Finding the game

I was watching Leno last week and he had Dana Carvey on the show. I was bored and tuning most of it out, Carvey was making a lot of political jokes that weren’t very funny and I was about to change the channel when something caught my eye.

They were playing a game. Not a traditional game, no chess pieces or cards. No, they were playing a game called “I’m going to do impersonations and you are going to pretend to try and cut me off and I’m going to walk over you but you don’t really mind”. And they played it beautifully. I never would have noticed that in the past. I would have thought Carvey was just being a jerk or whatever. But the body language between the two of them didn’t look like they were arguing, it looked like a tennis match. Leno would wait to the right moment to cut him off, Carvey would wait until Leno said just enough to be funny before starting again.

In improv one of the 1,000 things you are supposed to do simultaneously in the first 10 seconds is to “find the game”. I’m terrible at it. Apparently I set-up games and then don’t follow through on them, or I ignore games that other players offer me, I just don’t see them. I didn’t get what a game was, despite having been told, and shown, over and over and over. I catch on to some things sooooo slowly. But once I had my revelation during Leno I started looking for them on other shows and finding them all over the place. Finally it clicked!

Sitcoms are where I’m having the most success spotting them but they should be in dramas too. Every good scene should have one. I saw less than one minute of a muted Andy Griffith Show episode and still found the game between him and Barney, it was completely physical. Barney was playing the “for every three feet you get me to walk I’m going to step back a foot and turn, shaking my head” game. It was just that measured once I was looking for it and didn’t any dialogue to distract me. And then the example above was from an interview. I don’t know how often they come up in situations like that, I suspect it’s most likely when he’s interviewing a comedian or actor, less so if it’s a political figure or an athlete. Someone who, like me, would complete miss the offer.

Now I’m looking forward to my next practice, see if I do better at this. Even if I’m still too distracted by everything else going on to play the game I at least understand what I’m looking for now!

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