250 Improv: Rock, Paper, Scissors

In improv the game rock paper scissors is not funny. That’s a bold statement, and I stand by it. I’ve seen it many times in performances. Heck, I’ve done it myself in performances. I’ve even written it into a play or two. And, it’s never gotten a laugh.

So why does it seem like such a good idea?

In theory is the juxtaposition of a childish game being played by adults in important situations should be funny.

Unexpected opposites are funny. Like the fat guy who’s really good at ballet.

But it’s not funny. It’s a block, it’s stalling the action. You remember that whole “yes, and” thing that we got going on, right? Well, how have we got to the point of trying to decide who gets to do something via a childish game? Probably because someone didn’t “yes, and.” They either avoided because they were afraid of doing something, or were being polite, allowing their scene partner do something, or they thought a delay in action would build tension.*

Either way, what’s now happening is a delay in action. A delay that we’re going to solve with a child’s game.

Best case scenario, we’ve built tension, but the game has limited endings, so the tension can/won’t be released with any sort of surprise leading to laughter.

Some simple comedy equations: Tension + Release = Action (perhaps small laugh)   Tension + (Release x Surprise) = Big Laugh.

Comedy isn’t an exact science, but you get the idea.

*Also: Fear or Politeness ≠ Comedy.

 

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