"How to Tell If You’re Improvising or Falling Asleep on Stage" by Darcy Armstrong

Comedy is tough. Sometimes you think that you’re doing comedy, but really you’re sleeping. For example, in the above photo, we see two people doing comedy and one person sleeping. You can tell he is sleeping by the way his eyes are closed and he has his head resting on his arms. This is a classic sleeping pose. You can tell Andrew is doing comedy because he has his thumb out like, “Get a load of this guy,” a classic dig at a sleeping person. Throughout this article, I’ll help you walk through some different scenes and figure out the sleepers and the comedians.

Here we see a lot of comedians and one little sneaky sleeper. You may think Timmy is sleeping by the door; however, you would be wrong. He is very alert because he is being held up by a fellow comedian, Shawn Frambach, who is also very awake. You can see Christie’s extreme disappointment at being in the scene with a sleeper in the way she has her arms folded and is looking at him very disappointed. That’s right, Nick has fallen asleep in this scene. How could Nick have avoided this disaster? Maybe getting more sleep. Maybe he stayed up all night admiring his very cute dog? We’ll never know. But congratulations, you’re getting better at spotting those sneaky comedy sleepers. 

We’re switching gears for this one, so I hope you can stay with me. That’s right, we’re looking at sketch comedy. These three comedians have written down jokes instead of making them up off the top of their heads. I didn’t mean to throw you for a loop, but you’re learning very quickly. Here, Maggie has fallen asleep in the middle of a scene. Colten and Jade are clearly very concerned as to how to continue the scene while Maggie takes a quick nap. Maybe, Maggie still thinks she is doing comedy. Maybe, in her dreams, Maggie is standing in front of a sold-out crowd at Madison Square Garden. However, we can tell, as comedy vs. sleep experts, that Maggie is actually sleeping.

After that toughie, I’m here to give you an easy one. In this photo, we clearly have two comedians. One mixing a bowl hilariously, while the other grabs something off the counter to help out. What a doozie of a laugher. But seated in the middle is our sleeping culprit. Rob Howe, taking a little rest in the middle of an improv jam! Rob, you gotta be awake to do comedy, buddy. You can tell Rob is sleeping by the way he has his hands resting on his legs, just relaxing into the slumber. Give him just another minute and that hat will be pulled down over his eyes as he drifts off to sleep.

You feeling cocky? You think you’ve got a handle on it? Well, here’s a really tricky one. This is an improv graduation. They are doing a bit! How can you tell who is sleeping and who is not? You think that it’s Nika? Wrong. Neeka is clearly cradling a sweet little improv baby. Only one person in this photo is yawning. A classic sign of a sleeping person. That’s right, our dear Jay Jacoby has fallen asleep mid-song. Jay, what are you doing? Get some vitamins, chug an energy drink, and power through. You only graduate once, Jay!

We’re back in the world of sketch comedy for this one. You’re experienced now, professionals. I’ll give you a hint. This photo was taken at an 11 p.m. Sketch Dash show. Did you say both? Both comedians are sleeping? You really think we would allow two comedians to just sleep on stage and expect people to pay to watch that? You’re not as quick as you thought, Sherlock! This was a trick question. Chelsea and Collin are both VERY awake and pretending to be stoners in high school. Waynes World has nothing on them! 

We’ve come full circle. You’ve seen this one before. One improviser, one sleeper. So who is it? Cesar has taken Jua’s place, but he’s awake and alert! He’s got his eyes fixated on Jason. Jason has his hand out as if to brace himself for a fall. Why would he be falling? Because Jason is asleep! Jason has fallen asleep during an improv scene and left Cesar trapped behind the C in DCH to save the scene. I hope that one didn’t trick you too much. You’ve come a long way.

That’s right. Now that you are correctly able to identify who is sleeping in an improv scene and who is doing comedy, you can see my secret shame. In the middle of this improv scene, when I was supposed to be launching into space with my fellow astronauts, I fell asleep. So I’ve taken these steps today to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else. If you see someone sleeping in an improv or sketch scene, wake them up, let them know. We have to fight this improviser by improviser, scene by scene, or you too one day could be caught… sleeping in an improv scene. 

Darcy Armstrong is a graduate of the Dallas Comedy House improv, sketch writing, and storytelling program. She writes comedy occasionally, walks her dog frequently, drinks chardonnay at the DCH bar constantly, and performs with Glistlefoot and Serious Robots.

(All photos by Darcy Armstrong except for the last one, taken by Kaspars Skels.)