Everyone likes free gifts, especially if it’s something you can use. And lucky for you, I know exactly the best gift you could ever want. See how cute and furry it is? Oh, I’m sorry. I forgot you were allergic. What’s happening to your face?
Giving a gift in improv is exactly like the scene I painted in your mind. I gave you something cute and fluffy, like a kitten. I then gave something to help you react to the gift… literally. You became allergic to the pet I tossed in your arms and responded in your mind to the gesture. Sorry about the rash. It will clear up soon.
The three questions to ask when giving a gift are:
Is it meaningful to the scene?
Does it help build character or setting?
Can it be used later in the scene?
When doing an improv scene, specifically in the character build-up, it is important to establish certain quirks in each actor. I could have said, “oh, look at that kitten,” which would also add a small gift to the scene. However, with adding and not giving to the scene or your character, the weight falls on you to give it purpose to the scene. A good improviser could pick it up and run with it (and you’re smart so you would probably run out of the scene), yet it becomes more of a burden for you to continue.
As an improv actor, I must improve my partner and help them through the scene. By adding extra character development, and adding a gesture, I helped carry the scene to you. The dialogue becomes meaningful and fun in its own way.
Tossing kittens around may not work all the time (and you’ll get a call from the ethics committee), so that is why we Rolodex the best idea before we give the gift. Once I gave the gift, or threw it in this case, you must choose to accept it and give another. This is the basic concept behind the “Yes, and” rule of improv acting. By the way, here’s some ointment for that rash… ignore the poison logo.
So what was one of your best gifts, or scene moments you shared with someone on or off stage?