I just finished my 201 intensive at UCB with my class show on October 26. This a review of the Upright Citizens Brigade’s Improv 201 class.
UCB’s Improv 201 Intensive class was a great class that helped me learn how to better identify the game of the scene and heighten it, both in the same scene and in the second beat of the scene. I continue to believe the UCB program is a great one for people interested in learning improv and comedy in general.
This course will focus on teaching students how to use the idea of “The Game” to create their improvised scenes. Students will be taught how to identify “games” within their scenes, and how to use the concept of heightening to properly play out their scenes once they have them. (Heightening is finding new ways to make your scenes get funnier from start to finish.) The class will heavily focus on learning how to use patterns to fill out comedic scenes based around one central “game.”
Students will also be introduced to the idea of “second beats,” or returning to scenes, characters, and concepts from earlier in an improvised piece.
Review of the Class
UCB’s Improv 201 is the second course in the school’s improv program (Improv 101 being the first). I elected to do the intensive version of the class, which means instead of meeting once a week for eight weeks, you meet four times a week for two weeks. Considering I had to leave work in the middle of the day and return back after the class was over, it made for an interesting two weeks. The focus of 201 is on “game” and second beats. The first half covers what game is (the interesting thing in the scene), and how you heighten it within that scene. The second half covers second beats of scenes, which is where you basically do another scene based on the same game from the first scene.
The biggest difference between 101 and 201 is the focus on notes. In 101, the notes generally cover what you did well in a scene. In 201, the notes generally cover what you didn’t do well, which rules you broke or what could have been improved. This tends to make you think you’re a terrible improviser, but it is important to making you better.
Review of the Instructor
For some reason, when you do the intensive class, they assign two different instructors, one for the first week and one for the second week. When I learned this, I got worried that there would be some problems with the transition, but Neil Casey and Kevin Hines made it relatively seamless.
Neil Casey focused more on teaching “game” and was more high-level in his notes. Kevin Hines focused on second beats and was very specific in his notes to individual players. The combination of the two worked out really well, balancing theory with practical application. Both helped me learn a lot, and I’ll definitely be looking for classes taught by them in the future.
Top 5 Notes
There were a number of things that I learned from both Neil and Kevin, but here are the Top 5 notes, quotes, and suggestions:
- “Yes And” until you find the interesting thing, then move to “If this is true, what else is true.”
- You don’t have to do as much as you think, “save yourself the work” and play honestly.
- Pay attention to opinions and reactions, that’s where you’ll find interesting things. Whatever makes your partner react, you want to provide more of that.
- Follow the “Karaoke rule” – it doesn’t matter what you’re doing on stage, as long as you sell it.
- Name people in your scenes. It’s actually harder to carry out a scene without naming each other.