How we create hour-long, improvised nerd comedy stories

Here at The Dandies, we get asked a lot how we can create hour-long, improvised nerd comedy stories in our shows.

If you’ve never been to one of our shows, each one functions like a new episode for the fandom we are spoofing. We all take on primary characters – though we will often make guest appearances as other characters, as needed. Then we tell a single, hour-long narrative set in a satirical version of the fandom universe we are focusing on.

Now, that everyone’s up to speed, let’s get to your most common questions about how we can create these improvised narratives…

How improvised are our hour-long, improvised nerd comedy stories

We always know what character we will primarily be spoofing ahead of our nerd comedy shows. That way, we can have a costume reminiscent of that character. Sometimes we also have an agreed upon key location. For example, in Holodeck Follies, we all know our main ship is the USS Hummingbird.

That’s about it! We don’t plan our stories or know what direction they are going to go in. We also don’t write jokes ahead of time. That’s all made up on the spot!

The Dandies at Fan Expo Canada 2018 - Hogwarts Follies - Harry Potter parody
The Dandies at Fan Expo Canada 2018 – Hogwarts Follies – Harry Potter parody. Photo: Josh Henderson

How can you improvise an hour-long, improvised nerd comedy story?

In order to create an hour-long, improvised story, you need a number of elements.

1. Experience and improv skills

All The Dandies are experienced improvisors. Most of us have trained at or performed with The Second City. Many of us have also trained with other improv companies around town, such as Bad Dog Theatre Company and The Social Capital Theatre. Some of us also work as scripted comedic and dramatic actors. We bring all our training and experience to our nerd comedy shows, giving us the skills to create an improvised hour-long story.

2. Teamwork

Have you ever heard the saying, “teamwork makes the dream work”? Well, when it comes to fandom improv, teamwork makes the story work. If one of us is stuck, we always have faith that someone else will make a choice to advance the story.

That teamwork doesn’t come out of nowhere though. We build and maintain it by:

  • Supporting one another on stage
  • Caring about each other as people
  • Rehearsing together
  • Hanging out between shows

While we work hard, we also have fun together, especially if we’re on the road for shows.

3. Trust

Just as important as teamwork is that we trust one another. Our characters don’t always get along and often make fun of one another. That’s why it’s so important that we all feel comfortable with and supported by each other. Spending quality time together and making sure that it is always clear when our characters’ choices don’t reflect our own is key to doing that.

4. Knowing our stuff

Here’s the thing with nerd comedy… everyone can tell if you’re faking it. That’s why we always make sure we spoof fandoms we know and love. Having not just knowledge of but a passion for our source material helps us in the moment as we decide where to take a story.

5. Fun!

Comedy should be fun! We love what we do. If we didn’t, we probably would have a harder time creating hour-long improvised nerd comedy stories. Since we do love our work – and doing it together, though, getting to make a story as a team is a sheer joy.

If you want to know more about how our nerd comedy shows are created, check out how Danielle Cole creates her fandom improv characters and how Velvet Wells prepares for conventions like Fan Expo Canada!