By Matt Fotis
Lengthy shape scenic improv started with the Harold. The comedian philosophy of this way all started an period of comedy marked by means of aid, belief, and collaboration. This e-book tells of the Harold, starting with the improvement of improv theatre, during the tensions and evolutions that resulted in its production at iO, and to its use in modern filmmaking.
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Additional info for Long Form Improvisation and American Comedy: The Harold
The Compass Players were off to a highly successful start, but things didn’t stay rosy for long. The group’s popularity, and Wranovics disillusionment with the bar profits that The Compass brought in, prompted Shepherd to move the group to a second location in November 1955. The Dock, a Hyde Park nightclub, became the new home of The Compass, with a 140-seat cabaret. This move marked the beginning of the end for The Compass Players. Sills left on a Fulbright to England and took wife, and Compass actress, Barbara Harris, with him.
Instead he ended up bringing it to St. Louis. The Landesman family was trying to bring a branch to St. Louis at the same time Flicker and Shepherd were trying to set up the New York branch. Flicker recalls, “[Walter Landesman thought] I was a phony trying to steal the theatre. So I said, ‘You bring the Compass to St. Louis and I’ll go to New York’ . . ’ So I went to St. ”40 The St. Louis Compass did not receive the same training from Viola Spolin and featured several members who had never seen the Chicago branch perform (although Flicker quickly hired Chicago standouts Nichols and May), but they had the benefit of learning from the former’s mistakes.
This exercise has found its way into numerous scenes, with an overbearing character bossing around a servant and with the servant creating comedy by pointing out the foibles and ignorance of the master. As the above Ferrari McSpeedy example demonstrates, modern improvisers also have their own stock characters. In the Improvised Shakespeare Company at iO, for example, Andy Carey almost always plays a form of Harlequin in performance. 2 Most importantly, however, a commedia performer was reliant on the practice of employing standard lazzi.
Long Form Improvisation and American Comedy: The Harold by Matt Fotis