Sunday, June 29, 2008's important

Naming your troupe, that is. To varying degrees.

It's easier and harder than it looks. So since I've already babbled about my opinion, here are some tips for finding one—and what to do after. 

Put everything on index cards or slips of paper you can spread out and move around.

When Annoyance teachers talk about character, they say, "How you do what you do is who you are." It's a great way to approach naming. 
  • How you do (your attitude or style) 
  • what you do (a description of your show or approach)
  • is who you are (your name). 
Or even simpler: attitude + content = name.
  1. Start by brainstorming words that describe your attitude or style. Edgy? Playful? Wacky? Look for adjectives, nouns and verbs that fit.  
  2. Next, brainstorm your content or something specific about your show/troupe. Some directions that might work: Descriptions of groups, words that mean/signal comedy or improv. 
  3. Put the two together, and see what that sparks. 
Funny Outfit got to our name this way. Our naming strategy was simple: 
  • We wanted something that said clearly "comedy"
  • We wanted a name that started with one of the first five letters of the alphabet
We had "funny" on one card, and "outfit" in a stack of cards with different descriptors for groups. 

Who are you playing for? Think demographics and psychographics. What do they want from you? 

Then think of ways you'd describe your troupe, the benefits you offer, the show you'll produce...and edit mercilessly until you have something short. 

(This is how Lighten Up came up. We knew a big part of our business would be corporate, and the benefit we offered was helping them lighten up in the workplace.)

There are lots of "rules" for naming. Decide which ones apply: 
  • The further up in the alphabet, the higher you are in listings. This may be important when you're in a big category that people search for in phone books and google. Whether it's critical when there are likely to be no more than three comedy listings in the Pitch on any given night...? Debatable. 
  • It should be intuitive enough for the audience to know immediately what it means. Again, depends on the context in which it will appear. If you can tag "comedy" or "improvisation" on the poster or listing somewhere, does it really have to be in the name?
  • No one else should have the same name. Again, depends. If you want to travel nationally, or apply to festivals, or franchise your name or show, you should probably run a check. A google search (name + improv) will give you a quick idea of any other troupes using the same name; there are several levels of federal trademark searches if you want to do more. You probably don't need to play for a registered trademark. 
Most of them based on years of reviewing dozens of festival tapes by troupes with different names:
  • I hate names and logos that incorporate rubber chickens and Groucho glasses. WTF do those things have to do with improv? 
  • I'm not a huge fan of incorporating "improv" into other words or phrases or ____prov. Mission Improvable. Kidprov. Stuff like that. (I know, I know, this includes Improv-abilities. Sorry. I like every single other thing about them.)
  • Currently, I'm a fan of bratty one-word names (Tantrum, Spite, Poke...see a pattern?). This may just be a phase. 
  • Names of shows I directed that I now feel deeply ashamed of: Commedia Del Harold (I let the cast name that one. It still makes me cringe.) and Corn Dog with a Reservoir Tip (The format was inspired by Reservoir Dogs. That is no excuse.).
Blah, blah, blah, blah.

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