Crazy / Status
Let me first say that Impro Neuf International is special. We have so many variety of players under one roof. And the teams that come out of it! They create so diverse playing styles and artistic vision. Every combination is watchable. Let no one ever say to you that there is one way to do improv.
I’ve been blessed to see literally hundreds of players grow in INI, and every player is unique and each trait has a good use in improv. Today I’ll oversimplify it into 2 things: craziness level and high/low status.
In short, CRAZY players does things which are unexpected, have a thought process that may be quirky to others, and create a lot of explosive randomness to the scene. In contrast, LOGICAL players are doing the orthodox moves, which is fundamental to keep scenes grounded and building a scene. You need both: read my earlier article Improv is Creation and Destruction.
HIGH STATUS players love to take charge of the scene, either by playing high status characters or making high-status information that will make irreversible changes to the scene. LOW STATUS players love to play off what is there, following the lead and either complying to the norm (logical) or strike back with something different (crazy). Both are good.
You are never stuck in one role. You will evolve to different points in this chart in your improv journey. In fact, you need to explore the chart so that you become a versatile player and can respond to anything. That’s how you grow as an improviser.
For whatever type of player you currently are, you would find things that are easier to you and some things that can be quite frustrating. This is a laughable overgeneralization, but it may help you identify yourself:
Player: Crazy / High Status
Crazy/High players are usually fast, fun, brash and unapologetic of their choices. They love to initiate big and ruthlessly, have a lot of ideas and not afraid to bring it to the table. They are often an audience favorite because of their bold moves. They are what many people think of improvisers when they think of Whose Line Is it Anyway. Crazy/High players bring a lot of fun and keep scenes moving, and keep other people to be sharp and on their toes because of their unpredictable nature.
Source of frustration: if you are a Crazy/High player, scenes can feel difficult when your partner is not connecting to you. This can happen for a number of reasons: (1) you might be overwhelming your partner, (2) with another Crazy/High status player, no one gives way, (3) you are too much of a loose cannon for your partner to keep up. You might sometimes feel tapped out when you feel that you are bringing the heavy burden of creativity. The key here is to share. Keep up your playfulness, but give space to other players to chip in their ideas.
Player: Crazy / Low Status
Crazy/Low players love to take punches and counterpunch with something weird. They will absorb the contact but they won’t follow the rules (often, unintentionally). Crazy/Low players don’t get too hung up about their choices because they are spontaneous and not afraid to fail. Scenes with these players can lead to some very interesting uncharted territories.
Source of frustration: Crazy/Low players don’t normally like to lead scenes, they like to wait for the hit. When playing with other low status players, they may feel pressure/difficulty of having to make something happen. This may be because they become more self-aware about their craziness which they feel did not come from a place of spontaneity. If you feel this problem, don’t wait for it. Take everything your partner say as a big offer.
Player: Logical / Low Status
Logical/Low Status players will do everything for the scene. They will sacrifice themselves. Logical/Low players are rock-solid structures for other players to push a game onto. They will be ready to figure out what you are offering, and quickly make great choices to support. They will never sabotage you by pushing their own agenda — but this is not always a good thing! 😉
Source of frustration: Logical/Low players can be too much in service of the scene, that they forget to bring something themselves. They might be too cautious to give offers because they feel the information has to be in symphony with the scene. You should not be afraid to be a little reckless at times, even if it surprise your partner, or, especially when it surprises your partner! Because you should grab your own share of the fun, and that’s where most of the best improv is!
Player: Logical / High Status
Players who are Logical/High love scenes which make sense. They are often great directors who can identify a diamond in the rough within a scene and have the tools to nudge the scene their direction to unearth that gem. They are great at narratives and discovering major themes, and can create some great masterpieces even though it is improv.
Source of frustration: Players who are Logical/High often feel frustrated when their partners don’t follow the script — even though there is no script! They have to learn to let go of control and trust that their collaborative ideas is always better than their own ideas. Bring your ideas, but don’t put expectations on your partner. This will just get you upset. Focus on reacting to the reaction.