I always say, don’t stay in your backyard, open to the world. But I know it may not be easy. That’s why I’m bringing a little world to your backyard. From today and now on, here on my blog, I’ll be publishing guest articles written by great improvisers and teachers from all over the world. The first goes amazing Jacob Banigan from Canada/Austria, who I had the pleasure to work with in Barcelona. Articles will be available in English and, what is the point, translated to Polish. Are you happy? 🙂 Have fun. And learn. Feel free to discuss and share your own ideas!


Jacob Banigan

Let’s consider an Impro Show to be a Sandwich.
Picture any sandwich you like.
Food is layered between bread on a plate in front of you. OK?
That’s the show. Each impro show is made up of LAYERS, whether we are aware of them or not. If we are aware of the layers, we can better play with them to enhance our experience.
And although each layer is tasty in it’s own way, you can’t separate them and consume them one after the other, like a weirdo. They really must all be experienced together in each bite. That’s how we do it.
Moment to Moment, Bite for Bite.

You have arranged your life, your time and money with a plan to consume this experience. But before we eat it, let’s look at what it’s made of.

The Layers of an Impro Show Sandwich:

The FORMAT of the show is the BREAD.
Defines its shape and structure and holds it all together. Supports the content. It is the reliable, dry layer that allows us to enjoy the contents without getting all messy. It is how we recognize the sandwich/show from afar. We see it, or hear about it, and say “I can grasp that.” It is the promise: “Consuming this will be satisfying”.

The shared imagination of everyone in the room, the dream we are all buying into. The good stuff. The content. The situations of the scenes, the characters and their world. This is the nourishment, it’s what we consume it for. The satisfying heart of the experience. It has substance.
Usually this is the first thing we ask about a sandwich: “What’s in it?”; or for a show: “What’s it about?”. But in our case as improvisers, we cannot know that until we experience it together. So it’s a mystery sandwich, before we decide what to put in the middle.

The STORY is the ROUGHAGE, The GREENS: salad, lettuce, sprouts, etc.
The fibrous material which aids the digestion of the substance.
The story lays across the fiction and allows us to follow CAUSE and EFFECT, so that we get something from the content. What happened when someone tried X? We need stories, in order to process what happens in our collective dream. It’s how we learn everything: by stories made from direct or vicarious experiences.
Without this fibre, we would consume the product without getting all the healthful benefits. We would see that some stuff happened, but we would not grow from it.

The GAMES are the Extra TOPPINGS: tomatoes, onions, etc.
The challenges from objective games, the agreements that arise from the subjective “game of the scene”, or the patterns that we discover and uphold. They each have distinct structures that give extra surprises of flavor, when you notice them. Sharp, tangy, exciting additions to the main flavour of the FICTION.

The STAGE is the PLATE.
We’d like them to be clean and presentable when our meal is served. The mess we leave after it’s over serves as a reminder of what wonderful things were within.

The Sandwich metaphor can be stretched to include many aspects…
– The Lighting is the Sauce. Warming mustard. Cooling Ketchup.
– Music is Bacon. So good, but it should not overpower the rest.
– Peppered with laughs. Salted with tears.
– Sometimes we like it Cheesey. We know it’s not totally healthy, but you only live once, right?
– A schmear of Schmaltz is sometimes welcome. – A glass of wine on the side is always welcome.

Every sandwich/show experience is enhanced by the context around it’s consumption. Who was I with? Where were we? What was happening in the neighbourhood, the city, the world? What circumstances lead me to this point? That sandwich changed my life… I really needed it.

And you cannot explain the experience adequately. Have you ever tried to describe a sandwich, and felt that the listener really appreciated what it meant to you? You had to be there.

When you take a bite, all the layers work together to give satisfaction. We need to know the effect each layer has on the overall experience, so we construct our show wisely. We have to make sure that we serve fresh product, not processed. We should be proud of each ingredient, and hopefully know where each one came from.
People should leave the table satisfied with that particular experience, and perhaps imagining new recipes for next time.



/photos by Johannes Gellner