Thursday Think Tank: the Comedy Pigs’ Process

“Michael Jackson!”

“Crocodile Huntin’!”

“…plungers!”

Aaah, Improv!  The above exclamations were all brought to you by audience suggestions from last Saturday’s Comedy Pigs show.  With suggestions as random and unexpected as those you read above, how do the Pigs pull them together to create hilarity?  How can there be a process with improv?  I thought it was all made up on the spot?  This week’s Think Tank sheds some light on those very questions.

Like any other theatrical performance, improvisation also requires regular rehearsals.  If you’re familiar with the Pigs or any improv group, then you know there’s a series of games the actors can choose from.  From that smorgasbord of games, they’ll narrow it down to a gig list of about a dozen or so games for each show.  During Pig rehearsals, Comedy Pig Laura Stark* explains “[the Pigs] tend to look at gig lists from the most recent show and see what worked or didn’t work and why.”  Of course, the goal is to always keep things fresh, so the team will change their gig list regularly to keep themselves and the audience on their toes.

These games on the gig list for the most part are known as “short form” improv, and include tried-and-true games that most improvisors are familiar with and were widely popularized to the general public by the show Whose Line is it Anyway?  However, post-intermission, Stark explains that “[the Pigs] also like to try and do some free form [improv] in the second act, try to call back some of the funnier moments from the first act, which the audience really enjoys. ”

But how else does the team keep “funny” fresh?  Although the team takes time in rehearsal to work and rework games to find comedic timing and flow, there is, of course, the audience element, which is challenges the actors to truly flex their funny muscles.  “You can tell what the audience’s mood and energy are like,” says Comedy Pig Courtney McLaughlin: “depending on those, you know that they will love [or] hate a few of your choices.”  Whether or not a skit works for an audience is “all trial and error,” agrees Stark.  “Some suggestions work well within the context of the game, and some don’t.  It’s improv, so you just have to roll with it!”  Another aspect of making comedy work is an investment in your characters, to open yourself fully to the audience, no holds barred.  McLaughlin explains “for me, it’s about trusting my fellow players and making strong choices that are honest and true to the character.”

So what makes a successful team?  It can be said that the ensemble aspect of mutual trust and respect is absolutely absolutely pivotal and definitely present in the Comedy Pigs.  Stark reiterates this idea: “all of the current Pigs are all strong personalities in real life and tend to support whatever each other brings to the table as it were.”  McLaughlin shares this sentiment, revealing: “hitting that perfect moment in an improv scene when you’re in the groove and the whole group has one mind is the best feeling in the world. ”  With that kind of support onstage, it’s no wonder Stark thinks “[the Pigs are] a great group and we all have a lot of fun together!”

The Comedy Pigs perform this Saturday, February 11th at 10:30pm, right after our mainstage show, End Days.  Tickets are only $13.50, so don’t miss out and order online now or call the MET box office at 301-694-4744.

* – denotes MET Company Member