Game of the Scene – An Example from Mr. Show

An actor is called into a casting office to audition. He brings his headshot and resume with him, greets the casting people and introduces his audition piece: a monolog from a play called The Audition. He takes a moment to collect himself and asks, “Can I use this chair?”

The auditioners respond, “Yes.”

The actor stops and tells them that he was doing the monolog, that question was part of the monolog and they shouldn’t respond. And at that moment, the game of the scene has begun. Here is the whole sketch to watch:

Mr. Show was a sketch show on TV, not a improv show, but the sketches from that show usually had excellent examples of game. And you can usually break them down in the same way you might an improv scene.

  • What is the basic situation?
  • What is the first unusual thing?
  • If that, then what?

What is the basic situation?

In this scene, it’s an audition in a casting office. If you are an actor, the situation will be very familiar. There is an expected flow that happens in this situation. You bring in your resume. You greet the auditioners. You introduce your audition piece. There is usually a chair in the room and it’s not uncommon to ask if you can use it. These are all ordinary details that we expect to happen. As the scene goes on, there are several other details that might happen in a typical audition.

What is the first unusual thing?

The first unusual thing is the first line of the monolog. It doesn’t sound like a monolog, but rather something the actor might actually say in the room. Which we only realize after the auditioner interrupts by answering the question.

If that, then what?

Each time the pattern is repeated it changes a little, and heightens a little. One time, the actor waits a very long time after asking if he can use the chair. Later he berates the auditioners for not responding to him. One great example is how the actor says, “Don’t just look at each other,” right at the point where they look at each other. They have a moment where the auditioners point out how strange it is that the monolog has that line right in the exact moment when they would look at each other.

If you want to know how to play a game, a good use of your time would be to watch episodes of Mr Show and break them down just like this. What is the situation? What is unusual? If that, then what? Here is a list of a few more Mr Show sketches to check out.

If you are in Chicago and want to learn the Game of the Scene from Kevin Mullaney, check out the new Core Improv Program at the Improv Resource Center. A new class begins in January, 2017.

4 thoughts on “Game of the Scene – An Example from Mr. Show”

  1. Pingback: paulrice1
  2. I just started watching season three of Mr. Show last week. You’re right: almost every sketch is game oriented, with the plots are eventually winding back to the premise of opening scene. It’s a great form that is easily be transferred to improv.

    Thanks for the suggestion of watching this series–seeing the game played so well is a great tool to finding it quicker in our own scenes. It’s already helping me see the game, as well as the possibilities of what might come next.

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