Improv, Comedy, Women, Melbourne and everything in between.
I few of my friends have recently asked me for advice or assistance about writing. A topic that frequently comes up in the discussion is ‘finding your voice’ and how to do it. My response is usually pretty befuddled, as I’ve never done a writing course and I’m surprised when people want my opinion about these sorts of things. Writing is really just something I picked up because I wanted to create, and I realised acting and adhering to rules, scripts, and directors wasn’t the medium for me to do that. The truth is, you can’t just get up and perform a play whenever you want, you can’t have an idea burst at 3am and just act in your bedroom (well, I guess you can…). Writing gives you everything you need to release that creative energy. Writing gives your thoughts a medium of translation.
Often when I’m asked how I ‘found’ my ‘voice’, I usually deliver a deadpan, flat answer like “if you can think coherent thoughts, you can write coherent sentences”. But, in retrospect, that answer is counterproductive and a little insulting to the person I’m talking to and it belittles writing as a trade.
After years of training in different acting courses, I was lead to long-form improvisation. I have since realised that it is my kind of performance. It’s the writer’s performance. Long-form improvisation is an ideal medium for writer/performers because it’s all about being creative, being your own director, and writing a scene without pen and paper. The best thing about improv is that you have to shake things off. You can’t have the negative critic in your head whispering to you ‘that was a bad idea’ or ‘that wasn’t funny at all’ – and I can only make the observant assumption that most writers suffer from negatively judging their own work every now and then – because we’re writers, and that’s what we do. We make observations, and leading an observatory life can often turn a person a little cynical or judgemental. Me included.
There is an improv rule that I apply to my writing, and I encourage others who are lost to do so too – whether it be comedic or dramatic writing. In long-form improv sketches, your character needs to have depth, and they need to have an opinion or outlook about things. Sure, you’re only on stage for three minutes per sketch, but you have to dredge up a lot of something out of nothing. You don’t want to throw a ton of ideas out there, because then the scene gets messy – you have to find one concept and stick to it. Grind it down until there’s nothing left – get to the crux of the scene – because other related themes will organically pop up and interconnect to give the scene or character the depth it deserves.
Your character has to have a belief in something, a philosophy or an outlook on life. This doesn’t mean religion or atheism (it can if that’s your angle though), it’s just a small concept your character likes to apply to other things. It’s a recurring theme in someone’s life.
Ask yourself, what makes you tick? What makes you do the things you do? Why do you write?
I enjoy writing and performing because I believe in honesty. I don’t mean the “husbands should be honest and faithful to their wives!” kind of honesty (well, I do believe that)… but I’m concerned with everyday honesty. Little things. I like the idea of people relating to one another, and comedy is a great way of exploring that. People feel less alone with honest comedy because “it’s funny because it’s true!”. Honesty is a concept that unites us as flawed individuals.
It’s that truthful feeling when you hear something you never thought you would say out loud, and someone just said it into a microphone to an audience and you realise you’re not alone. It’s knowing that everyone in the room is laughing about something that most people do when we thought no one would admit it. I want people to feel less lonely about those little things. In person, I may not be all rainbows-and-butterflies and I may bring up the idea of mortality over brunch, but I am a positive person.
I believe in honesty in humour and that no one is alone out there.
That’s why I do what I do, and that’s my little piece of translated thought to anyone who wants it.