So I’m in the midst of a three-troupe-in-three-night swing through Richmond’s improv community — I’ll get back to that. After last night’s ComedySportz/Overtime Improv doubleheader, in a conversation with a player who I’ve known for a long time, I was told of another conversation where my name came up. Everyone but one person in the conversation knew me, so when that one person asked who they were talking about, I was described as “the loyalest of loyal fans” of Richmond improv.
I thought about it for a moment — and that’s really a nice thing for them to say. I mean, to be honest, I’ve always wondered if I was perhaps considered “that creepy improv stalker guy”, so their description works just fine for me…
When I’m asked why I’m so into improv, I usually give reason #1 — no two shows are ever the same, even if they play exactly the same lineup of games, because no two audiences are ever the same. Since improv, more than most any art form, relies on its audience — different audiences change the show in very noticeable ways. So it’s not like standup, where if you see the same guys, you’ll usually see the same jokes…
But that’s not the only reason for my perhaps-excessive loyalty.
Reason #2 is my history with them. I’ve been around these folks for as much as the last decade — with the interruption for a couple of years (that’s well documented in the early days of this blog). It’s no longer just “going to a show”, it’s visiting with friends. And I get to laugh a lot. Who’d argue with that?
Reason #3 ties into the history, but also can happen at any show. Improv can, on several levels, be entertainingly self-referential. On a good night, callbacks (references to earlier segments, usually “meta” references) can flow hot and heavy. If you pay attention, you can get two or three laughs for the price of one… both at the scene itself and the use of the subtext to give the players (and fans) that extra laugh.
But combine #2 and #3, and sometimes you can find fun in playing with the longer callbacks…
Take last night, for example, during the Overtime Improv show.
They played a game called, among other things, “Crime Story” — where one player is sent out of the room while the audience crafts a ridiculous crime/motive/accomplice… then the player has to come back and figure out their “crime” from the questions asked by two “police interrogators”. Last night, Patrick Raines was the “criminal”… immediately following another game loosely based on the old Siskel/Ebert “At The Movies” show where Pat played a movie reviewer with a slice of Large Ham (in a good way, as he was spicing up some admittedly-weak audience suggestions).
So when we were asked for a suggestion for Pat’s crime, I blurted out “overacting”. It helps to know that Pat can chew through the invisible scenery a bit when prompted… 🙂
Anyway, his overacting while he was floundering at guessing the word “overacting” was… yeah, almost Inception-level metacontext.
I’m sure it worked for everyone watching, but it goes to my reason for returning to shows. For me (and yes, this is selfish of me, deal with it), the ability to occasionally play with all of our shared history gave me a bit more entertainment.
That’s why I’d suggest, if you really enjoy something, you immerse yourself a bit, even if you’re just a fan.
Maybe someone will consider you “the loyalest of loyal fans” — and either you, or they, or both, will find a way to make your shared experience a little more fun.
EDIT: Almost forgot — that three-in-three swing? Richmond Comedy Coalition’s “The Lab” Thursday, the CSz/OTI doubleshot on Friday, and West End Comedy tonight. This may happen the last weekend of the month for a while. I’m not complaining. 🙂