Warming Up For An Improv Show

warming up for a show

How do you warm up for a show? Every improv , sketch, theater, or team in general (ex: sports)   does something before a show to get themselves mentally or physically prepared. It is entirely different for everyone. It’s even different on an individual level. For improvisers, groups typically do a warm up of some kind to get their brains working or to untangle their tongues so to say. Like saying, “tip of the tongue, teeth, and lips.”  It’s the same process for the beginning of a class or a rehearsal. At a basic level, it’s something as simple as Zip, Zap, Zop and it can ramp up to a Beastie Boys rap. For this post, we thought we’d share what exactly Switch Committee does before a show to get ready. If you’ve ever performed with us or been at iO in the alley prior to our Thursday night shows, you’d know it’s pure and utter insanity. There’s a lot of screaming and jumping all over the place and all over each other. It looks like a bunch of wild animals in ties running around aimlessly without any plan or action. However, there is somewhat of a game plan going on. Specifically, this is what we do:

1. We immediately start killing each other once we step into the alley. No joke. We start slaying each other left and right in every possible way imaginable. Why? Because it’s hilarious. Really why? Because it’s big and physical. It’s a fun way to get out of your head. Getting to strap a  rocket on Schwartzbaum’s back and firing him into the dumpsters or stabbing Ryan with a Katana sword and throwing him under a tank that Dave’s joyriding while Collin snipes Alan who’s juggling molotov cocktails is…glorious. We beat the living hell out of each other yet we love the living hell out of each other. The fun here is that anything is possible (duh it’s improv). Really though, if I wanna have panda hands (literally hands that are snarling pandas) than I’m going to do it. More importantly, I’m going to kill my friends with my panda hands and they’re going to love it. In short, find the people you can kill with panda hands before you go on stage and you’re set for life.

2. We pass some patterns around after everyone is good and dead. We do the word association game or theme association through patterns. So with word association, for example, if I point at you and say “Holidays” you may say “Christmas” and then the next person may say “Santa” and then the next person may say, “Gifts!” and the person after that may say, “Birthdays.” You see what we did there? Yes, us too, it was magic. So, we do that, and we try to do at least 3 patterns. That’s the minimum. The more you do it the better you get at it though (just like anything in life). At the moment, we can do 5 patterns without all hell breaking loose. It’s tough, but it can be done. Tip: Try to increase the number of patterns you do. Not only is it fun, but it’s also challenging. It’s tough as hell but hilarious when everyone is rapid fire throwing patterns at your face. If you don’t keep the pattern going, the game is over and all the patterns will be waiting on you. You fail. You die. You’re a disgrace to the group and your family back home. Just kidding, it’s not that serious. It’s just a fun way to get your brain ready for anything that is thrown at you and the ability to juggle multiple mental balls at once. It helps you focus on what’s important at the moment.

3. We find out what’s up our butts…  (LONG DRAMATIC PAUSE FOR THE NON-IMPROVISERS WHO HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THEY JUST READ). Well, ‘up your butt’ is a rhyming game and it goes as such:

Ryan: I’ve got a bat up my butt

Dave: I’ve got a cat up my butt

David: I’ve got a hat up my butt

Alan: I’ve got a thermoSTAT up my butt (this one actually makes sense)

Collin: I’ve got an aristoCRAT up my butt

Ryan: I’ve got a diploMAT up my butt!

We got around in a circle and everyone starts and finishes a rhyme. So, as you can see from the above, Ryan started and ended that sequence. You get it. Duh. Why are we explaining this? You’re probably sitting there thinking, “I’m getting too old for this shit” with the voice of Roger Murtaugh in your head. Right? Nope? Just us?

Tips for your Pre-Show Activities: 

  • Do something. Anything. Seriously do anything to prepare yourself for a show. It doesn’t matter what and you shouldn’t be worried about people judging you.  If you wanna lay down on the floor and kick your feet into the air like you’re riding a unicycle, go right ahead, that’s your thing. The hell with anyone who think’s that’s ridiculous. If you wanna sit in the green room and watch inspirational or motivational speech videos like this on YouTube than do it. If that’s what gets you ready for your show than by all means do it. The important part is that you’re mentally prepared. The green room is the calm before the storm.
  • Be physical. We’re not saying run a marathon and make the stage your finish line, but get your legs, arms, and groin (especially your groin, wink wink) moving so you don’t end up walking on stage later that night and just standing there like a scarecrow the whole show. Talking heads…the worst. For us, we kill each other. That’s our thing. If you wanna do that too go right ahead. Whatever you need to do to get your blood pumping. Then, pump your friends….wait what?
  • Connect. Right before we get on stage we huddle up like we’re the Permian Panthers. We each look into eachother’s eyes, touch each other’s backs and simply say, “I’ve got your back.” So simple. So basic. Yet this is ESSENTIAL. It might even be more important than everything else we’ve done prior to that moment. It’s the time where we all know that we’re on the same page together and that no matter what we’re going to support one another. You need to connect with your partners before you step on stage. Even if you’re on stage and just got a suggestion, take a second to look into your partners eyes to express “we’re in this together.” Too many times (usually during auditions), Wally Wackadoo will just run onto the stage without connecting with his partners and just start doing his own thing without even acknowledging or listening to anyone. He’s just sitting in all the seats, breaking the fourth wall, and throwing out one-liners galore. Don’t be that asshole. Connect with your partner. It will change the entire way your partner and you work together (stress work together) to create art.
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One thought on “Warming Up For An Improv Show”

  1. Reblogged this on NASTY NALLY and commented:
    Check out this piece I wrote about what Switch Committee does to warm up for a show. In addition, there’s suggestions on what you should do prior to a show to get yourself ready.

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