This weekend, I completed my first improv class. I cannot believe how quickly it's gone by. It seems like just yesterday, I was walking up my street, coffee in hand, into the little theatre annex off Santa Monica/Hudson, feeling like a kid on the first day of school. I definitely plan on keeping it going, it has been by far, one of the best things I've done for myself this year. Not only do I have a better sense of improvisation and comedy, but I have a different perspective on life in general (see essay below).
What Improv Taught Me About Life
1) The rule of ‘Yes, AND’. One of the fundamentals of improv. When you are presented with an idea, you support the other person by saying ‘yes, AND’. Even if it’s an idea you don’t like, you establish that what they’re saying is true, and then add information. I’ve found myself saying ‘yes’ a lot more in my own life, instead of finding reasons, or excuses, to say no to opportunities. Simple words, yet incredibly effective.
2) Giving gifts: One of the fun exercises we do in warm-ups (besides zip-zap-zop), is giving “gifts” to our scene partners (traits, characteristics, status). It can be as simple as making them your significant other, or telling them how great their rabbit costume is even though the invitation said ‘Black Tie Event’. Giving gifts is great because you take the pressure off yourself by taking care of another person. Another essential life skill.
3) Releasing the need to get it right: This one was tough for me. I have the tendency to want things/scenes/life to go a certain way, and why not? We’ve grown so accustomed to putting in the work, and following a certain path, only to find it didn’t go the way we intended. Improv stripped me of this mindset. You learn to let go, and take in what’s happening in front of you. Even if you had a great idea for a scene as a baseball player trapped in the locker room during the 9th inning, and now you’re working the mall charm kiosk with your worst enemy, you adjust. There is no “right”, only better.
4) Step out, even when in doubt: You can’t just stand up there and be a spectator. You have to support your team, and step out even when you don’t have a whole idea. Sounds silly, considering that it’s improv, but you’d be surprised how easily fear can take over and make you stay on the backline. It wasn’t until the very end, that I finally understood that you just need to step out and initiate, or at the very least, support what’s happening. You’ll never be ready, until you step out and decide to be ready.
5) Being truthful: At the end of the day, you just want to be honest and truthful. There is such a thing as being too crazy and over the top. What makes a scene funny, is the humanity behind it. We laugh not because of the joke, but because we’ve see that kind of behavior, or we know people that are just like that (myself included). It’s the human nature that we connect to and makes us laugh.