Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Thank Bob You're Here

I am referring to the studio audience that was directly plucked from an episode of America’s Funniest Home Videos and asked to watch a new improv show called, “Thank God You’re Here…”. In three parts I’ll tell you why this show won’t make it to warmer weather.

First of all, you should never televise improv. If you do, you should never expect it to fit within the parameters of real television. Network executives must resist the urge to edit. No canned laughter, no huge chunks missing (someone’s hat is in his hands then back on his head again in half a second), and no quick cuts away from someone clearly stumped to say something funny. And that brings up another point. No trying to say something funny!

Television viewers at home watch what the camera angle tells them to watch. They can only laugh at what is given to them. Improv crowds get to look at the multitude of things going on. If one audience member is looking at a lady playing a rebellious teen, his friend nudges him to look at her father who is yawning, and both viewers laugh at the realization.

I am a student of the Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theater, and so I was not taught any of the games that you see on Whose Line Is It Anyway? I would love to see Whose Line…? try a Harold because I’m sure all the players know how to do one. But they won’t because the show gives people an improv they can stomach; it’s served in small doses. A longer version of improvisational comedy involves scenes in which the games are not defined but discovered. The problem with TGYH was that it had neither. It had improv players carrying the scene as if they were scripted and gesturing to the “surprised” celebrity guests when it was their turn to talk.
Planted player: “Everyone say their name now. I am Sir Galahad of The Prosperous Rounds, and you…?”
Mo’nique: I…am the QUEEN OF SHEBA! (Laugh track from ALF fades in, cut to Dave Foley smiling…/wincing?)
It was like watching Mad Libs without the Wacky.

This new show could take a cue from SNL and get more clever sponsorhip.

“Tonight’s episode is brought to you buy Budweiser Select. Thank God there’s Beer.”

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