By Velvet Wells
When it comes to performing nerd comedy – or improvising in general, I have taken Susan Messing’s quote to heart:
“If I don’t have fun, it’s my own damn fault.”
I was quick to adopt the philosophy. Following my sense of fun was the easiest, most productive way to help my improv partner shine and therefore give them what they needed to have fun too.
Here are four ways I like to play in nerd comedy shows:
1. Living in the moment
Recently I watched 47 Meters Down, a movie with a simple premise: two women are trapped in a shark-cage at the bottom of the ocean.
As a former scuba diver, I had put off seeing it because I couldn’t suspend my disbelief that the situation might be survivable. Sidenote: I was also uninterested in yet another movie about women in harms way.
It took two thirds of the movie to get there, but, once I was engaged, I felt fully immersed in the world. I was holding my breath, squirming in the tense situations, and worried about the lack of air.
At The Dandies nerd comedy shows, I get caught up in the reality. I am invested in the details of the location, the intricacies of the obstacles and especially the joyful and conflicted moments between characters.
2. Being referential
Whether I am performing fandom parodies with The Dandies or a guest on non-fandom shows, I get great joy in making specific references as a way to add flavor to our improvised scene.
I am often unable to mask my glee at Star Trek technobabble in Holodeck Follies, an obscure Harry Potter spell during Hogwarts Follies, or Deley (Dean and Crowley) ship moments in Supernatural — I am a fanboy cosplaying life in each universe!
3. Making puns
Being referential and making inside jokes are great for connecting with fandom audiences, but I am also very quick to make a pun if the situation allows.
At the Fan Expo Canada version of Hogwarts Follies, one improvised scene took place at a Quidditch match. My character, Several Snakes, was in the stands watching the game. The golden snitch whizzed by my head and through the audience.
When the characters jumped off stage and started chasing each other, and the snitch, I made the comment,
“Golden snitches get stitches.”
I don’t plan anything for improv shows, but I get a special delight making puns on stage. Audience reactions amplify the joy of putting together the right combination of in-the-moment references and word play. The best outcome is a split in audience reaction with an equal amount of groan, begrudging cheer, and outright enjoyment.
I love all these ways to play at The Dandies’ nerd comedy shows, but my favourite has to be…
Almost two decades ago, I left performing behind to establish my family. I was dutifully committed to family and work. I was lonely for friends and missing being creative. I got into karaoke so much that as I travelled the world, it became my go-to activity. I was even invited to compete professionally when I visited Ireland.
While I enjoyed singing to pre-recorded tracks, my passion was further ignited when I joined a jam band. The band was content to hit the studio and play cover songs and jam original material. I was hungry for an audience. We tried it once and it was fun for me, but the band didn’t enjoy it enough to want more gigs.
Eight years ago, I rejoined the improv community with the specific goal of finding others who liked to perform made up music in front of audiences. For five years, I got just that, and then started The Dandies as a nerd comedy side project.
As the fun from the other group faded, The Dandies gained more of my focus and time. I tried to leave music out of Holodeck Follies, but it is my favourite way to improvise. We have had a season of musical Star Trek and multiple episodes with barely a song. Our October show had four songs, and I didn’t start any of them! Do you know how hard it is to play the Monster of the Week when you are having so much fun singing?
What a wonderful problem to have.
Have a fandom you love that we don’t do? Let us know and we’ll try to bring you even more fun in the future!