All-night Improv: 24 hours of crazy for Improv Nation

I’ve told you somewhat about Improv Nation, how it is structured, how it functions on a week-to-week basis, but there is a lot about this club which really pushes the envelope of improv, improvising new ways to approach improv and grow as a team.  One of the most interesting, tiring, and challenging events that I have ever personally been a part of is the Improv Nation “Big SHooMG,” a 24-hour straight marathon of improv.

The first two rules of the marathon were 1) Do not sleep, and 2) Do not sleep.  The club goes straight through the 24 hours playing every improv game that it has in it’s extensive list of improv games of every type.

Travis Northup, current leader or Emperor of Improv Nation, once said that in 24 hours of improv it will be broken down as such: “You will see 4 hours of good improv, 4 hours of awful improv, and then 16 hours of delirious improv.”

Given the structure and length of the marathon, new games are enacted that use the marathon’s length to challenge improvisers. In one game there is a sort of extended replay where a group of four people do a scene that is two minutes long, and then every four hours after that they replay that scene exactly as they did it the first time, or at least attempt to.  In a twist on the improv game “expansion,” where a 5 second scene is played, and then that same scene is expanded to 15 seconds, 30 seconds, one minute, then two minutes, 24 hour improv takes a 2 minute scene, which several hours later becomes a 10 minute scene, 30 minutes, and finally an hour long.

The second annual “Big SHooMG” is set to happen this upcoming weekend Dec 3 at 5 p.m.- Dec 4 at 5 p .m in the Mary Park Lounge on the SF State Campus. Anyone is free to stop by and watch at any period of the 24-hour marathon to witness the exhaustion and perchance any brilliance that exudes from the improvisers.

Due to funding applications to ASI, Associated Students Inc., this year the school will be purchasing food and energy drinks for the event, which will hopefully slightly take off the edge of doing improv for an entire day.

Regarding the name of the event, every year that it happens one o will be added to the title, and that is why this year’s “Big SHooMG” has two since it is the 2nd annual event.

It is possible that the show will be live-streamed, if so I will be tweeting the link from SpencerTDevine on twitter, or on my Facebook. I will hopefully be filming at the 24-hour event and will try to get something together to even partially show what the event really is like.


Rejection never gets you anywhere in improv or life

For those of you who have ever done improv there is nothing more disheartening then throwing out an idea and having someone squash it and instead follow their own ideas. As a matter of fact, even those who don’t do improv know this feeling because it is both universal and prevalent in our everyday encounters. We all know that one person who just says “no” for the hell of it, and it’s enough to take the wind out of anyone’s sails.

Improv knows that rejections, while they may be funny sometimes, are bad moves and stop scene momentum in a heartbeat.  That is why the ‘Yes and’ rule was invented, which states that an improviser should take the suggestion of their team member and say yes, but not only say yes but instead also add something to the conversation to give it direction and momentum. Sure there are the improv acting aspects of the rule, but one thing i want to impart on you my readers is that it definitely has real life applications.

As said it is the “Yes and” rule and not just the ‘yes’ rule.  It is easier when someone agrees with you in comparison to a blatant no, but without the other person adding anything all the pressure is put on you. In some cases people prefer the position of power and take advantage of ”yes men,” but to make a true team effort all the pieces should be making equal and commendable efforts to help make each person’s job easier.

There are articles and books that speak directly to the idea of “yes” and how it can improve life. I personally find a lot of them cheesy but in the end there is some legitimacy behind the whole idea. Now I’m not an inspirational speaker but i can tell you one or two things.

No, in its essence, is a stopping word, it prevents progress, whereas yes shows an openness to new ideas and a possibility for new things.  Being closed-minded in an improv scene or real-life capacity creates stagnancy and awkwardness. When you shut out the ideas of others you leave yourself no safety net if your personal effort isn’t enough.

Improv is a team sport. As funny as you may be, improv with one person will never be the same as seeing a group work harmoniously together on the fly of their pants.  That is why improv isn’t always about being funny; it’s about receiving ideas from others, agreeing with them completely, and then throwing an extra gift to add to the ideas on the table, etc.

In business teamwork is not unheard of, and the ability to be open to new ideas and agree with the inclinations of others is a useful skill. Taking a boss’request and getting it done, but also adding extra value to the task is a sure way to stand out and be unique.

There are plenty of improv skills that translate to real life and this is one of the key ones. To summarize:

1. Saying yes to new things and ideas in improv and real life creates new opportunities or can give a scene direction

2. No, is a universally stopping word and prevents progress on stage and in life, rather than bolstering it.

3. Don’t just say yes, yes and allows you to do more than just support the ideas of others. It allows you to add to the pool of ideas, while also taking in others’ suggestions.

Zombie Horde Hits SF State

Imagine the scene if you will: It’s a stormy night and the once overcast clouds pass over the cemetery like an ominous blanket of dread. You find yourself running and running but oh no you trip on a gravestone sticking out of the ground, or at least what you thought was a gravestone. Whatever you tripped on makes a grab for your leg, but you manage to slip free. However, by the time you can get up, you’re surrounded by the undead, zombies.

Now students at SF State probably noticed (unless their head was in some sort of hole underground from preemptive fear) that their campus on Oct. 19, 2o11 was swarmed by a horde of the undead. Led by a mysterious and kooky doctor, these blood-covered zombies made their way all around the campus, attacking those who ran from them and generally yelling “brains” at every possible opportunity.

Zombie with torn shirt

Zombie Jonathan Riley contemplates the apocalypse

But fear not outside world these were not fact zombies but rather just improvisers being silly.  Oct. 19 marked the fourth annual Improv Nation Zombie mob, and drew in over 50 participants, improvisers and non-improvisers alike.

The Zombie Mob is a form of advertisement Improv Nation does for its shows (In a future blog i will break down the structure of a show and how Improv Nation advertises,) as it has two shows on both the 21 and 26 of October.

The zombie mob started off with a fair-sized group of improvisers already as zombies, that way there was a sizeable group from the get-go and they seemed more intimidating. This group prowled the campus for willing participants to become a part of the mob. No, this does not mean that like actual zombies they would attack you and eat your brains. To become a part of the mob you had to be a willing participant who had put an obvious duct tape X on their person. Once zombies saw that X then they would catch that person, cover them in fake blood and that victim joins the march.

The attack hit SF State approximately at 10 a.m. according to some of the first victims.

But students on campus had nothing to fear for behind the scenes was a group so brave that they would put their lives on line to protect SF State from this threat. WOMBAT (Women and Men Battling Against The undead) served as a counter-agent against the massive horde that swarmed all throughout campus. A group of 8, armed to the teeth (Nerf guns) made a valiant effort starting at 12:30 p.m. to shoot down this horde with invisible bullets (If someone actually shot darts then campus would be littered with them and we would never get them back.)

zombie hunters with nerf guns

WOMBAT prepared for battle, guns blazing.

I represented one eighth of the group and led my own squadron of four into the fray. Zombies and hunters made their way across the entire campus from Mary Ward and Mary Park student housing, all the way back up to 19th and Holloway. The whole process was a prolonged game of cat and mouse between the zombies and the hunters, we would shoot them down and then five minutes later they would be back up and we would be forced to shoot down the same zombies again. Always on the move, WOMBAT had to watch its back because although some of the zombies were slow (as they’re supposed to be,) some zombies were sprinters (darn you 28 days later!) and forced us to run in order to not be overrun.

This went on until approximately 1:50 when that kooky doctor (Travis Northup, leader of Improv Nation) told the hunters that there were two innocent individuals in Malcolm X Plaza that needed saving. The event was over at two so as a group we figured this meant that we had to die. Surprisingly up until that point all eight of us had lived to tell the tale.

Long story short, we did not succeed (there’s a bit of a joke the hunters have among themselves about having an intricate and impressive back story when in the end their venture is doomed to fail by default.) When all of us were turned into zombies and smeared with fake blood(less fun if you have a beard) the doctor began to fight his way through the mob in an attempt to escape, but was ultimately brought down and turned like everyone else.

To mark the end of the day all of the zombies did the thriller dance, which played off of a PA system on the Malcolm X Plaza stage.  Whether some people think the whole thing is silly, from smiling faces in the crowd you can tell at least some find it funny or a refreshing change of pace. Improv Nation does lots of silly things on campus to distinguish themselves, but always with the motive of promoting comedy and having a good time with the SF State campus.

This time the zombie horde was dealt with and dispersed, but who knows maybe next time SF State won’t be so darn lucky.

bloody hunter shows piece sign

Peace after zombie-war

Tweets of the Beat

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