One of my favorite formats to play, both in shows and in workshop, is“more awesome.” The format appeals to me in both the simplicity of the rules and the strength of the concept. Two or more players begin a scene based on a suggestion. At any time, the audience can stop the scene and declare that the last decision did not pass muster by declaring "More Awesome!" The players are then required to back up and remake that decision. If the players do not commit big enough, the audience will make them do it again and again, until they are satisfied and the scene can continue.
The format goes over very well for three main reasons. First, it gives power to the audience, which they love to abuse. Secondly, it forces the improvisers to commit big and believe in their ability to pull it off. Finally, when people come to improv shows or pick up a book, they want to escape reality for a bit. Why be real when you can be awesome instead?
I remember one instance of more awesome in particular, a time when I was standing in the wings and watching two friends playing a scene. Through a chain of decisions, and several audience calls of “more awesome,” the pair found themselves in a sing and dance off in the style of West Side Story. I’ll share a secret: most improvisers, myself included, hate to sing on stage. However, when I saw that my fellow players freeze, I rushed on stage with the rest of the players in the wings. We took up positions as backup dancers to the opposing gangs and faked it. You know what? That scene was more awesome than it would've been. None of us would have gone to song and dance without being forced to it.
When in doubt, I tend to err on the side of awesomeness, as I believe that fiction should be more awesome than real life. After all, fiction in all forms has served as a means of escaping reality for me as long as I can remember. When I am having a bad day, I take a break to consume a story, be it in the form of a book, movie, television show, or even a video game. If the princess gets kidnapped by a giant, spiky, fire-breathing turtle, does Mario file a police report and wait by the phone for a ransom? Of course not. He'll run across worlds and kick down castle doors until he finds her.
The trick to more awesome is committing big and then making it work. Yes, there is more risk to doing this, but as an writer, I have an advantage I would've killed for as an improviser. Namely, I can edit. If I commit big and can’t pull it off the first try, I can go back and rework until everything I write is the most awesome it can be.Tags: Sequence 02: Improv and Writing