I just discovered that this show “The Writer’s Room” is on Netflix streaming. Jim Rash, a guy who won and Oscar and who plays the Dean on Community and is brilliant at both, interviews the writers of a few big TV shows.
The first one was the writers and creator of Breaking Bad, Vince Gilligan. Asked how he originally pitched the idea for Breaking Bad, Gilligan said the pitch was always the same:
Mr. Chipps meets Scarface.
That was it. Brian Cranston’s Walter White was explained to Hollywood execs as “Mr. Chipps (a famous movie teacher played by Sidney Poitier) meets Scarface.” And eventually that pitched worked.
And here is the improv game it inspired:
Four players—A, B, C, and D.
A & B portray a writing/producing duo—even better if they play up the “sleaziness” of these characters—who are pitching ideas for new TV shows and movies and characters (to the audience) by using the “meets.”
Some examples might be:
“It’s Archie Bunker meets Alex P. Keaton.”
“It’s Winnie the Pooh meets Dirty Harry.”
“It’s The Cosby Show meets Dragnet.”
Then Players C & D act out what A & B set up.
If you’ve ever watched Whose Line Is It, Anyway?, you might’ve seen a similar arrangement: Ryan Stiles and Colin Mochrie doing a commercial for a music CD, while Wayne Brady had to sing the songs they described.” Similar vibe here, but no singing and more scenework.
The delight comes as much in watching improvisers trying to instantly combine “ALF meets Desperate Housewives” as it does in watching the producing duo mercilessly mess with the actors. What bizzare new combos can we toss their way?
If the players have a depth of knowledge about pop culture—films, TV shows, characters, writers, etc.—-this might go better. But as usual, all that really matters is genuine enthusiasm to play the game.