improv resources

You and me (but mostly improv)

The improv community is amazing and filled with excellent improvisers. Sometimes there’s something that clicks between two of them. Whether it’s passion about a theme or a shared life experience, there’s something magic when two people decide to create an improv duo sho, what in the improv slang is known as twoprov.

Duology of Fallot on Belfast Improv Comedy Festival in 2019. Photo by Stephen Buggy.

Doing improv is always challenging and exciting but, whenever we feel overwhelmed, we can lean in the back and let the group carry the burden of a show while we put ourselves together. When it comes to two people on stage, well, you better disappear completely or be as supportive as you can. That’s when complicity must show up. Here are some exercises you can do to train that complicity.

I named some of these exercises however I considered because I can’t remember the exact name under which I’ve learnt it. I’ve learnt these exercises from Carles Montoliu, Omar Galván and Katy Schutte.

Physical exercises

Where are you clapping?

Facing each other start, a continuous beat alternating clapping the lap and the hands. So, the beat will go lap, hands, lap, hands, lap, hands, etc. The nuance of the exercise resides in clapping hands aiming left, right, up or down every different beat. When mirroring occur between the two of the improvisers (both clapping up or down or mirroring sides), the duo will celebrate wildly and shortly and will reset the game. Repeat until you consider.

Touch and Flow AKA Dancing Ragdoll

Facing each other with the body both relaxed and active, like a standing rag doll. One improviser’s going to touch with the fingertip one point of the partner’s body who will react starting a movement from this point by inertia and will stop. This can be done either in turns by movement (A touches B. B moves. B touches A. A moves.) or series of movements. (A touches B. B moves and stops. Repeat many times before switching).

Just Dance

Yep. That’s it. Dance with your partner. I personally like to do it on contemporary contact style which is just doing flowing movements with the sole premise that one part of your body hast to be in touch with your partner.

Trust exercise

I’ll Follow You Blindly

Putting physical integrity in the hands of your partner may be too much to ask. But we are not talking about shooting an arrow to an apple on your partner’s head. Instead, let’s get to the classic “close your eyes and let me guide you” exercise. Just hold the hand of your self-visual deprived partner (closing eyes or a fold would do) and explore the space carefully. Seek different speed, height, light intensity. Whenever the trust has been established you can use only a fingertip to guide and, if you want to set the stakes higher, use your only your voice. Of course, switch and share experiences afterwards.

Duology of Fallot on Belfast Improv Comedy Festival in 2019. Photo by Stephen Buggy.

Mental exercises

Colombian Mind F*ck

Don’t ask me about this name, that’s how I’ve learnt it from Katy Schutte and that’s the most accurate term for this exercise tailored to turn our skulls into cocktail shakers to scramble our brains. So, that is how it goes. In the first variation of the exercise, you have to establish a constant beat, like a metronome. A starts solo in the first beat doing a very simple movement. In the second beat, B repeats A’s first beat movement while A is doing a new movement. Basically B repeats A’s movements one beat behind.

The second variation is similar but instead of movements A starts a story in beats or short bursts of words, B will repeat those words one beat behind.

The third variation (and that’s when things get interesting) is a mix of the previous two. A is going to lead the movements. B is going to lead the story. They have to repeat each other one beat behind. Good luck with nailing it!!!

Mind Meld

Oh, the good old Mind Meld. A classic yet effective way to sync our thoughts. Also, this is pretty simple to execute. On the loud count of three A and B are going to shout a random word. If the word is the same, get out of here, you both are already one superior being ready to slay all the stages. If like in the 99.9999% of cases, you come out with a different word, the next one has to be a word that connects the previous two. That’s when the odds are bigger. Repeat until you came out with the same words and you can celebrate with the happy mind-meld hymn “Mind Meld it’s been a Mind Meld, it happens all the time, it’s been a Mind Meld ♫

Hot Spot for two

Ah! One of my favourites. Just burst into a song until your partner burst into another inspired by yours and vice versa. Try to edit quicker to make it more fun.

Creativity exercises

Story from the environment

If you are in a room, face each other in the middle of the room. A is going to start improvising a story using as inspiration the things he can see of his side of the room. When the story’s finished, A’s going to deconstruct the elements of the story remarking the inspiration. Example: “I said ‘It was a rainy day’ because of the umbrella leaned on the wall. And I said ‘I went to my construction work’ because of the exposed bricks of the wall”, etc. B does the same.

The magic doors

You’re going to walk side by side through the room until one of you is going to take both through a magic door leading to another place building, describing and interacting with the environment. The other keeps yesanding and reacting to everything until another door that leads to another place is discovered and takes the lead. Keep switching until considered. Mind that the doors can be big, small, narrow, etc.

Example: “Look there’s a door” . Both goes through the door. “Oof is very hot in here! The Sun is very bright, look at the vultures above us waiting to feast. Oh! There’s an oasis there.” Once the space is clearly established, the other person can go “Look, there’s a door!”

Duology of Fallot on Belfast Improv Comedy Festival in 2019. Photo by Stephen Buggy.

Character and situation exercises

The Mimic

A starts a movement and a sound. B mimics that movement and sound and keeps making them bigger until the movement sparks inspiration of real-life action and from the energy of the sound creates a character.

The object

Actually, this is an exercise that is great for solo work. A gives B an object and B has to do a monologue describing them-self with the traits of that object. Example: If A gives B a backpack, B can say “People always say I’m clingy, but I like to think of myself somebody you can rely on. I’m a good listener and I always will keep your secrets inside.”, etc. That’s something you can exercise before going on a scene to imprint character traits.

Confronted actions

A y B stand back to back a step away from each other and then they’re going to do a repetitive action during a certain time. They’re going to face each other without stopping doing the action and then to the “audience”. They’ll start a scene where both of the actions makes sense. Example: A is applying makeup on. B is fishing. They have to make up a story where both actions are compatible. B could say “I know your mother wanted us to spent more time together but if you don’t want to fish I get it” and A could reply “Nonsense, I want to fish but I want to post about it in my Instagram”, etc…

There’s always more to learn

So, in this post, I put together some exercises that you could use for bonding and strength your twoprov. I hope you’ve found this post useful! Of course, there are tons of exercises and variations of them that you could play together as a duo.

How about you? Are you in a twoprov? What are your favourite exercises? Let me know in the comments!

PS. Kudos if you get the reference in the title.

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