Improv will improve your life. I know this because I used to perform in a group. You wouldn’t say that I studied improv. I’ve been to several workshops, and with my group, I played once a month for three years.
I stepped away because I felt like I took it as far as I could all things considered. My desire wasn’t to be a great improviser. Instead I wanted to take some of the principals and apply that to my storytelling. I was hoping that improv would make me a better writer.
The improv, I’m reluctant to use this word, scene has blown up recently. Accidental Theatre in Belfast is now hosting the first Northern Irish improv festival. There appears to be a growing audience as well as performers.
I know what you’re thinking, improv how lame. I understand your thinking. If you were to do improv, you would see how enjoyable and rewarding watching and performing can be.
Here are five benefits of practising improv.
Not worry about originality
When you first start practising improv one of the things that you try to do is either be shocking or be original. Sometimes they are the same thing.
The more you practice improv, the more you realise that there is no benefit to being original.
Here is something that I have noticed in general. What I have seen is that people don’t like originality.
Think of something you find original. There’s a high chance that it isn’t popular. Think of something popular, there is a high chance that it isn’t original. A vast majority of the population don’t like anything that is too new.
You struggle to relate to something that is too out there. You need a frame of reference to understand what you are experiencing.
Here’s an example: Resident Evil 7 when it first came out was heralded as a bold step for the series. It was considered a new and original take for the genre. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Part of the reason for the high praise is Capcom’s knack for taking the trendy and bringing it in under one umbrella.
Capcom ripped off elements of “the walking simulator” sub-genre and Alien Isolation. This wasn’t even the first, first-person Resident Evil. The Resident Evil series is the pop music of computer games. Remember whenever dubstep was new and cool? Eventually, every pop song had that “dubstep” bit in it, and it became passe.
What I’m trying to say is that the more improv you do, the more you realise that originality is for inefficient losers.
Originality takes effort. I can’t advise that you make that effort all that you are going to do is be rejected or looked at funny.
When it comes to improv, cliches are cliches for a reason. (500)
Realise things aren’t perfect
Another thing about improv is that the majority of it is terrible. Even performers who are at the top of the game could have a hit rate of 50:50.
The good news is that this is OK. When you improv you realise that not only are you not funny but you’ve never been funny and you should hang your head in shame for even trying to be funny.
You want to know the great thing about that?
You’re in good company.
Improv will make you more decisive
The only wrong decision is indecision. You’re fortunate enough that you live in a world where there is no decision that you make that it is irreversible. You should consider yourself lucky.
Your day is filled with many micro-decisions, and they add up they lead to decision making fatigue.
I’m not a fan of making decisions, so much so that I will try to avoid the decision-making process altogether. I tend just to eat the one kind of meal and will wear the same set of clothes over and over. I don’t like wasting time, and I think that people who spend time over thinking about food are wasting theirs.
You know what it is like in a relationship, there tends to be one who overthinks food, and it can be a pain in the ass. You know what I’m talking about. People who won’t take the responsibility of making the decision but want you to do it for them.
That’s what you’ll love about improv, it teaches you to trust your gut more. It takes you out of your head and motivates you to be more present and aware. Improv has a lot of crossover principals with mindfulness. If you are trying to develop your mindfulness take an improv class. You will connect more with your subconscious. Sometimes it all comes together, and it’s beautiful. Other times it all falls apart and guess what? It’s still beautiful. Every decision you make is a right decision. If it falls flat, well you’ll make a different choice next time.
The ethos behind improv can be summed up with the expression “yes and”. You agree then you make an addition.
When I first did improv what surprised me most was how welcoming and supportive everyone was. This is especially unnatural in Northern Ireland. In Northern Ireland being nurturing and kind is a form of weakness that needs stomping out.
Improv teaches you to be positive. You realise that you and your fellow improvisers are working as a team to produce the best content.
I have been involved with local music, film and stand up. These are toxic environments. Three different groups that are bound by a common interest, not a common goal. They are out for themselves whereas in improv everyone wants to play with the best players. It’s in everyone’s interest to be the best and work together. No one wants to be the player that no one wants to play with.
With the “yes and” philosophy you look at things as “how can I add to this and make things better”. Improv makes you not just a “glass half full person” it makes you a “wow, I have a glass to work with, and there’s liquid in there too”.
Even if you’re not funny. Also if you’ve never been funny, you should consider going along, watching some improv.
Maybe one day you’ll take a class, and you’ll surprise yourself at just how good that you are.