Improspectives

Improv skills lead to success

Improv Should NOT Be a Surprise

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My friend Rick Maue, a talented performer and innovator in the branch of stage magic called mentalism, identifies three types of performances:

  • Theater, which is a show people come to see in a formal setting
  • Entertainment at events such as banquets, where the performance is part of the overall evening’s activities
  • Filler, where the audience has absolutely no idea you will be there or that there will be any kind of show

I’d like to add a fourth type: Hell, which is a Virgin Atlantic flight with musicians and improv comedians roaming the aisles. Don’t believe me? Here’s part of a Fast Company article describing the scheme:

Virgin Atlantic Little Red, a U.K. domestic rebranding of Virgin Atlantic, will feature “in-flight gigs” on selected flights that include live music and improv comedians. Entertainment will take place on flights headed to Edinburgh and Manchester, and performers will be selected from the talent pool at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

But here’s the kicker: While the acts will be mentioned on Virgin Atlantic’s Facebook and Twitter pages, the flights they will be performing on will be a surprise. We’re guessing that business travelers, improv comedy, and a confined environment will be a volatile mixture, but that’s just us.

I do improv and stage magic and think I’m pretty entertaining, but I only take a few strolling mentalism gigs at company parties a year. I want to be sure I’ll be a good fit and often look for reasons to break off from a group early rather than overstay my welcome. I don’t want to be what sports commentator Joe Buck refers to as “the guy at parties who insists on doing card tricks no one wants to see”. I don’t mind stopping to watch a street performer for a few minutes. In fact, I tipped a terrific human statue when my wife and I were in Tallinn, Estonia, in July.

livingstatue

I’d rather donate three pints of blood in an hour than be on a flight with a live musician or improvisers. I’m one of you, guys, and I don’t begrudge you the money, but I will not interact with you.

I think someone in Virgin corporate learned the wrong lesson from the funny PA announcements some Southwest flight attendants make. Those presentations work because they’re fast, they’re hilarious, and they’re over.

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