characters

Personality Quizzes Are Getting Out of Hand

quizNo doubt you've seen the recent influx of faux-personality quizzes on Facebook lately. Most are titled like, "Find out which character you are from 'The Avengers!'" It's a short, multiple choice questionnaire that uses a film, TV show or general pop culture reference to decide who your doppelganger is though simple preferences and everyday decisions. Results usually end up being something you don’t agree with, "You took The Avengers quiz and got Hawkeye!"

"Hawkeye? Dahfuh," you say.

Now, let me be clear -- I see nothing wrong with finding out which fictional character best embodies you. It’s endearing, maybe even empowering, to know that you share the same fictional outlook as fictional Buzz Lightyear. But the quizzes seem to be on a downward spiral lately.

Last week, for some reason I took one about Dawson’s Creek. I have never seen Dawson's Creek, and my knowledge only reaches as far as the song. Even then it’s just the opener, "Idontwannawait...for our lives to be sloweeerr?" Anyways, I'm a Joey. Typical, Andrew. But if it weren't for the fact that there are a million of these quizzes posted hourly by friends, I wouldn't be tempted to waste my time ones like this that I have no clue about.

My biggest peeve with taking them is that you always know how to get to your final destination way too easy. Like when prompted to find out which "Sherlock" character I was -- and of course I wanna be the OG badass himself -- I just chose the most neurotic and self-supporting answers I can find. "There's been a murder! You get to the crime scene and…"  The correct suggestion, "Examine the crime scene for clues others might miss," practically said, "DO EXACTLY AS SHERLOCK DO AND BE A BOSS ON THE SCENE."

I found a few other terrible quizzes on the interwebs, too; Buzzfeed is definitely the worst. They've given up on characters and started doing food. I’m mozzarella? I’m mozzarella?! Dammit, all this time I thought I was a nice feta or at least a Camembert. Vacation spots, "Girls" characters, Hipster meters -- you don’t know me, Buzzfeed, so back off!

But if the quiz isn't super clear about what choices will take you to the answer you want, it's always something ridiculous that you weren't expecting:

OMG! What SitCom Character Are You?

You have food in front of you, what are you eating?

A NY Hot Dog A Cosmopolitan A Home Cooked Meal * A Cup Of Coffee At Your Usual Spot

How would you describe your home life?

Mom Walked Out On Dad, Raised By Father Close Knit Group, Lots Of Things Tie You Together You're A Cousin From Philly Just Trying To Fit In You Don’t Get Along With Your Mother *

You have free time where are you?

At The Coffee Shop Still At Work In The Bar Sitting Around At Home *

*SEE ANSWER BELOW!* * * * * * * * * * *

babydino

CONGRATS! You're the Baby from the sorta hit, prehistoric SitCom, Dinosaurs!

Moral of the story to the world at large, please stop making/taking quizzes, or I’ll have to believe my fictional characters and food preferences as everything I know in life.

 

Andy Daly and Character Acting

Andy DalyI've been really getting into Fast Company's Master Class series online, which interviews successful people in a variety of creative jobs for their tips and tricks. Last night, I read one that I thought would interest improvisers. In "Master Class: Andy Daly on How to be a Character," Daly shares some ways that can help you become a better character on stage. And we all know that character work can be challenging for a lot of performers (me included).

For example, a lot of people think characters always have to speak with an accent. Not true, Daly says.

Characters should have different ways of moving physically, and different ways of speaking. It doesn’t have to be dialect. People have different modes of speech, but there are no rules. I can imagine somebody being a great character comic who doesn’t follow my rules at all and in some way presents every character as a variation on the same guy.

Daly also suggest using your surroundings to influence your character choices.

Some of my characters were inspired just by where I was. Improv Olympic, for instance, was practically on Hollywood and Vine, which was such a seedy, dilapidated area then. The guy who’s new to Hollywood, that character grew out of just being in that part of town...

The whole article is worth a read and will give you ideas about character acting that you can bring to the DCH stage.

Other Master Class articles you may be interested in:

How to Develop Bits Like a Late Night Talk Show Writer How Tig Notaro is Finding the Comedy in Tragedy (Without the Time) How to Write for Any Medium (From a Guy Who's Written for The New Yorker, Saturday Night Light," and Pixar)

What are some suggestions you have for creating characters and maintaining them throughout a scene? Please let us know in the comments.

Know Everything

Shark by Ty LettauA recent headline on Lifehacker read "What You Want to Do is Who You Are," and it reminded me of something Rich Talarico said during a Dallas Comedy Festival workshop: Know Everything. It's a two-word sentence, but we often forget it when we step on stage to perform improv. We get in our heads that scenes are about discovery--and they are!--however, they're about discovering each other.

"Long-form improvisation isn't about jokes and the cheap laughs," Del Close said. "It's about people exploring and discovering situations and relationships."

The most difficult scenes to perform are the ones in which the improvisers don't know who they are or what's going on. Once those elements are nailed down, it's easier and more fun to figure out the what of the situation (another of Talarico's lessons).

Do yourself and your scene partner a solid next time you perform: know everything. Know who you are and where you are.

But, but, but, I can hear you stuttering, isn't improv about being flexible and going with the flow? Yes, it is. However, you can still know everything and go with the flow.

For example, imagine a performer stepping on stage acting like she has a broken leg (that's who you are). Not noticing the character trait, a scene partner steps out and immediately says, "We're going to have to swim all night or the sharks will eat us" (the where of the scene). More often than not, the first performer will drop the character trait in an effort to go with the flow. A more interesting scene, though, is one in which a character with a broken leg has to avoid sharks and how this will affect the two characters' relationship.

Knowing everything creates richer scenes, and the less wishy-washy we can be on stage, the less wishy-washy the audience will be to us.

(Photo via Flickr: Ty Lettau / Creative Commons)

Improv What You Know

Five Basic Emotions by René van BelzenPlaying a character on stage is not always easy or comfortable for a lot of improvisers. Usually, actors have costumes, masks or props that help them get into characters. Improvisers don't have these luxuries. They make do with imaginary worlds and items. There are many ways, though, you get into a character. One easy way is to change your voice. Another is to have some sort of physical attribute (e.g., a limp, a nervous tic, etc.). You can also pretend to be someone you know and impersonate them.

Pretending to be someone you know is similar to the phrase, "write what you know." It's a phrase that's often misunderstood, according to author Nathan Englander. He says in a recent Big Think video that writing what you know isn't necessarily about writing from an autobiographical viewpoint. It's about something else.

“Write what you know” isn’t about events, says Englander. It’s about emotions. Have you known love? jealousy? longing? loss? Did you want that Atari 2600 so bad you might have killed for it? If so, it doesn't matter whether your story takes place in Long Island or on Mars--if you’re writing what you know, readers will feel it.

The same advice applies to improv. Create characters based in emotions first, and you'll have solid scenes. Get comfortable expressing emotions. Then it won't matter if you're playing a ditsy grandmother or a Bronx bully, because audience members will remember how you made them feel, how they related to your emotions on stage.

How do you get into characters? Do you find it easier or harder to perform improv as a character? Please let us know in the comments.

Bonus Video: Nathan Englander on writing "what you know."

(Photo via Flickr: René van Belzen / Creative Commons)