One of my favorite long forms is the Armando. Named after its founder, Armando Diaz, it is both one of the simplest and one of the richest idea generators out there. I’ve been thinking about it a bit after watching this amazing rendition by some
of the masters of improv in Asssscat!
First, the simplicity. If you’re not familiar with the Armando, all it takes is a story. After a suggestion is received, a person steps forward and tells a true story from his or her life. From that, the improvisers can pull instances directly or take tangents from the ideas they hear. The scenes come fast and heavy until the monologue is mined for all its worth, and at that point, if the show must go on, the monologist comes out and gives another story based on something they picked out of the scenes. This can go on forever, or just a few minutes. It is endlessly variable. Simple!
Second, the richness. Oh how deep improv can go. We often say “Truth in Comedy” when we talk improv, but what does that mean? For today, it means that true events are going to be a better source of material than anything else. And since our lives are filled with infinite moments that are true, we have an infinite source of material to draw from! The Armando utilizes this. The monologist should just tell a true story, with no comedic elements, and the scenes will fill in the gaps. There is comedy in everything, and the Armando finds it.
It can be a hard form to embrace. Who wants to tell a true moment from their life to a room of strangers? Who wants to have the blank canvas to work from when the monologue ends and the audience waits to see what the backline makes of it? Obviously, improvisers want both. But if they don’t, the wonderful Armando allows for a guest monologist. This can be anyone with a penchant for storytelling. They take the spotlight for a brief moment here and there, but mostly sit and watch their true life stories played out in a variety of unique and hilarious ways. Everyone wins.
A final benefit of the Armando is that it is incredibly fun to play. It caters well to game-style improv and relationship-based improv alike. There is room for all sorts of fancy edits, unique walk-ons, mind-boggling object work, and every other tool we carry. And unlike overly complicated forms that tend to get in the way of the players intuition (and force players into their heads), the Armando is so loose that it is rare the audience ever wonders what the form is or the players have to figure out where to take it next. If there’s ever a lull, we just get a new monologue and move on!
I love the Armando, but for whatever reason, it seems to be out of favor here in Hawaii. I hope that changes as it is too good to miss.