Car Crash Improv

I reckon a good driver could make for a good improviser. I can’t drive. However, for the purposes of simplifying my analogy between driving and improvising, I will stick to the one type of car I can drive.


Depending on your upbringing, this is either a dodgem or a bumper car. (If you call it a dodgem, you’re thinking about how deftly you can avoid other vehicles. If you call it a bumper car, you’re aiming to cause as much disruption as possible.)

Whatever you call it, there are only two controls: accelerate and steer. To me, improvising sometimes feels as simple as that. Yet for all its simplicity, it’s not easy to control. It’s all too easy to stick your foot down and come blasting into a scene at full throttle, with very little awareness of anything around you. You’ll end up straight into a wall, or another improviser. It’s hard to be fully aware of what’s around you when you’re going so fast.

If want to avoid being an aggressive improviser who bumps into things, you may wish to take more time to pay more attention to what’s around you. But you risk the opposite problem. It’s hard to get anywhere when you’re sitting in your car weighing up every obstacle in your path. And it’s actually harder to manoeuvre if you’re at a snail’s pace. Just go. Go anywhere. It doesn’t matter. It’s better to be crashing than creeping along tentatively. Where’s the fun in that?

I don’t believe that either “fast improv” or “slow improv” is intrinsically better. The two skills – awareness and boldness – aren’t contradictory. They’re complementary. The bigger the move you want to make, the more aware of what’s around you you need to be. You may actually get to the point of the scene quicker in the long run if you slow down on the corners.  A great deal of energy and movement a great way to start, but a scene will hit a wall if nobody is paying attention.

There are no fixed rules about how to initiate scenes or develop them, any more than the fairground has a Highway Code. These things will come down to a mixture of personal style and in-the-moment intuition. But… imagine that your whole team is sat at the controls of one car, like clowns. All your hands are on the wheel. All your feet are on the pedal. You had better be all steering together, and all accelerating together, or you’ll get nowhere, or end up somewhere nobody intended.


One Comment on “Car Crash Improv”

  1. Mind-blowing post. What exactly are the sources?
    Normally think it is just a little tricky to start out

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