Thursday, July 10, 2008

Improv as Social Experiment

Back in college, I changed my major several times before settling on broadcast journalism. Before that, I was double majoring in English and math, in hopes I would someday be a teacher... or something like that.

Then, in the middle of my junior year, I switched to journalism on the advice of my counselor, who also happened to be the head of the English dept. Obviously, I had wasted much time in classes I would no longer need in order to graduate. It turns out, however, that when I graduated, I was only a handful of credits shy of a second major in psychology, a subject I thoroughly enjoyed.

My second favorite class, after Abnormal Psychology, was Social Psychology. Much of our class credit was gained from participating in various experiments, and had I known then that this would someday become useful as a student of improv, I would have saved all of my class notes.

The videos above are from Improv Everywhere. At first, I thought they were merely a bunch of improv artists conducting public performances. But the more I watched, the more I realized these were also social experiments.

I'm sure you're aware of very simple experiments such as standing with your face toward the back of the elevator. Or doing anything unorthodox in a place where behavior is fairly fixed. I used to get off on doing such things when I lived in Seattle. But here in L.A., everyone's behavior is a little erratic, and so I've become pretty boring since I moved here.

Little did I know that improv was a way of acting out my love of social psychology. I especially liked the Central Station video. The public musical, while great for improv practice, wouldn't get you extra credit in a psych class.

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