I’m taking a comedy improv class.
For the first time, I look forward to going to school when I feel funny.
It’s a blast and if you have conversations, meetings or presentations, you should consider taking a class yourself. Even if you think you have no ability to make someone laugh, it’s a great way to improve your communication skills.
The key to improv is thinking on your feet, so when you really think about it, all of life is improv. Every day at work, you’re on a stage with a cast of characters you probably didn’t choose.
No matter what you do for work, you have to communicate. And when you communicate you have to be able to deal with unexpected circumstances. The essence of improv is dealing with the unexpected and turning it around for something positive. And sometimes you’ve got less than a second to do it.
So what IS an improv class…
1. Comedy clubs in your town probably have them. Simple web search and you’re in.
2. It’s not expensive. Probably a couple hundred dollars for a course.
3. You’ll be taught by comedy pros. So you’re support the arts and learning something.
4. You’ll probably have 8 to 10 people in your class. This is important. You’ll want to be working with a troupe of newcomers. You’ll find some people have a natural talent and you’ll love getting on stage with them. Some people will be awkward and have miserable timing and guess what, that’s just like real life.
5. You’ll learn all the types of improv, building scenes, timing, beats, “bearhugging the thing” and when to edit.
6. Improv players refer to what they do on stage with other people as “playing.” We all need more play in our lives.
7. No matter how fast you are on your feet, or how sharp or funny you think you are, you have a LONG way to go.
8. You’ll want to watch old improv/comedy skits from the 40’s, 50’s etc. You’ll have a new appreciation for the talents of the masters of sketch comedy.
9. When you get up on stage with another player, someone will throw out an “opening.” This is a first line that, hopefully, will endow you with who you are in the scene, who they are and what “the thing” is. That first line could be something like “Damn Mike, that’s the happiest monkey I’ve ever seen… What have you been feeding him?”
Right there, you know who you are, the fact you’ve got a well fed monkey and probably that your friend’s monkey is lacking in that certain monkey vim and vigor. What do you do next? You may come back with “Well, I’m not really sure. He’s been getting out of his cage at night and coming home smelling like beer and taco’s…”
Now you’ve found “the thing.” Obviously your monkey is up to no good and loving it.
Bear hug “the thing” and carry it through. See how far it can go before it runs out of steam, and cut the scene on a high point. Keep the energy in the room going and then give the stage to someone else.
10. You may fall in love with the whole idea of being on stage and working without a net and go on to forming an improv troupe with other players… Or you may be filled with so much dread that you break out in a sweat every time you do it. So you need to do it more!
What does this have to do with business?
In your daily working grind, you’ll come across every kind of character. Some people are dreadful and some are wonderful. And every one of them will throw you for a loop and you’ll have to react. You’ll have to find that thing that matters in every conversation and stay focused on it. And you’ll have to know when to edit the scene… When the conversation is over and it’s time to go get something done.
This is important in meetings as well as casual conversations.
And VERY important in presentations.
Being able to read the room and keep the energy going can make or break a presentation. For many years now, I’ve spent a lot of time in front of rooms full of executives, presenting new ideas and getting them focused on “the thing” and helping them to bear hug the ideas. No matter how well I’ve prepared, something unexpected will happen and I’ve got to react instantly. Improv training can help you deal with those things you cannot prepare for… But will always be lurking in every conversation, meeting and presentation.
It could be the best education investment you ever make. And the most fun you ever have in class.
Let’s face it, we’re all on one big stage and nobody gets a net. Jump in and play for all you’re worth or stay home and watch TV.
If you’re in either Austin or New Orleans, check out my comedy school, The New Movement Theatre. It’s a great venue for comedy every night and they offer up classes in improv, comedy sketch writing and more. Take the leap. You’ll land on your feet.