By Danielle Cole
The Dandies are all about long form fandom improv! Over the last seven years, we’ve logged a lot of hours on stage, doing long form fandom improv. That’s why, today, we want to share some of the ways we’ve learned to take a fandom improv show from impulse engines to warp speed!
Five elements that help make a long form fandom improv show unforgettable
Here at The Dandies, we know that people come to our long form fandom improv shows to laugh long and prosper, so comedy and fun are a must. An unforgettable long form set usually isn’t just funny though. It also has genuine emotion. This allows audience members to connect with characters, feeling with and for them. Having emotion along with silliness and humour gives the kind of complexity and pacing that really holds the audience for an hour of improv.
2. Strong, dynamic characters
Long form fandom improv is at its best when there are strong, dynamic characters. At The Dandies, we love a good character game. For example, whenever Nine of Ten gives a number, she is very precise, listing it off down to the last decimal point as though she was reciting Pi. The Dandies’ characters also have a lot going on beyond their games though. They have histories, wants, and needs. They have powerful opinions, as well as strengths and weaknesses. All of this background keeps our characters compelling, making audiences want to see what they do month after month.
3. Strong character dynamics
It’s not just enough to have strong characters, they also have to have an interest in one another. Can you imagine how boring it would be if a character in a show had no interest in anything or anyone around them? There would be no reason for them to engage in any way. When characters have strong dynamics though, they get involved in situations, working together or against one another. Powerful dynamics also make it easier to find emotional moments as characters can affect one another.
Plot is one of the most important – and difficult – aspects of long form improv. It is even more challenging for fandom improv because you need to make sure that the plot you create feels like a spoof of your source material. When you’re doing an hour long show, you need main, secondary, and tertiary plots – just like you would in an episode of television. Then you need to create complications so characters can’t just achieve their goals right away.
Getting this structure takes time and practice. We suggest starting by looking at the source material you are going to use for you long form fandom improv. Break down how plots work in that source material. Then, get together with your troupe to discuss and practice that structure. It may feel tough to get at first, but it’s going to make you show exceptional once you have it down!
5. Audience engagement
Many audience members enjoy participating in improv shows. If you are not going to the audience for a suggestion off the top, you may want to find other ways for audience members to participate. One of the ways we use in The Dandies is sound effects. The audience helps us make the door and teleporter sounds. We also sometimes find moments to include the audience as a group of characters in the story. For example, one time at Fan Expo Canada, the audience became a horde of Borg crabs and other sea life. These types of small touches can bring big fun to your long form fandom improv show!
In the middle of preparing your long form fandom improv show? Make sure to check out Andie’s costume process from idea to full cosprov (AKA cosplay improv) look!