In order to play improvisational theater, we need the courage to portray scenes and characters with rough strokes. The sometimes subliminal, sometimes explicit promise “we play everything” puts the bar enormously high. We play the security adviser of an American president, we improvise a Palestrina-like madrigal or a satire on gender relations, we create a two-hour four-act situated in Poland in the 1920s, we tell Kyrgyz tales and dance improvising in the style of Pina Bausch. These presumptions can be met only with courage and assertion. Of course we will fail again and again, but the audience loves our courage to accept this failure.
It becomes problematic if we take the laughter of the audience as a yardstick for our game. The audience laughs equally about the courage of the failing as well as about the successful comedy of the scene. The laugh about failure is faster to achieve, simply by playing cheap. The courage to accept the rough strokes, the unfinished character is then transformed into farce, into deliberately bad acting.
We deliberately play badly when we
– choose deliberately stupid characters,
– overact emotions and reactions,
– consciously sing or dance badly,
– sacrifice stories and scenes for a gag,
– serve the cliché instead of exploring the specific.
The courage to accept your own limitations and still improvise does not mean that we have to hide our physical, intellectual and artistic abilities in order to be good improvisers.
Improvisers who take the path of deliberately bad play are not particularly brave, but choose the path of the quick laughter for fear of actually daring and then actually being confronted with the limits of their own ability and true failure. They deliberately play badly because they shy away from the unknown because they are afraid of improvisation.

Deliberately bad
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