Saturday, July 16, 2011

Improv Slam

Last week, in Adelaide, I took part in an Improv Slam at the Squatter's Arms. It was my first improvisation poetry gig. It was not easy.

The concept is similar to a regular poetry slam, but you have to perform an impromptu poem/story/spoken word piece in response to a word thrown at you by a member of the audience. The rules were:
1. Maximum of 10 seconds to think before speaking.
2. Can reject 1 word only.
3. Must talk for a minimum of 40 seconds
4. Maximum talk time 2 minutes
Several different approaches were on display. One is to hop a ferry down the stream of consciousness, just saying the next sentence that pops into your head. This can be fun, but not always coherent for the listener. A related path is to base your poem on whatever rhymes with the word you are given. At its best, this approach is like the most successful hip hop freestyle. At its worst, you end up sounding like George Logan from Scary Movie 3 (here).

Several people, including the winner, told a story. I didn't ask if they already had these stories in their heads, but the performances worked well.

I chose the repetition technique, repeating the line that first came into my head and then forming imaginary stanzas beneath each repeat. It worked. Kinda. I found the whole experience very stressful and challenging. I rejected my first word - elephant - and had to accept the next - scratch. I blurted out something I had thought about while walking through the city earlier that day.

I'm in two minds about improv slam. I think there is more potential for a disappointing night for the audience with improv, given how difficult it is. If it is done well, though, the results can be exhilarating. Whose Line is it Anyway shows how rewarding improv can be to the audience, but then again, not everyone is Greg Proops.

Perhaps I didn't like just because I sucked at it.

Here is a good example of improv slam.

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