For over a decade, Harry Potter has been a vibrantly ubiquitous part of popular culture. Most of us know about Hogwarts and Dumbledore and that old grump Prof. Snape. I would guess that 90% of the U.S and Great Britain know the definition of a “muggle.” And I would further guess that more than half of all people under the age of forty can recite at least one of J. K. Rowling’s spells. (My favorite is “Wingardium Leviosa”).
Anything as popular as the Harry Potter franchise is ripe for parody. Yes, Mad Magazine, Saturday Night Live, and The Simpsons have long ago satirized Rowling’s fantasy series. But because my family has recently decided to read the final Harry Potter book (for the third time), Harry Potter has been on my mind, so I’ve decided to create an improv / sketch outline that pays tribute to that lightning-scarred teenager.
Sketch vs. Improv:
Sketch comedy is a scripted scene, something that normally runs five to ten minutes. Television programs such Monty Python and The Carol Burnett Show perfected the art of sketch comedy – although its roots go back to Vaudeville. Generally, a “sketch” derives its humor from amusing characters in hilarious (and often bizarre) situations.
Improv comedy relies on suggestions from the audience and a razor-sharp imagination from the improvisation performers. Scenes and characters are created from off-the-cuff, but often improv actors possess a solid idea of plot structure to help the impromptu scene progress from beginning to end.
"Improv Hogwarts Style" is mostly your standard improvisation. However, it also contains elements of sketch, in that there is a very specific sequence of scenes involved.
How To Play:
Improv – Hogwarts Style begins with several “Ask Fors” from the audience.
- “I need a household object.”
- “Can I get the names of a couple animals.”
- “What is a class you wouldn’t expect to see at Hogwarts School of Magic.”
This game is a long-form improv, also known as the Harold. Each of three phases of the improv will incorporate material from the responses, starting with the last Ask For. The Unlikely Hogwarts Teacher:
The first scene takes place in an unlike Hogwarts class. Perhaps the audience shouted out “wood shop” or “driver’s ed” or “sex education.” (The moderator of the game should select the response with the highest comic potential). Using at least three actors, one performer plays the role of the instructor and the rest of the cast will play students. (Note: whether or not they spoof actual characters from the Harry Potter books or invent characters of their own is entirely up to the performers).
As with any improv scene, the performers invent a conflict and make the most out of the setting and situation. The scene ends when the teacher announces that class is dismissed and that the students must now pay a visit to Professor Hagrid (or some other instructor of magical beasts).
Mythical Animal Class:
In this second scene, a new performer assumes the role of a different teacher – a Hagrid-like character who will introduce the students to a new magical beast. The creature will be a combination of the two animals selected from the Ask For. For example, if the moderator chose the two suggestions “Cat” and “Alligator”, then the teacher character will describe the Kitty-gator that stands before the students.
The imaginary beast could be pantomimed or – depending on the nature of the monster – one of the performers might take on the role. The conflict of this scene could simply be as predictable as an unruly beast and frightened students – or it could be something entirely unexpected. (Hence the fun of improvisation!)
Hogwarts Physical Education:
The third and final scene (after Hagrid sends the students on their way), is led by a stereotypical P.E. teacher. Fans of Harry Potter know all about the sport of Quidditch, but they won’t be familiar with this new magic-themed athletic event.
The P.E. Teacher character will concoct a sport utilizing the “household object” suggestion from the audience. Perhaps it’s another flying game, but this time on dust-busters. Maybe it’s a jousting event with magical toilet scrubbers. Whatever the sport (which will hopefully be granted a Rowling-styled name) two of the student characters can face off in a climactic finish to this very silly, and hopefully very funny improv tribute to Hogwarts.