I was thinking today that being memorable is a hell of a lot better than being mediocre or even good.
Shoot for being amazing. That way even if you fail, people will talk about it.
Some of my favorite artists have built their whole career on a series of interesting failures.
I 90% agree with this. The 10% comes from group art. I was recently in some improv auditions in which failing spectacularly seemed to be the favored strategy for being noticed. A more subtle variation is when one person in a group prematurely decides a good scene is failing even though their scene partners are actually on their way to an interesting place.
Of course, more along the lines of what you’re saying, the more common case is when nobody takes a risk in a scene that really is on its way to failure. In those cases, by all means, get out the chainsaw and show us some real art.
Anyway, the subject of glorious failure always makes me think of one of my favorite Billy Collins poems:
Flames, by Billy Collins
Smokey the Bear heads
into the autumn woods
with a red can of gasoline
and a box of wooden matches.
His ranger’s hat is cocked
at a disturbing angle.
His brown fur gleams
under the high sun
as his paws, the size
of catcher’s mitts,
crackle into the distance.
He is sick of dispensing
warnings to the careless,
the half-wit camper,
the dumbbell hiker.
He is going to show them
how a professional does it.
There’s another post in this.
Because failures where everyone is working their hardest, believes in the product and fully committed are interesting, memorable failures.
Improv scenes where someone inserts something to be memorable are memorable in the same way peeing on someone’s desk would make them remember you after a job interview was over. They won’t remember your name, but they will tell a story about you.
Improv should be people working together to make something fantastic. Most of the time it’s just people working together to not suck.
I remember a Del Close story about a time when he was giving a workshop and in the middle of a scene he got up and went to the bathroom.
The scene continued and it wasn’t over when he got back. He watched the end and then gave notes. The people in the scene were angry and asked how he could leave and still give notes.
Del said, “Oh, I’ve seen that scene a hundred times before.”
He didn’t walk out because it was a bad scene, he walked out because it was an okay scene.
Love the poem. Imagine if that was how everyone approached their improv…
“Imagine if that was how everyone approached their improv…”
I always enjoy when great creators try to give examples of how not to do things: they often can’t help but make their example incredibly interesting. I remember a figure drawing teacher trying to give an example of bad proportions ruining a piece, but she was having so much fun with trying to ruin it that it came out as an amazing piece.
Innovation happens when talented people break the rules! Or when untalented people don’t know the rules.
In either case, rules are broken whether they know it or not.
Innovation is just a failure that happens to work.