By Cory Hammond
I have had the pleasure of teaching Improv to kids for the last five years. My favorite part about this is the inevitable ridiculousness that ensues when kids get to fly by the seat of their pants. Granted most scene work devolves into players chasing each other around the room screaming, but some really ridiculous stuff is uttered sometimes during a class session. I carry a notebook with me that I keep quotes in. Here are some of the gems I have collected over the years. Some of the quotes happen organically while a scene is going. Like the boy who created a scene where nobody liked him. He justified it by saying, “Everyone backs away from me because I have gas, I love beans!” Or the fourth grade girl who was discussing a recent purchase,“I just got a baby elephant; boy does he have a BIG bladder!”
Or the three person scene discussing Greek mythology,
Kid #1: Is she Medusa?
Kid #2: No, she’s Medusa’s cousin.
Kid #3: Madonna?
Sometimes the perfect quotes present themselves while kids try to duck my side coaching. Once a seventh grader created a scene where he was waiting for a party to start, “Ok, what are you going to do for a half hour?” I asked. He put his arms up in the shape the hands of a clock and advanced them ahead.
“Later,” he said…
Or the time I gave the suggestion of Disneyland to a couple of fifth graders. I made sure to explain that when we are at a place like an amusement park, we tend to do passive actions like wait in line. I told them to remember to choose something active to do instead. Five seconds later they happened upon a roller coaster. “Look, no line! Let’s go get on it!” Yes, way to interpret the note.
Occasionally the perfect quote passes my lips out of pure exhaustion like the time I told some middle school girls, “Ok, your suggestion is dressing room at a Vegas show… (Oops I better clarify,) “ Only you wear tops…” (Digging myself further into a hole,) “and bottoms…”My assistant tried to help, “It’s a Colonial themed show…” “So you have A LOT of clothes on!”
I teach in an affluent area so once in a while kids don’t understand what I’m talking about. Like the time I came up with the suggestion that a third grader was trying to get hired at Vons. She gave me a puzzled look and asked, “What is Vons?” I replied, “Uh, a store? I’m sorry I guess I should have said Whole Foods…”
Sometimes the things they say seem harmless in the moment, but if you think too much about it the kids seem like evil geniuses. Once a middle schooler was explaining to a girl who was playing a model, “What YOU call fashion, everyone else calls Hor…” We all waited for him to finish the word horrible, but he sort of just trailed off. None of the kids noticed, but we adults were trying to hide our shocked giggles.
Once in a while it’s a perfect marriage of evil genius and cluelessness. The funniest and most confused quote I have to date happened this summer in a scene between three of my more precocious third graders. They were on a subway and a girl announced to the other two, “I’m twenty-one and I just had my first shot.” All the adults in the room looked at each other… Did she just? Then her scene partner turned to her in chagrin and asked, “Ya mean you’ve never been vaccinated?”
In the beginning I always ask the kids what they think Improv is. My favorite explanation so far has been: “Improv is Musical Theatre, without talking.” Don’t worry by the end of the summer I clued in the newest generation!