It’s easy to dismiss the montage. It feels like a shapeless “default” form. As in, “What do you want to do tonight?” “Let’s just do a montage.” This quickly becomes a series of scenes with little connection to one another, that may or may not be apparently tied to the suggestion or opening. It feels like a form without rules, a collection of scenes.
But a good montage has rules, just like the Harold or La Ronde or any other form. The big difference is, in a montage, you make them up as you go, which means you have to actively look out for them.
Here’s a super easy example, that Shitty Jobs did in a recent set.
Dominic Dierkes did something for which he was so embarassed that he insisted he go into the closet and kill himself. In a regular set, that might be game move, constricted to merely that scene. However, in a well done montage, we take that move and consider making it a rule for the entire set: “Whenever we get embarassed, we go into a closet and kill ourself.”
Later, Charlie Sanders walked onto a scene and made a game move that got almost no laughs. It was a silly move that he quickly acknowledges didn’t play. Thus, Dominic tags in, and Charlie knows exactly where he’s at: he’s in the closet with Dominic and has to kill himself for that embarassing game move he did. This second move confirms Dominic’s first move and so it is now officially a rule of this montage.
Now, throughout the 20-30 minute montage, anytime a character in any scene, in any universe, no matter how little or how much sense it makes, if they embarass themselves, they have to join Dominic in the closet to kill themselves. This “rule” they’ve created now plays like a chorus to a great song, and anytime they start singing it, the audience bursts into applause.
This is, of course, not the only way to approach a montage, but this kind of rule-building comes in handy and you see veteran teams do it all the time. What could easily be a collection of silly scenes, quickly becomes a deeply, almost impossibly interconnected web of one inseparable whole.