Sep 25, 2009

Astronomy Serenade

It's not often I talk about the nuts and bolts of performing improvisational comedy - but I had quite a splendid show at our Albion Comedy Club gig last night and wanted to note some highlights down before my brain discarded all memory of it.

You see, impro is one of the most transient forms of performance - and I've done an incalculable amount of short-form impro games in my nine years of playing. It's impossible to remember all of those scenes, even if I'd like to (and believe me, at least 50 per cent of them are better forgotten).

I was slightly apprehensive about Thursday night's show, due to being sleep-deprived from 4am starts this week. In fact, I only woke from my afternoon nap at 7pm, and had to race to get ready and over to the Albion Comedy Club in time for the start of On the Spot at 8pm.

This weekly show is the "breadmaker" for ImproMafia - it's a regular paid gig that keeps players in match practice, and allows us to finance our more ambitious theatrical offerings (such as Prognosis: Death!). It's also helpful that we don't have to source the crowd ourselves: the Comedy Club brings the punters in through their own advertising and mailing lists, so we have a guaranteed audience each week. Typically, they're people who enjoy a laugh, but in all likelihood haven't seen impro before. Some weeks are "drunker" than others; you can tell because of the increase in the number of people yelling "protologist!" or "porn!" when we ask for suggestions.

Normally we have six players, an MC and a musician - the talented Matt Hadgraft. This week, we had a couple pull out, so were left with four. As it turns out, this worked brilliantly - it means all four players are working harder, but I felt it kept us on our toes. We had no time to think about scenes that didn't quite work, as we were back on quickly for the next. We ended up rocketing along - and I can't think of a dud scene in the second half. Those kinds of nights are always good ones.

The last game of the first half was a "Serenade". This is where we get an audience volunteer to tell us some things about themselves. We then weave those details into a song intended to win their affection. It's a polarising game: some players love the chance to exhibit their singing and rhyming skills; others find it unengaging or even boring.

Our volunteer in the Thursday show was a bloke named Rob, and I was first up to question him. I asked him about his job, and got possibly the best response you could hope for in a serenade - Rob was an astronomer. Looking back, he may have been bullshitting, but no matter. Astronomer is a gift of an offer for a love song - and my brain quickly began processing potential jokes. I asked Rob what was the biggest problem an astronomer could encounter with a telescope, and he replied that he sometimes forgot to take the lens cap off. Hmm. Finally I discovered that he liked rugby league and supported the Broncos.

So now - to the best of my memory - I present my Astronomy Serenade:

Oh Rob
You've got stars in your eyes
I can't wait to see the surprise
Oh Rob
Let's take off the lens cap and look up at Venus
And then we'll get together and take a closer look at your... eyes

Oh Rob
You like your footy
I know you wanna see the Broncos crush the Storm
And Rob
I'll be right there with you in the team jumper keeping you warm

And Rob
Our love will be so strong
That nothing in the world could tame us
And when we get that lens cap off
We'll take a look at Uranus

Yep - it was all building towards the mother of all Uranus gags. That's how I roll, folks.

I have our musician Matt to thank for accompanying so well on the keyboard - he completely synched in with my lyrics, which made the song all the more convincing.

I had a really good run with singing in this particular show - an early song called "The Dust Gets in My Eyes" (ooh, topical) seemed to work well despite some dodgy rhymes, and I performed one of the best "Sing About It" scenes I've done in a while. Mike Skillz played my son, going off to join the army. I tried initially to talk him out of it, saying I'd already lost six sons to the war in Afghanistan. But eventually I accepted his decision, and gave him my lucky spoon to take with him - resulting in a sweet two-line song:

Take this spoon, which has always served me
Served me metaphorically, but also served me literally

It prompted Mike to ask the obvious question - "Why didn't you give this to any of my brothers?" Cue audience laughter, and a song from me about how I wasn't really a very good mother at all. The scene ended with me turning up in Afghanistan and shooting my own son, reminding him that:

I said I wasn't a very good mother
I said I kinda sucked
And now I'm here in Afghanistan
And you are kinda f***ed!

That well-received f-bomb ended the scene; but it turns out I'd pretty much railroaded it, as Mike had been attempting to cop a bullet in the lucky spoon, movie-cliche-style. Thankfully, he was good-natured about my interference.

There was a stack of other great moments as well; it's always good to have nights at impro where you come off thinking, "Wow, maybe I really do have good performance skills after all!"

Now if only I could find a way to get paid for using them...


  1. ROFL. Would love to be THAT fast with jokes - other than crap comebacks on social networking sites.

  2. I was at the show last night and have to say its the first time I have seen live improv. It was just fantastic! And I thought the night should have gone to you. By far the best player! Adam

  3. Hey Adam - thank you very much! That's very kind of you to seek me out via the interwebz. I'm really pleased you enjoyed the show!

    And thanks Doc - I always enjoy your "crap comebacks". ;)

  4. As someone who is reduced to saying "um, er" in front of an attentive crowd AND as someone with an immature sense of humour, I am really impressed by your Uranus song. Hee hee.

  5. Loved the spoon ditty... very Conchordesque!