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Long and Short

Updated: Jan 9

Welcome to the fifth of seven entries on improvisation & IRONMAN(tm)... let's dig into the idea that long course racing is to long form improv as short course racing is to short form.


Long is a novel, short is an IG post. Long is volcano, short is firecrackers. At elite levels, long is a three-stage Saturn rocket to the moon while short is a Mentos dropped into a bottle of Diet Coke. Long is about patience, timing and finding the end in the beginning. Short is about fearless aggression.


Long form improvisation demands carefully measured intensity. We follow characters into different situations, see who they are. Games are often played as subtext within scenes, emerging from patient set-ups and offers. Similarly, long course racing asks for a little better understanding of both the athlete and the course. In both cases, both performances allow and reward a more considered approach. Pace matters, it just measures out at a lower intensity. Going long course and playing long form takes patience.


Yet patience is an odd thing in racing, kind of an oxymoron. Racing is something a racer does as fast as possible, so how does patience enter into it? Well first, the event has to be long enough to think about pacing. Long course racing asks the athlete to measure out effort in a similar way that long form asks the performer to explore ideas more thoroughly. Alternatively, short course and short form ask the performer for maximum effort in a minimal amount of time.


For example, ComedySportz is built on short-form, high intensity improvisation. Harolds at UCB (and previously at iO, now closed) are long form endurance efforts. ComedySportz presents short, intense improvisations with quick set-ups and punch lines. Bang. Very little character development, simple, straightforward games played very fast. Fast. Turnover. Action.


Short course racing has a similar intensity. Crisp. Quick. Action. Bang. Done.


Some coaches say running a 5k is harder than finishing a full 140.6 triathlon. Why? Intensity. Running all out at 100% effort demands much higher intensity than 11, 12, 13 hours of aerobic effort.


Mick Napier once cracked that improvisation is the only art form described by length of time. Funny.


Whelp. That about covers it. If you like, contact me to talk about it more.

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