I just read this excellent article called Louis CK, TJ & Dave and the Art of Slow Comedy in Splitsider.
In the past, I’ve been instructed to make sure my scene partner and I communicate the following things in the first 3-5 lines:
- Who we are
- Who we are to each other
- How we feel about each other
- What each of us wants
- What the scene is about (or the “game”)
That’s a lot of info to get across in a short amount of time.
As a result, a couple of things can happen:
- We feel pressure to make offers that sound something like this: “Steve, as your older brother, Mark the Zookeeper, I want you to come to work on time, but you never do. And on top of that, you always give me some sort of crazy excuse, that I eventually accept despite being initially mad at you.” This is not as fun because one person is deciding everything in advance. There’s little room for surprise and the joy of building something together with your scene partner.
- We feel the pressure to create the funny instead of discovering it, causing our scenes to go to “crazytown” instead of being real.
But maybe this pressure is also a function of time and cast size. Given the same 25-minute time slot, two people will probably play a lot slower than eight because they’re not fighting for stage time.
Then again, many improvisers and eight-person troupes can play it real AND get to the funny fast because they’re talented, experienced and hardworking.
My opinion is that slow and fast improv are equally fun and rewarding when they both have truth.