HELLO INTERNET BOY #41: Say no to bunnies

Last night at my improv class, we were talking about bad behaviour on stage. From something so dumb, the ‘prov as it’s known, sure looks like it has a lot of rules. Although, it’s actually kind of a myth. Improv is kind of like painstakingly breaking down the process of communication, and building it back up again using idiots. Every “rule” is just another layer of basic process. The classic rules that people know about improv is the whole ‘say yes’ thing. It starts off being prescriptive, but after a while it’s not so much a rule as a layer. It’s about being open and receptive to what the other person on stage is trying to do, and not shutting them down. When you start off, you’re encouraged to literally never say no, in order to try and drum this into your head. Saying no is actually quite instinctual in improv, because we have this idea that drama and interesting things come from opposition, although it tends to actually just stall things, or spin a scene into a stalemate of bickering. After a while you’re actually allowed to say ‘no’ as long as that ‘no’ is in some way saying yes to the situation proposed. There’s something known as the ‘game’ of the scene, which is both the technical structure, and also somehow the soul of the whole thing. Saying yes to the game, can sometimes look like saying no to something a character is proposing. This is confusing, maybe I’ll go read my UCB handbook and explain this better.

Anyway, breaking down improv rules and talking about bad behaviour made me think about roleplaying, especially on Aelyria. It’s interesting, because the two mediums are so incredibly different, yet at their heart, they are exactly the same. There’s a lot of rules on Aelyria too. If you ask me, there’s way too many at the moment, and a lot of them involve complicated time-measuring systems. I have a lot of trouble telling the time in reality, let along in magic world. But the main, overarching rule of playing Aelyria used to be known as ‘no bunnying’. I don’t know if they use bunnying as a term anymore, but it basically means being true to the reality of Aelyria, and not overstepping your bounds. Bunnying can include giving your character knowledge that they couldn’t possibly know, like if there are assassins breaking into the castle in the night, just coincidentally waking up and putting plate armour on for no reason. Bunnying can also be affecting the world around you – like walking up to a tree and finding a deus ex machina apple in it, when your character is starving. In essence, bunnying is saying no to the reality of Aelyria. It’s literally rejecting the ‘game’. Everyone is helping construct a fantasy world, and to reject even a part of it, weakens the shared communication, the shared goal.

This post is generously supported by the Thiel Grant for Online Writing, and is included in a 50 part series called ‘HELLO INTERNET BOY’ ranging from March 2015 – March 2016.
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HELLO INTERNET BOY #13: The Colony

Part of the format for learning level 1 improv at UCB is all about monologues. After we get a one word suggestion, such as ‘skeleton’ or ‘rebellion’ or if it’s an actual audience ‘dildo’, one of us goes on stage and thinks of a story from their life that might relate. And then we do three scenes inspired from the suggestion + monologue, which is a kind of very basic start to what is called a ‘Harold’ which is the improv format that UCB specialises in. But I’m over-explaining improv – I have been living and breathing it for the last week, I’m sorry.

Doing all these monologues is an amazing way to get to know your classmates in one intense, overwhelming week. There’s a guy who talked about his time in rehab, his experiences in the pretentious art dealing world, his apartment in SoHo – he didn’t say it out loud, but he’s super rich. There’s the slightly creepy older dude, Pensive Bob whose scenes are always about dicks and toilet humour and hammy ex-wife gags, who tells monologues about taxes and owning a business, and then about his wife dying and trying to recreate his life as an actor. I feel like I know more about these people than I do some of my close friends. 

The star of the monologues has to be an Irish chap named Declan, whose every story was not only super interesting and funny, but was told in a captivating and charming way. Perhaps a typical Irish gift of the gab, although his experiences are anything but typical. One of his monologues was about working at a summer camp in Germany, and having to rescue a small girl who fell down a tiny crack in the wall. Another was about being dressed as a giant dog and arguing with the police who were shutting down the party he had very legally organised. It’s funnier when he tells them.

But the story that got me, was when he talked about being on a reality TV show called ‘The Colony’ in Australia, where his family and a British family and an ‘Aussie’ family and an Indigenous family all lived in the outback in simulated conditions of the first days of the British colony in Australia, ie old timey clothes and bad food and farm work. He was eighteen years old at the time, and said ‘it was horrible and amazing’.

As he was telling the story, I suddenly said ‘oh my god’ because I remembered watching an episode of this. At first I assumed I must have captioned it, when I worked as a captioner, because otherwise I don’t really watch reality TV, but it was on back in 2005-6, and I remember watching it at university as part of a class about post-colonial Australia. 

Apparently one of the contestants, or participants, I’m not sure if there was a prize or even goal for the show, was acting strange and the producers pulled him out. They realised he was actually a criminal, a diagnosed sociopath, and they kicked him off the show. Then a few weeks later, they all realised that he’d trekked his way back out into the desert, and was living near their camp again.

 Anyway, it’s a great story. I goddamn love having the opportunity to fly across the world and hear these people’s weird stories.


This post is generously supported by the Thiel Grant for Online Writing, and is included in a 50 part series called ‘HELLO INTERNET BOY’ ranging from March 2015 – March 2016