Please see my earlier blog about theory and discussion behind clown and how it can be used for impro. This blog is an additional list of exercises that can be used in workshops. Originally learnt from a combination of workshops with Mick Barnfather, Keith Johnstone and Jay Rhoderick, and also in John Wright’s book, so many thanks to them.
I’ll be leading more Clown sessions at our Saturday workshops soon.
If You Love Me You Would Smile
Two actors face each other.
Actor One says: “If you love me, you would smile.”
Actor Two says: “I do love you, but I can’t smile.” while Actor Two tries not to laugh or smile.
They repeat the lines until Actor Two finally smiles or laughs (some will do it straight away and the very concept of a straight face is highly amusing). Actor One can do anything to make the other person smile or laugh, but they have to stick to those lines. Once the actor has smiled they swap over roles.
Teaches how to engage with your audience, in this case an audience of 1, and to treat it like a game. Also gets people out a rut and trying new things.
Workshop are sat in a row as an audience. One actor leaves the room. We decide a simple thing we want them to do when they come back, for instance picking up a certain chair and sitting on it. When they come back into the room the audience guide them to complete the task by clapping, there is no spoken word or negative feedback. For instance if they walk close to the chair there would be a loud applause, if they pick it up louder applause, if they walk away from the chair the applause stops, and when they complete there is a huge applause.
Encourage them to stay connected to the audience, be brave in trying different things at the start, but also be very present with the audience so they can work out exactly what it is that is making them clap. They will also have to learn to often ‘get out of their box’ and just try something completely different when they are stuck in a rut.
It’s also fun if every time they attempt a move they do it as if ‘ah-ha, this is definitely it, I’ve got it now, no problem!” This encourages optimism in the clown.
Dolphin Training – with Laughter
Same as above, except this time we replace the clapping sound with the sound of laughter. We still pre-decided the task except this time the audience let out a united HA HA HA when the person gets close. The clown is now learning to use laughter as a guide rather than something to be feared.
Later on we can use this technique with natural laughter, as in there is no pre-decided task so the clown just does stuff until people laugh and then follows that laugh.
Bravery and taking risks were highly rewarded by the audience, as was being simple and present with them to pick up what was actually working.
Five clowns stood up in a row facing the audience. Each one has to do their impression of a certain animal given by the director. As a director if nobody is laughing just move on to next clown. If people are laughing stay on them.
Very simple game yet there is a lot in it. Remind them to have eye contact with the audience, commit to it, and if something is working then do it more.
From this came the concept of ‘sticking the dagger in’ with a laugh. Some people have a per-conceived notion of how much they can make people laugh. Why be happy with a light giggle? If something is funny do it lots and really stick the dagger in until people are falling of their chair wetting their pants.
Introducing a Show
Clown has to come into the room and start introducing a show in the style of the old carnival introducers, while simultaneously playing dolphin training with natural laughter for their movements and what they say. They are following laughs, trying new things when laughter stops, or returning to last time they were funny, while staying engaged with the audience. This resulted in some the most hilarious stuff I’ve ever seen in workshops, including someone attempting to introduce a show while his imaginary Italian mama berated him from off stage, and someone being Simon Cowell and his incredible blinking dance.
Lazzi Prepare and Perform
We didn’t do this at this workshop but I’ve done it before and it’s excellent. The class have some time to prepare their own Lazzi (word comes from Commedia) around some simple task that they keep getting wrong – unfolding a deckchair, stacking glasses etc. They then have to perform to group.
Waking Up As If You’ve Never Seen The World Before
The whole class lies down somewhere on the floor or couches with eyes shut and partly asleep. As they wake up it’s as if they’ve never seen any of this stuff before. Their own hands are fascinating, the carpet, the ceiling. Gradually they become aware of other people. Innocent and naive.
Pointing to Focus
Two clowns interacting, crowd points to whoever has the focus at any point. You can play it as a competition for who has focus, and also compete to not have focus.
There are loads more and various depths to clowning, lots of it is in John Wright’s great book ‘Why is that so Funny?’
Lots of love,
Improv classes every Monday, Thursday and Saturday in London.