Things Improv Taught Me About Myself

For the second year in a row I’m taking an Improv class taught by the St. Marys Community Player’s Liane Gregory-Sterritt.

Last year I was somewhat startled to realize how much improv classes were teaching me about myself.   More on that in a bit.

Last year I was happy to find that improv made it possible for me to come back with responses much faster than before.

We’ve all had those moments where 3 days after a conversation with someone you think, “OMG, I should’ve said this..!”

With improv that happens less and less because you become accustomed to listening and accepting what people are saying.

You might think you’re already doing that.  But I think many would realize that they don’t after taking improv.

Here’s an example:

Before Improv:

Boss:   I think we should move to an open office concept to increase productivity!

You: [thinking]  WTF?!!  This guy is an idiot,  I HATE it when he reads management blogs written by unemployed managers!  What if I say this,  or that, or maybe if I say something like that, he’ll come back with this and I can counter with….
[saying]:  [nothing]

After Improv:

Boss:   I think we should move to an open office concept to increase productivity!

You: [saying]   That’s an interesting idea,  but we’re knowledge workers whose jobs require a great deal of focus and concentration.   The fewer distractions, the more productivity!

In this year’s intermediate class Liane has been hammering home an interesting point…

Thinking is BAD!  (In Improv…not in real life!)

When you roll this in with the concepts of Accepting and SUPER-Accepting it makes sense.

One of the things that makes Improv so much fun for both the improver and the audience is that its unscripted.

What that means is that no one knows where the scene will go.   As an Improv’er you cannot dictate where the scene goes….no matter how hard you try.   Like most Improv’ers I’ve learned this from experience.

Its also generally unacceptable to stop a scene and say to your fellow Improv’er, “WTF was that??”

Actually in Improv that’s a pretty terrible thing to do.

Thinking too much in Improv  is going to show.   You’ll be expecting your partners to see your statement or action the same way you do,  and when you don’t accept they don’t you’re going to tank the scene. I did that last night.

The problem was that I was thinking about the game and trying to plan instead of following what I think might be the most important rule of Improv…

In Improv,  accept what you are given and make it BIGGER!

Now,  to things I learned about myself.

One of the things Liane is trying her level best to teach us is not only Accepting,  but Super Accepting!

Here are some examples:


I1:  I’m a dog!

I2:  What a cute little doggie!

Super Accepting:

I1:  I’m a dog!

I2:   Yes, and you’re the star of a television show that made everyone forget about Lassie!

Sounds pretty simple right?

Well,  if you’re like me and your sense of humour is based in sarcasm,  its pretty hard to do!

If you’re not accepting something,  you are negating the offer!

Sarcasm is all about accepting!  (in case you can’t tell..I’m being sarcastic)

With my tendency to use sarcasm,  I end up negating what’s offered by my partners.

It might be funny,  and it might take the scene somewhere….but when the scene is about accepting,  its not acceptable.  (I didn’t see the pun until I proof-read this!)

Liane calls me on it every time. (and don’t tell her this,  but I love her for doing that)

Personal Lesson 1:   Sarcasm is not the only humour.

Another lesson I learned about myself is about control.

Some of you might be surprised to learn that I like to be in charge.  (by some of you, I mean anyone who hasn’t met me.)

I know that this might make me sound like a bit of a jerk,  but I accept that.  (See Liane, I am learning! lol)

With Liane’s help I’m seeing that during scenes I am still trying to exert control by “holding the ball too long”.

Its a proverbial ball…in that I’m saying too much…in an attempt to control the scene.

Of course,  thanks to my Improv training,  when Liane points these things out to me,  I am able to right off the cuff respond with,  “Yeah,   wow,  okay,  I see that now.”

Because before Improv something like that would take 3 days to percolate through all that thinking I do.






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