RAMBLINGS OF A HUMBLE NERD by Neil Matsuzaki
As a human being of the nerd persuasion, I sometimes don’t know what is and isn’t a reference I can throw into an improv scene. Thanks to superhero movies, the widespread acceptance of video games, and TV shows like “Game of Thrones”, nerdy knowledge is more accepted than ever and it might seem like I should be fine being Spock and saying “Live long and prosper,” in a scene. And while this is true to a certain extent, I still sometimes grapple with the line between the colloquially accepted Batman reference and the super obscure Moon Knight one.
And on the opposite end of the spectrum, I can be caught clueless when it comes to most contemporary pop culture. More than once in a scene, I’ve been staring down the barrel of having to be a musician or movie star that I only have the most fleeting of ideas at who they might be.
So why are you bringing all this up you may ask? Well, you probably didn’t ask that, you’re probably just reading this like a normal person. I’m sorry for being presumptive. But I bring this up because it has come to my attention that I’m not alone in this. Maybe not specifically the nerd culture stuff, but that we’re all individuals and have our own separate interests that may or may not overlap. And that’s okay.
No one can know everything…or at least, I’m pretty sure that no one knows everything. But we do the next best thing. We cobble together what we can out of context clues and vague memories and run with it. By “Yes and-ing” each other and staying in the scene, we can continue, no matter what curveballs are thrown our way. And for audience members who do know, they’re just happy the reference is there. Are we gonna mangle it? Probably. But is it gonna be entertaining? Well that’s a solid maybe!!
And if you’ve ever been to an improv show where I was in the audience, you’ve heard me in the audience yell out “Mad Max Thunderdome” or “Jedi and apprentice” because I want to mix it up. How many times have we heard “siblings” for a relationship? Or a “kitchen” for a location? If we shout out the crazy things we would normally keep to ourselves because they’re too “weird” we could explore a whole new side to our improv.
I guess what I’m saying is, go for it. And I need to internalize this more myself, to be honest. Depending on the suggestion (especially with time periods when I think about it) I sometimes use my ignorance as an excuse and become afraid to add information. But when I shout out “Klingon Blood Brothers” as a relationship at a show, I don’t need the players to know about bat’leths and birds-of-prey. In fact it’s probably more entertaining if they have no idea about Klingon culture and focus on what is going on with these Blood Brothers as opposed to if I got the suggestion and exposited about the Sword of Kahless and its significance in DS9.
Now that I think about it, how often have I been given a time period, and the first thing I did was try to make as many timely references as I could rather than establishing the things that matter to the scene. Maybe I need to stop worrying about what I don’t know, and live in the scene that’s in front of me.
Well dear reader, thank you for listening to the ramblings of this humble nerd. Just by being there as a sounding board, I’ve gained some insights on myself, and for that, I thank you.