Don’t be a walking stereotype when you come out on stage—no scratch that—don’t be a walking stereotype. Period.
But especially not when you’re in an improv scene where other people can get offended, even more so than in your ordinary, day to day interactions.
Here’s what I mean: if you find yourself in a scene and you’re playing a man (whether you’re a man or not), and suddenly, lo and behold, it turns out that you are madly in love with your scene partner—also a man. Don’t do that thing that might be flitting across the back of your mind—to play your new homosexual character as a stereotype. Just. Don’t.
Men playing women, and women playing men—we get that it can be funny* to play to prescribed gender roles. Oh look, I’m a woman, I must be getting my nails done in this scene! We’re probably talking about men or getting married! And my hopes and dreams—of meeting men or getting married!
Oh look, I’m a man, maybe I’m working under a car or grabbing my crotch while shouting at a woman walking by! Maybe I’m drinking a beer at a sports bar—while grabbing my crotch and shouting at a woman walking by!
Please. How many actual humans do you really know like this? If you said anything other than zero, let me clue you in on something—you don’t know this person as well as you think you do, because these complete stereotypes? They don’t exist in the Real World. They’re constructs dancing across your T.V. screens, or perhaps in (really poorly written) books. They’re flat characters. And if you think you know someone like this in real life, you’re not digging deep enough.
So I beg of you, dear improvisers, please do not do yourself and your audience the disservice of being a flat character. A walking stereotype. A paper cutout. Because if you play your characters as your audience expects (and really, really hopes you won’t) you might get a cheap laugh or two, but you’ll more than likely offend the majority of your audience. Remember, they’re dynamic characters watching. Real people.
Give them the treat of playing the unexpected—just be real. It won’t offend them, it won’t be distracting, and I promise, you’ll be able to dive so much deeper into that magic.
*And by funny, I mean old hat, been there done that, tired, boring, you know—we get it.