Most improv shows begin with the solicitation of a suggestion.
Depending on your audience, you might get something great or, more likely, you’ll get an item of food or a body part normally covered by a bathing suit.
I’ve seen some teams try to steer the audience away from that by asking a different question. “Name something that’s important to you,” or, “What’s your favorite song?” or, “What’s a favorite gift you’ve received?”
Regardless of how you get it, the suggestion is simply a jumping-off point. If your show sucks, you can’t blame it on the suggestion. After all, you don’t credit your suggestion for a good show, do you?
Think of your suggestion like the mosquito trapped in amber in “Jurassic Park.” It’s your team’s job to suck out the dino DNA and build a bad-ass human-chomping dinosaur with it.
If the audience shouts, “Cow!” you could easily begin a scene with a cow. That’s fine. But what does “cow” mean to you? Part of the food chain? A hurtful slur toward a fat person? A word we teach babies? There’s more to “cow” than just “cow.”
If you were a painter or a novelist using a cow in your art, many viewers would try to surmise why you chose the cow. It must be a symbol. It must mean something. Right? It wasn’t selected at random.
Similarly, the suggestion from the audience should send you on an exploration on a theme. They want to see you take the suggestion’s DNA and turn it into a dinosaur. Harness your group’s unique, dynamic mind and build something ferocious.
Got an improv question? E-mail me at boilingpointimprov[at]gmail.com