This blog was meant to be a business and marketing type of blog.
But you know, it can’t be a blog without me writing about things I like.
And especially in its infancy – where I have 0 readers and 0 expectations to uphold, right?
So today, I want to talk about Improv Acting… and why I enjoy it so much. In fact, if you keep on reading, you will also see parallels between “life” and improv. Between what you do or want to do and improv.
So, let’s jump in.
1. You Have to Jump In without Thinking.
In every class, there’s a 2nd half where you get up and do scene-work with other students. Now, who goes up is totally up to: 1) the number of people (2-3) and 2) whoever physically gets up and steps in.
The number of people is up to the teacher.
The actual people that decide to go up… is up to the people themselves. You choose.
And there has been many a time where I was…
- Wondering if I should go up today
- Wondering what I’d want to do (not a good idea for improv)
- Too absorbed by the story
- (Or whatever other reason)
…and I didn’t go up. What happened? Well, someone in else jumps in and they do the scene. They get the practice in. And before you know it, time’s up and class is over. You missed your chance.
Life lesson: Well, if any of you missed out on some sweet chances because you didn’t physically “move,” you can probably relate. I know I can.
Also, if you miss out on the practice, it’s missing out on improvement. If you’re not going up to bat at every opportunity, you (and I) are losing.
Sure, jumping in without thinking isn’t wise if you’re jumping in a shark pool. Or into a harmful activity. But elsewhere, it’s an important skill to have. Business too.
2. It Forces You to Really Listen
Trust me, a lot of us are not listening.
Sure, we hear them. But, we’re running their statements past our knowledge. “Uh huh, uh huh, sure… yeah…. ring ding ding ding! I want to respond to that!!” Then, we want to JUMP IN and TELL THEM what WE THINK of THEIR THING… instead of accepting their message for what it is.
In improv, you have things called offers. Offers are what a person says or does. Especially, their very first lines. For example:
- Sir, the President is here to see you.
You take that offer and you accept it. Then, you build on it.
Building it makes for a good scene and allows you to develop the “offer” deeper. Otherwise, you’re just jumping from offer to offer, not sticking to anything.. and nothing good happens.
Life lesson: If you’re mindful enough, you can take that practice and adopt it to outside conversations… and really listen.
3. It Helps You Be Quick On Your Feet (Brain)
In improv, you can’t expect what your partner will say next.
But, it is your job to accept their offer work off of what they say. If you don’t, the scene’s going to suck. Why will it suck? See above about “accepting the offer.”
Now, this is 100% harder said than done.
And there are millions of non-improv people who are very quick witted. You’ve probably noticed them as being gifted conversationalists.
Life Lesson: Improv gives you the chance to practice that.
So that next time, when someone throws something your way, you’ll have a fresh way to respond.
4. Accepting The Offer Helps Things Happen
You kill a scene by not accepting the offer your partner hands you.
- A: Sir, the President is here to see you.
- B: No.
- A: But, he says it’s urgent.
- B: Tell him I’m busy.
This might sound cute. And maybe someone will laugh at you being too busy for Mr. President.
But to character B, this becomes gut-wrenchingly painful. And it becomes a conflict with A and B that we don’t really care for. We want to see a scenario unfold.
If you want a more relatable scenario of how bad this is, think of the last time you suggested multiple things to a person. And they just said no to each one. How fun was that? Not at all.
Like that one time I asked a girl out and she said “no, because I’m doing laundry.” LOL.
You help a scene grow by taking that offer and accepting it. We practice accepting by saying “yes and…”
- A: Sir, the President is here to see you.
- B: Ah, the President. Yes, I’ve been waiting to see him.”
See? And now you can go into “WHY” you’ve been waiting to see him. And why the President wants to see you.
If you said no, you just shut down a storyline.
And same thing with life. Life lesson: Every time we say “no” to things, we miss out on a storyline and interesting things. Sure, it’s okay to say “no” to jumping into a shark pool, but otherwise, it’s not so bad.
Now, why do people make this mistake? They don’t listen.
5. You’re All Terrible
Your scene is going to suck. Your dialogue is going to suck. You’re going to suck. Your partner is going to suck. You’re going to facepalm yourself hard for saying something that didn’t flow.
And… that’s okay. Because everyone up there is making mistakes.
I want to write some wishy-washy stuff about accepting failure but I can’t. Nothing comes to mind. I’m not sure this is failure.
Failure, I think, is stopping and walking away.
What this is is — life lesson alert — an acceptance that most things you do you suck at. Especially in your first month, 6 months and year. Dancing. Fitness. Language. Work. Personal relationships. Adulting. Being a good friend.
So, it’s a matter of practicing it and chipping away at it.
6. You’re Forced to Practice Qualities & Emotions You Normally Don’t Use.
I’m not particularly loud or overdramatic.
I don’t express strong reactions when I’m happy, sad or angry. At least thus far. Like you, I don’t do a lot of things.
But, that doesn’t mean it’s “not who I am.” Just what I don’t do often.
Improv gives you a chance to practice emotions you normally don’t. And you’re forced to be obvious with your emotions. And that’s good. Because people aren’t mind readers and don’t know that you’re “internally content but you just have a resting angry face.”
Life lesson: Not sure what the life lesson is here… without getting very abstract. Ah, maybe there is one. It’s good for communication.
Wait, here are some.
- If you’re not particularly expressive but would like to be, this is a great practice.
- You learn how to “activate” other sides of you.
- And you get a good reason to “turn on” other sides of you.
7. It’s a Good Chance to Practice “Life” Itself
I want to build upon that last point.
And you get a good reason to “turn on” other sides of you.
See, I sit behind a computer all day. And I write copy, scripts or am evaluating sales. So, I sit in my head all day long.
And I can be this way with friends, new people and whoever I encounter. Unless it’s a good group of friends.
So, improv lets me “turn on” all the qualities I normally don’t exercise: moving first, being loud, being sociable, listening intently without worrying about myself and such.
In other words, it lets me practice “life.”
Then, I can take these lessons and apply them elsewhere.
Done for now.