The Second City’s original AIM screen names, in all their AOL glory.
Society, your parents, and Batman all say crime is a bad thing. But is there a way for you to say “Yes, and…” to merry minor misdemeanors and funny federal offenses?
Thanks to the Chicago improv show Hitch*Cocktails, I’ve been murdering people onstage while drinking for five years. In that time, I believe the tricks and philosophies of improvisation have given me the tools I need to be a world-class criminal and first-rate alcoholic.
Find your motivation, and then hide it
As an actor/actress/burglar, you need a reason for making your decisions. Did you attend your brother’s birthday party because you want to get over your sibling rivalry? Or do you just require an alibi for 4:46 PM exactly?
In improv, your motivation allows you to fight for your wants in a scene. It helps the audience identify with you..so wear it on your sleeve. In crime, it helps the police identify you…so don’t wear sleeves. For example, if you’re robbing a series of art galleries because you’re very poor, make sure there are plenty of pictures of you eating avocado toast. Like a home-owning millionaire.
Work with your partner and/or target
Boy, blackmail sure would be easy if your victim would just agree to your terms! However, a person might panic and forget Level 1 training when looking at photos of their spouse in the arms of a prostitute dressed like Super Mario.
You don’t want to turn this into a bargaining scene (especially if the cops are tracing the call). Instead, raise the stakes by making new information personal. Remind them that their spouse is a senator and how bad this would go over with the plumber’s union.
Don’t hog the searchlight
The best improvisers are the ones who give their cast all the glory. Make your fellow comedians look like the stars–the brains and the people who came up with the scheme. You’re just support, muscle, roped in against your will, and ready to snitch for a lighter sentence.
Only certain times of crime pay
Not all illegal activities are as fun as robbing a charity ball in a cape and opera mask and escaping via hot air balloon. Sometimes you need to get out a calculator and pen and do some good old-fashioned embezzling.
You can’t always be a free-willing artist. Improvisors have to audition for cheesy commercials and in-store kitchen demonstrations if they want to pay the bills. In crime, you have to turn to white collar felonies like fraud and money laundering if you actually want to be successful/President of the United States.
The police can see your object work
When you’re doing a scene and you pantomime standing behind a desk, don’t forget that it’s there! You’ll break your reality if you walk through it later!
Also, don’t forget a few bullet shells probably rolled under the desk….and wipe the blood off the desk chair…did you leave fingerprints on the top drawer?…Why didn’t you wear gloves!?!?
Don’t be a prisoner of habit
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve strangled my business partner for control of our company. It can get old.
Improv is a type of theater that survives by challenging everything. You must embrace this spirit if you want to keep yourself from falling into a rut. Instead of suffocation, try a guillotine! Don’t just poison food, lace toothpaste with cyanide! Can you kill someone with 5,000 tennis balls? Let’s find out!
Remember, outside your comfort zone is where the magic happens, and the cops have no jurisdiction.
C.J. Tuor is a founding member of “Hitch*Cocktails”at The Annoyance Theater, which is celebrating its 5th anniversary, and “Clued In: An Improvised Murder Mystery” at Judy’s Beat Lounge.