Guestpost #40: Kevin Patrick Robbins – Ten things I’ve learned from teaching improv comedy

Kevin, or KPR, is the founder of the Impatient Theatre Co. in Toronto. Here is his bio: KPR is a dynamic and driven person, and somebody I am only just starting to scratch the surface with. I will say, though, that taking classes at the Impatient and joining this community has been one of the most positive and energizing things I have done, and I think what he has created in this city is remarkable.
  1. Sometimes you just need to add one more piece of information.
  2. The secret to comedy is: patterns – patterns of behaviour, patterns of speech, patterns of action.
  3. Repetition is not a pattern, it’s just repetition. Saying the same thing over and over is not a pattern, it’s just saying the same thing over and over. Saying the same thing in a different way is not a pattern; it’s just saying the same thing in a different way.
  4. Three is a magic number. Patterns work best in groups of three. In improv, we call this the “Rule of Threes.” The first instance, mention, action is just bringing an idea into existence. The second instance, mention, action helps to establish pattern. The third instance, mention, action cements the pattern and heightens it.
  5. The secret to comedy is: making connections – between characters, between ideas, between themes.
  6. Cultural references are not connections, they’re just references. In literary terms these are called allusions, but that’s just a fancy word meaning “references.” Your subtle, oh-so-cool Schoolhouse Rock! reference is not a connection; it’s just a subtle, not-as-cool-as-you-think cultural reference that probably reveals your age a little.
  7. A connection is a link between two previously developed characters, ideas or themes. Clunky shows with weak pattern development often culminate with the group trying to connect every idea to all other previous ideas and cram it into a single final scene; this type of scene is referred to as a “Connection Island” scene. You can avoid this with strong pattern development. Connections in improvisation allow the audience to recall information they have previously heard and reframe it in new context that shifts its meaning in a humorous way or reveals a truth.
  8. The secret to comedy is: truth – truth of behaviour, truth of ideology, truth of the human condition.
  9. Stating an opinion is not revealing a truth, it’s just stating an opinion. Opinions don’t have to be positive, but negative opinions or opinions that are in opposition to your scene partner tend towards conflict, debate and argument – this is known as looking for “the point of conflict,” which should be renamed looking for “the point at which you give your scene permission to suck.” Opinions are a great way to establish points-of-view for your characters – is a racist, believes in faeries, the number zero is her hero – but they’re just throwaway lines if not reinforced with action, behaviour.
  10. Truth is about getting to the heart of the human condition. Human behaviour is hilarious and comical, so present your characters in a way that their behaviour rings true and has integrity. If your characters are not believable – if they lack integrity – I will not be empathetic towards or engaged with your character, your scene, your show. If you reveal something to me that rings true, it will resonate with me and cause me to react through laughter, a gasp and, occasionally, tears.
  11. The end of your scene can always be found at the very beginning.


Filed under tenthingsivelearned, Uncategorized

2 responses to “Guestpost #40: Kevin Patrick Robbins – Ten things I’ve learned from teaching improv comedy

  1. I just made up this comment off the top of my head😛

  2. Awesome article, good site design, stick to the good work

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