who would, really? Apparently, she’s got a nail appointment she can’t break. They have mixed the familiarity of Taraji’s character on “Empire” with the ridiculousness of her being an astronaut in space, and comedy definitely ensues.
Finally, who hasn’t passes gas in front of the Queen of England? Well, we might not be able to relate to that particular situation, but we’ve all had those moments when we’ve had a “private” moment in front of someone else. When we were in England, my mother let out one of the biggest belches I have ever heard come out of a human. We had just finished dinner and were waiting for an elevator to take us to our room. It was Homer Simpson loud, and much to her embarrassment, someone was standing with us, waiting for the elevator. We all just laughed. We had to; it was just too much to keep inside.
Such is the case when Jimmy Fallon plays a man who, while talking to the Queen Mum, cannot control his bodily outbursts. He blames it on the dog. He tries to talk as quickly as possible, but he is stuck in another impossible situation. We feel for him. It’s embarrassing and difficult to recover from. Besides, as any five year old or college guy can tell you, fart jokes never go out of style.
So, here’s wishing you many more embarrassing, funny, painful, ridiculous moments in your life because, never fear, it will always be much, much more so on stage at The Improv.