Now I’ve taken up improvised comedy, I wanted to share some of the things I learned with you as I think you might find them helpful in your professional and personal life. Who knows, you might like to take up improv yourself.
1. Make offers
This means offering people something they can react to, jump on or develop. It usually gives them the option to add their own ideas.
2. Collaboration is about ‘yes and,’ not ‘yes but’
Collaboration is spoken about a lot in the work place, but more often than not it’s about putting road blocks in front of and shooting down other people’s ideas. This is not collaboration. In improv, the idea is to build upon ideas, offering ways in which they can be elaborated on and delivered in a supportive manner, not finding issues with them and reasons to scrap them or bringing in your own idea instead.
3. It’s always your turn
In any improv situation, you are always ‘on,’ always playing, it is always your turn. Even if you are doing nothing you might be expected to do something at any moment, so pay attention and keep your wits about you.
4. Be Present!
Leading on from the above point, you have to be very much in the moment. I’ve been applying this to both work and the gym. If I’m at a meeting at work, I no longer day dream, but pay attention and try to contribute. If I’m in an exercise class at the gym I go as hard as possible. I figure if I’m there, I might as well do my best, I might as well go for it.
5. Everyone else is a genius and you’re there to make them look good
I love this one, as it takes the pressure off somewhat and it’s the converse of the stand-up comedian mind set from what I’m told. You don’t have to have the best idea, the smartest quip, lead the revolution; supporting is a crucial role. I think the following explains this best. (FYI This was shown at a Leadership event at work).
[Sigh] There is so much I love about this video.
6. The person most aware of your mistakes is you
You might think you’ve made a mistake, every now and again the people you improv with might spot a mistake, 9 times out of 10 the audience won’t notice you’ve made a mistake and almost every other time they’ll find it funny.
They will, however, always notice if you stop mid scene because you think you’ve made a mistake. Style it out, gloss over it, take a bow, whatever, but don’t apologise. At least you’re having a go.
7. Comedy: Your reality is someone else’s hilarious fiction
When it comes to improvised comedy, draw from your own experiences. You don’t have time to craft some intelligent gag, your reality may be completely bizarre, yet entertaining to everyone else.
So there you have it. I’m learning more stuff all the time, so I may well add to this list.
I practice improv with Birmingham’s Box of Frogs improv group, who meet every Tuesday in Moseley and perform on 3rd Monday of each month at the Blue Orange in the Jewellery Quarter.