Monday, 17 November 2014

So Razowsky: Economic Words

This continues the series of articles inspired by or based on words from the famed improviser and teacher David Razowsky from USA, once the artistic director of Second City, on SCTV, and a prevalent voice in the improv community all around. Having spent some immense moments with the man, it has led to a lot of wonderful results. However, unlike the previous articles, this one shall be aspects that tie tightly with his thoughts. On the podcast, “ADD Comedy with David Razowsky and Ian Foley,” (Razowsky, 2014) the topic of words comes up. In previous writings this has been discussed, although not precisely on the economy of words. Razowsky believes that words are powerful and has various thinkings about the area of discussion that shall be explored. Economic words are an enabler for people.
The exaggerated end, and a bit that appeared in conversation on the podcast, of being economic with words is the concept that people die after x amount of words. The idea is that anyone that talks aimlessly or pointlessly will be taking up their life quota of words. Razowsky speaks about how someone driving around chatting a lot may just suddenly die mid-sentence. The overall message that this can offer is summed up by Steve Job's (, 2014), “Your time is limited, so don't waste it... .” Words will stop at some point, maybe not the mystical cause of the definite end, but it shall all stop. Treating words like they matter is important; be concise with your words.
Every word matters. To begin with writers, Melissa Donovan states, “Finding the right word can breathe life into an otherwise lifeless sentence. When we choose words carefully, our writing is clearer and more meaningful.” (Donovan, 2014) Training ourselves to become clearer and more meaningful is a productive task. In comedy, someone once said to put the funny word on the end of the sentence. Obviously that would make sense, as the laugh in the middle will stop the sentence. Even with a statement that is deemed funny; the laugh needs a spark, an end term or conclusive moment to instigate it. Annie Binns (2008) describes it as “...applying the funny word, phrase or sentence at the last possible moment.” Seeking out the best wording is a practice and can be beneficial to general communication.
The term eloquent exists for a reason. From the late fourteenth century Old French eloquent and Latin eloquentem (, 2014), which means to have the faculty of speech. The act to truly be heard, understood and cause purpose comes from having the capacity to speak. Therefore, being mindful of what is being said will ensure the words found are the best suited to the purpose of what is being communicated.
“Be careful what you say and protect your life. A careless talker destroys himself.” (, 2014)
Following on, the proverb given in the Good News Bible offers a further development on the mindful ideal. Words matter and can hurt. The consequence of what you say shall last in memories. Our memories do not help this either. As Kantor created plays about, memories are forever dying (Kantor, 1990). Northwestern medicine proves this:
“Every time you remember an event from the past, your brain networks change in ways that can alter the later recall of the event. Thus, the next time you remember it, you might recall not the original event but what you remembered the previous time.” (Paul, 2012)
As our brains betray us and transform our memories, as Ian Chant (2012) mentions, we will deepen the origin feeling about what someone has said or may have said. A good reason to communicate clearly.
Stopping a sentence mid-sentence can also embody the whole sentence. As long as the half sentence holds the complete meaning... Another thought Razowsky (2014) played a bit about was being able to stop mid-sentence and still be understood. Completing the communication of the sentence being spoken without finishing the sentence can be possible. It is clearly doubtful in writing; however it is a reduced array of tools used in this medium. Through using the listener against themselves, it is viable to make the person assume the rest of the sentence. In embodying the whole meaning in half the sentence the speaker is creating their point with the minimal effort. This does happen in reality, but it goes unnoticed due to being in friendships or with people that know each other well. Something unsaid could be communicated that can also happen in these circumstances. However, when speaking we desire clarity.
Say what is meant. Clearly it is important to be mindful of what is being said and be clear. Subtlety is prone to obvious interpretation. All language is, but when someone is only hinting at the meaning, the problems arise. As improvisers such use of subtleties will ensure the scene partner more work. Improvisation is not work, it is play. Therefore, the contradictions prevail the point that improvisation requests clear meanings. Say what you mean and the other improviser shall be in a better position to react and respond. Often improvisers 'waffle'. It is a tedious trait that is sometimes taught due to the need to get a lot of detail out at the top of the scene. Spolin's theories on using the 'who, 'what' and 'where' are a useful training tool that will capacitate the scene. A frequent error in teaching is that these are spoken. Physicality beats words. As Jeff Thompson (2011) breaks the old percentages of communication down to the reality; Thompson recapitulation states seven percent of certain situations are the words themselves. Fifty-five percent is body language, which means the details of an improvisers scene are best from non-verbal creation. It also does not bore the audience with 'waffle' at the top of a scene. Johnstone's theory of 'nothing, nothing, something' (Johnstone, 2009) asks the actors to do nothing until that something organically arises. Furthermore, the statement, “...I mean...” is another attribute that improvisers can be prone to develop. Similarly to the 'waffle' issue, this one has been available to read about and hear on podcasts and similar; however, only recently has it been able to witnessed locally. The need to use the phrase “...I mean...” means that the improviser is not endeavouring to be clear. Improvisers definitely wish to portray people onstage, but in everyday life it is not possible to hear it as much as onstage. The potential reason to why this has arrived is the judgement or expectation that is linked to playing in a more complicated manner. Certain methods may put performers into thinking and due to that, they talk without being mindful of what they are saying. Beat the issues by purely saying what you mean.
To be mindful of what we say is important onstage. Talking too much maybe leads to death. If we do have x numbers of words before that moment, then we better be careful; live and play like that is true and real and the words will always be clearer. In doing so we find that the words matter more and we don't just say something for the sake of saying something. Perhaps even getting to a point where we can stop mid-sentence and have a complete … So mean what you say.
Bibliography, (2014). Bible Society - GNB Proverbs 13. [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 Oct. 2014].
Binns, A. (2008). The Secret of Writing Funny. [online] Write to Done. Available at: [Accessed 17 Nov. 2014].
Chant, I. (2012). [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 Oct. 2014].
Donovan, M. (2014). Writing Tips: Every Word Matters | Writing Forward. [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 Oct. 2014]., (2014). Online Etymology Dictionary. [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 Oct. 2014].
Johnstone, K. (2009). Impro.
Kantor, T. (1990). Wielopole/Wielopole. London: M. Boyars., (2014). Text of Steve Jobs' Commencement address (2005). [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 Oct. 2014].
Paul, M. (2012). Your Memory is like the Telephone Game: Northwestern University News. [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 Oct. 2014].
Razowsky, D. (2014). A.D.D. Comedy. [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 Oct. 2014].
Thompson, J. (2011). Is Nonverbal Communication a Numbers Game?. [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 Oct. 2014].

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