“Improvisation and sketch comedy let me choose who I wanted to be. I didn’t audition to play the sexy girl. I just played her. I got to cast myself. I cast myself as sexy girls, old men, rock stars, millionaire pervert, and rodeo clowns”—Amy Poehler
Give Gifts, Use Gifts, Prove Gifts
On the drive home from my level one sketch class at the Pack Theater, I thought about what a fun night it was. I got to play Elvis, Salvador Dalí, Jim Ross, Che Guevera, and the Macho Man Randy Savage, a personal hero of mine.
Although they were all nearly swarthy characters—I got a quarry full of swarth—they were each distinct enough to have fun playing them. Che Guevara and Jim Ross were my own character choices while the other ones were lobbed on me as tremendous gifts from my fellow sketch class mates. Thank you, class mates.
As I fall deeper into sketch, I try to connect my improv training with my burgeoning, formal sketch education. And then, I find it, the intersection between sketch and improv—gifts.
In improv, a gift is an endowment—a character trait, flaw, or quirk—one player gives to another. It’s called a gift because the information you give to your partner helps them define their character and how they interact with the world.
When given a gift, your job is to prove it. “You’re such a slob, Steve,” would be responded with, “Where’s my burrito?” (A classic Miles Stroth example on how to prove gifts). Proving gifts is fun because you get to see how players interpret them.
It’s the same in sketch; it’s fun to see how an actor will interpret a part you’ve written, either specifically for them or not. When somebody does write something for you—say like the Macho Man Randy Savage calling his therapist—it’s an honor to bring the character to life in the way they may have envisioned.
It then becomes a double gift: they gave you something to play with and you proved that they and their idea—by virtue of them writing it—are funny.
Gifts are at the intersection of sketch and improv. Improv teaches you how to use and prove gifts; sketch teaches you how to create gifts specific to a player’s strengths and peculiarities. Harness the power of gifts and make each other look good.
#improv #sketch #packtheater