I believe that all good improvisation is much like baking. If you don’t follow the recipe you’re going to land up with egg on your face!
Now I know you’re all going to be throwing your hands up in the air and say, “improv has no rules, you fool!” Yes, I agree it is one of the freest forms of expression out there and thus has no rules. However, when you break it down you do need a well-balanced set of ingredients for it to work. Let me explain…
In baking if you don’t follow the recipe for sponges they will either feel like a brick or collapse. Although you can experiment with flavours you cannot mess with the base. This is so vitally important. If you’ve decided to commit to a baked treat you want the best out of it. If you don’t listen in improv no-one will know where they are or what they’re doing. Therefore there will be total anarchy and the scene will collapse.
Certain baking recipes tell us to combine fruit & vegetables to make a great carrot & banana cake. It seems weird at first, but when you do the results are tasty. The same applies to the most important technique/philosophy of improv; to say yes! It may seem absurd but saying yes to strange offers can lead to bizarre, interesting and engaging scenes we never thought to explore.
Making pastry from scratch is a daunting and time consuming task. If you want it you just have to go for it. It may not turn out exactly how you wanted, but at least you went for it. I made my first batch of homemade pork sausage rolls recently including my own puff pastry. I was nervous and excited. The whole process took two hours. I just stuck to the recipe and went for it. I committed. The results were 6 tasty sausage rolls. I never thought I could do it, but I just committed myself to the task and it worked. An improv scene or character will fall flat on its face if you don’t commit to your choices.
These three “guidelines” were taught to me by my good friend John Cremer. They are my go to techniques when I feel I am not improvising well or if things just aren’t working. They are fool proof. I’ve spent this blog telling what not to do so here’s what I think you should in order to create the perfect baked improv treat: