I’ve heard this advice multiple times; Play to the top of your intelligence. Why? Because you’re doing Improv with a fellow performer, not Make-em-Ups by yourself. When you play “dumb you don’t add anything to the scene. You get laughs, but your scene partner does all the work.
But, what happens if you don’t play to the top of your intelligence? You accidentally say something “dumb” or play “dumb” because… well it’s funny, damnit. To hell with the high-minded “Improv” purity. You did it for the cheap laugh. Cheap laughs are still laughs, right?
You’ve improved sinned. Now what?
Make your dumb guy is really smart at something, and feel strongly about it. Make him the smartest dumb guy.
At a recent performance I played a character who didn’t understand how to “count cards” for BlackJack. He was just counting the actual cards “1… 2… 3…” That’s a dumb guy. However! It did get a laugh.
But, if I continued to be the “dumb guy” I wouldn’t have to do anything more to participate in improv. I could just keep making stupid statements. Misunderstanding things. Reacting in ways unrelated to whatever my scene partner said. So easy. So selfish. More importantly, not Improv.
To fix this, I made him the smartest of dumb guys. He was really good at counting the cards. He’d written a book about it. Chapters 1 – 10 were numbers “1… 2… 3… etc.”
Even the dumbest character can be really smart at something. Focus on that.