improv comedy with an audience member


From the Sidelines: Five Questions with Matt Holmes
January 22, 2009

What is your approach to improv?

My approach to improv is to have fun; isn't that why we all got into this in the first place, because it looked like fun? This is adult pretend. Have fun.

When I teach improv, I stress the fundamentals: characters in relationships in environments doing actions and saying lines / improvisers playing around with those characters and making games out of what they do and say.

I don't like improv that's heavy on story or jokes, because I think if you're focusing on the plot or coming up with a great line, then you're not playing or allowing the scene to happen; you're not having fun, you're working.

Is there anything in particular that you find informs or inspires your scenework?

I like to find inspiration from the suggestion, from my partners on stage, and from the sense of play that I just talked about. I try to quickly get myself into the scene so that I have something to play with.

Are there any pre-show warmups or rituals that you do?

I think that playing around and getting on the same wavelength as my partners is very important to the show. It can be as simple as some exercises to wake our brains up. The important thing is connecting with each other. Just like improv, it's not what you do, but that you do something.

What is something that's proven to be a significant challenge in improving your work?

The rules and restrictions of improv have been difficult for me. I think that the good thing about improv is that anything can happen, so limiting it has halted my development. It's been a challenge to me to find an arrangement where I really feel free to create and explore and have fun.

In the past, I've just worked within the framework of the rules. Now I work without keeping to any set template; if I want to do a particular kind of edit or scene or monologue or anything, I do it. This is to serve the scene, though, not myself.

What advice would you give to those who are new to improv?

Focus on yourself and figure out what you want to do. Try new things. Challenge yourself. Figure out what your strengths and weaknesses are. Connect with your partners and what the scene is really about. Commit some time and effort into this. Go and see improv. Have fun.