Friday, October 14, 2011

Essay: Should You Improvise More with Your Vagina? (for the Women in Comedy Festival Blog)

An R-rated piece written for the Women in Comedy Festival Blog as a contributing writer.

“And I don’t mean that in a dick versus pussy way.” 

This is improv legend Joe Bill talking to me about two camps of improv. He was contrasting the testosterone-infused, wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am, my-dick-is-bigger-than-yours style with the more Kumbaya emotional connection with scene partners, deep-like-a-womb, scenic improv style. In short, we were discussing the masculine-feminine polar extremes of improvising, but not necessary male and female improvisers.

Can improv technique be classified along a gender-stereotyped spectrum? It’s tempting to chalk up stylistic disparities as stemming from the physical differences of what parts we’ve got under the hood. Penises simply beg to be whipped out and flaunted. And they have the propensity - in my experience - of growing larger before your very eyes. Ta da! Who doesn’t love magic (as long as it’s not performed by David Blaine)? The penis, instant audience pleaser. Add to that the evolutionary need to spread one’s seed over many fields in a relatively short period of time, and you’ve got a metaphor for a certain style of improv: fast-paced, short term oriented, somewhat aggressive and competitive and instantly gratifying. Very fun to do in the moment, but sometimes leaves me feeling somehow empty inside afterwards. (Granted, I’m a dopey-eyed chick, so I guess that figures.)

The vagina, on the other hand, requires a more concentrated and immeasurable dedication in both its pleasure and its up-keep. By its very nature, a vagina is a long-term commitment. With time, focus, and refined skill, a vagina can yield many gifts, the greatest of course being the neat trick of creating life — more miracle than magic. Thus, we have the other end of this improv spectrum: a focus on emotion and relationship, a willingness to allow the scene to open up, reveal itself and develop (might I say, to blossom?), a relaxed pace, a deep exploration, and lots of eye contact.

But it’s important to resist classifying these two styles, in Joe Bill’s poetic words, as “dick versus pussy.” This is not about male improvisers and female improvisers. In fact, in my kinky opinion, I love to watch a woman who performs like she has a dick and to perform with a man who approaches the scene with his vagina. These delightful blends across the spectrum yield enchanting results on the stage. It’s not about which naughty bits you’re packing down below, it’s about which naughty bits you improvise with.

So I asked Joe Bill himself, a self-proclaimed wielder of an “improv vagina,” to read this piece and share his thoughts about the possibility of a masculine-feminine spectrum of improv styles. He generously responded: 

Here's the thing ... and by thing I mean, here's the hermaphrodite ... the masculine sensibility is goal-focused and the feminine sensibility is process-focused. The proposition as artists is, “Can we play with both or either, when called upon to improvise?” Yes, there is dickprov and there is pussyprov, but can we be in possession of both sensibilities, even when playing in the prevailing context?

Why bother? Dynamics ... to give yourself and your show the gift of diversity of declaration and possibility in any given moment. If there's a man and a woman and a hermaphrodite standing on stage, the person I want to know more about is the hermaphrodite. It's probably because with a man or woman I can think, "Go fuck yourself" and be done with them ... but with a hermaphrodite I can think that, and then immediately arrive at, "WOW, I hope this can happen!" [Dear hermaphrodites, this is a metaphor, I love you.] Isn't that Improv? Wouldn't it be great if we could all go fuck ourselves in either context, with theatrical skill and artistry, and deliver fearlessly on the proposition? My improv vagina will be over in the corner with Susan Messing's improv dick, reminiscing about that one awesome scene we did about a thousand times.

So there you have it, folks. Joe Bill gets the last word on the pussy-dick improv spectrum. Now go fuck yourself.

If you like improv comedy, you'll love "Geeking Out with..." 
the interview series about, by, and for hardcore improvisers.
(This series is not for pussies.)

1 comment:

  1. Go Pam! I will now remember to put your blog on my blogroll...drum roll please....