I have been doing improv for over two years now and I have definitely learnt a lot along the way, while having so much fun and laughing until my stomach hurts.
Here is a list of things that will give you a hint of why I like it so much 🙂 I wish I’d stumbled upon something similar before signing up for my first class, so hopefully, this can encourage someone to start improvising!
1. Meeting new people
I have met so many new people, with many different backgrounds, ages, interests, that I would not have had a chance to meet in my usual routine. During the pandemic this became even more true: thanks to everything being online, I got to know improvisers from all over the world and we will be organizing an IRL event when possible 🙂 I can’t wait!
2. “Laugh, play, and have fun“
What I like the most is that improv is FUN. It’s very common for people in the audience to laugh a lot and you are lucky to be “the audience” when your classmates are performing. I have genuinely laughed out loud countless times. It’s all a game and even if it can be challenging it’s also, always fun! “It was amazing to laugh, play and have fun for two hours” was basically what all of us said after the first lesson was over
3. Doing something scary
Public speaking is one of the activities that mostly scares Americans, according to this survey. It’s scarier than being mugged or not being able to repay student loans, the results showed.
Public speaking is essentially speaking in front of an audience.
Now, improv is like public speaking, but with no script, slides or preparation. Way scarier!
And even if you are acting, exactly because it’s not scripted, anything you say was clearly thought by you, which is a vulnerable position to be in and it is scary to have to say something with zero planning.
The very nice thing about improv is that, although it can be scary at first, everyone is so welcoming and you learn pretty soon that mistakes don’t really exist, so the atmosphere is always fun and amazing.
4. Learning to deal with uncertainty
Improv is, by definition, unscripted. You get an inspiration word (sometimes a location, a relationship, or even a random word like pineapple) and you have to come up with something on the spot. Let me tell you, it is NOT always easy. And you are not alone, which is a blessing, but it also means you can be heading in one direction and your scene partner was thinking of something completely different so you have to pivot and instantly go on a very different path. This brings me to the next point
5. Learning to listen
It’s crucial to listen, at all times and very carefully. You should try and remember as much as possible and pick up on any cues or peculiar things that can be used to better explain the environment you are setting up, for instance, or which can enhance the scene
6. Being in the present and letting go
Related to the previous point is this: you can’t be thinking of what you’re going to say next, or you might miss the last four words your scene partner says and then respond in a way that would not be realistic. Or you might miss an opportunity for a pun or simply a better line if you are focused on where you thought the scene was going versus where it has actually gone. You will learn to let go of your plans and go with the flow
7. Reducing stress
You need to be so focused and concentrated on what is going on in the moment, so there is no brain space left for pending to-dos, unread emails, or an issue you have been worrying about
8. Becoming confident talking in front of people
Connected to the point of doing something scary, getting in the habit of talking to an audience means it will be way easier to give a talk or a presentation in the future – there you have the luxury to prepare a speech!
9. Embracing failure
You are going to make mistakes. You just have to move on. You are going to say something a bit out of place maybe because you weren’t fully listening or you might misremember the name you had given your scene partner and end up calling them with a different one a few moments later. Although of course, we all try to avoid mistakes, sometimes they make everything better because it is usually inherently funny and if it gets picked up it can become a joke
10. Noticing details
This is linked to the previous point. You need to be careful and pay attention to the details of what is being said and done in the scene. There will be small things you can pick up on that will take you in a totally unforeseen scenario. There will be mistakes or inconsistencies that you can turn into a joke. There will be some confusion in your partner and you can openly observe it and treat it as if it were confusion in the character they are portraying
All in all, it’s clear I am a huge fan of doing and watching improv. If you ever have the chance, I highly recommend you give it a go! If you have any questions, feel free to ask.
If you are an improviser, what is your favourite thing about improv? Leave it in the comments below, please