Occam's Razor and Improv

When performing improv, every improviser has a desire to seem intelligent. If you are like me you've probably looked up to improvisers with lots of experience who seem to wow audiences with subtlety which turns into high spots of the scenes they are in. Perhaps, you think you need to be subtle, on purpose, in scenes to do the same thing. Improv doesn't work that way and Occam's Razor explains why.

Occam's Razor is a principle that implies that a simple explanation is better than a more complex one. Whether or not this is true is somewhat debatable. However, when you are trying to play to an audience that is trying to understand what you are doing it's best to keep things obvious. That way, things come across loud and clear to both your audience and your fellow improvisers.

But how can you be like that improviser you look up to? How can you turn that earlier subtlety into something witty? You can do it by paying attention. Those improvisers you look up to are just great at seeing what happens in a scene and putting those pieces together in the moment. They didn't plan it. They made this witty story line, attribute or joke obvious to the audience when they noticed a pattern that fit the scene. Sure, they may be good at subtlety but that comes from experience. The experience of turning ideas up to 11 and making it clear what they are doing. Then, over the years, feeling out the best times to turn it down to 10, then 9, then 8, etc. More importantly, they learned to make strong choices, in the moment and at the moment they come up with them.

So the next time you have a great idea for a place to take an improv scene, make it obvious right then and there. If you don't know how to do that, just make any strong choice and stick with it. It's the strong, obvious choices in the moment that the audience (and your fellow improvisers) can understand which make for a less confusing (read as more enjoyable) show.

Now, I just need to practice writing in a way that is simpler to understand and this blog would go a lot better too.

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