Congratulations! An improv theatre has asked you to be the featured monologist for their "Armando" show. You must be quite the raconteur! But what the heck is an "Armando" anyway?
What is an "Armando"? An Armando is a a type of improv performance where a a monologist tells true stories that inspire a series of improvised scenes by an improv team. Often, the monologist will tell more than one story during the performance, interspersing them every 10-15 minutes or so between scenes. The monologist is welcome to tell additional stories based off the original audience suggestion, or off the improvised scenes he just observed.
While this format was originally named after Armando Diaz, co-owner of the Magnet Theatre in New York City, it's become popular at improv theaters all over the world.
Does the monologist prepare? Traditionally, the Armando monologist will not prepare, except perhaps to practice telling stories off the top of her head inspired by a word. The monologist typically asks the audience for a suggestion and will speak extemporaneously on the topic. However, some Armando performances, like the Improv Cincinnati show Veracity, allow the monologists to choose whether they would prefer to pre-select stories on a theme or whether to speak extemporaneously. It's up to you!
What if I choose not to pre-plan my stories? Terrific! We love the surprise and spontaneity of this approach. Consider: this is the same type of thing people do at cocktail parties all the time. It doesn't matter what someone is talking about, usually the line of conversation can inspire a story of some kind. For instance, if an audience suggestion is "Licorice", a monologist may say "Licorice reminds me of candy, which reminds me of going to my Grandmother's house..." The connection between the suggestion and the story can be indirect.
So, are these comedians going to make fun of my story? Please know that it is not the intent of the improvisers to mock or embarrass the monologist. Rather, their goal is to celebrate the funny elements of the story, teasing out the fun details to inspire their scenes. If they do it correctly, the monologist will be laughing along with them.
Are they reenacting my story? A good Armando should not be doing reenactments. They aren't trying to replay what happened to you. Instead, they are looking for the unusual, absurd, or interesting things about your story and finding what is funny about it. They might even take a small detail and use it as fuel for something entirely unrelated.
Do You have any advice? Certainly! Here are some tips mentioned by improv masters from around the world specifically for a brand new Armando monologist:
Don't worry about being funny - Dan Grimm from Bexar Stage in San Antonio says that you shouldn't worry about being a comedian. We just want you to be yourself. Your job is to tell stories, let the improvisers handle the comedy.
Keep it short - Jay Sukow from Second City Hollywood recommends to keep the monologue short. You probably don't want to go longer than 3-5 minutes.
Details are key - Michael Short from The Improv Refinery says to load up on the details. Don't be afraid to drift away from the suggestion, which is meant to inspire you, not trap you.
Tell stories you love to tell - Stacey Smith, Comedy School Manager at Improv Boston, encourages you to think of stories that easily leap to mind because you've told them a hundred times. Your favorite stories that are on the tip of your tongue are always the most fun to tell.
Watch some examples of good Armandos - Jill Bernard from Huge Theatre in Minneapolis recommends checking out some Armandos on youtube. UCB often has celebrities as their monologist for their Armando called AsssssCat.
Learn from the Master - UCB Founder and Improv Master, Matt Besser, has a great set of other suggestions here.
Thanks again for being the hero of the evening. And remember, the funny doesn't come from your monologue - it comes from the improvisers. So relax, let your stories flow, and prepare for a night filled with laughter and joy!