Usually when my workplace tells me to do a mandatory 8-week training program, I react like this:
Hi, I'm Braeden, the new Digital Marketing and Live Comedy Coordinator at The Making-Box. When I was hired, I learned my 8-week training program was an improv class. Here are six incredibly valuable lessons I learned that have nothing to do with WHMIS labels:
1) Having Fun is More Important than Being Cool
In our first class, some strangers, now friends sat down and started talking about why we got involved in improv. I stayed sort of reserved. I was meeting new people, so I kept to myself in an effort to seem as cool as possible.
But then the improv warm-ups happened.
It took half an hour to bust through my chill exterior. Without reservation, I joyfully screamed about possessing an imaginary goat (“I HAVE THE GRACIOUS GOAT”). Few looking at me, or my imaginary goat, would see someone “cool”, however, they would see someone having the best time ever.
2) Don’t Just Say “Yes”, Say “Yes And…”
I had never taken improv before (minus a brief stint at theatre camp in Gr. 4). I quickly learned the “Yes, and…” tool. Basically, when you improvise, it’s much more fun to accept and go along with things than to shut people’s ideas down. That’s the “yes” part.
The “and” part is trickier, coming when you take what’s presented to you AND add something related. It’s easy enough to agree with people, but excitement and growth happens when we listen and contribute new ideas, directions and paths to our reality.
The best part is, this rule works in real life too. I have better/longer/weirder conversations now because I’m always “yes anding” people when we speak .
I’m a millennial writer with mild anxiety. So long story short, making decisions is tough for me. Don’t ever ask me where we’re going to eat, I have no idea other than I’m certain I’ll pick a food you hate.
But along came improv, the one place I’ve found where you actually can’t make wrong decisions. Thanks to our trusty “Yes… and” anything you say is accepted. I learned to trust my instincts and started committing to new realities seemingly out of nowhere.
4) Trust Others to Support You
The mild anxiety thing also didn’t make getting on stage, or being silly in front of others immediately appealing. It feels good once you do it. However, I may never have had the courage if I didn’t have others backing me up with “yes and” and more silliness.
With improv, you’re not scared to get on stage because you know you have a team of friends making sure you don’t look silly alone. In fact, they make your choices look as good as they possibly can. I can be fearless on stage because no matter which direction I go, there is at least 1-10 other people who will support.
5) Appreciate the Present Moment
What I like about yoga is the focus on your breath, your body and forgetting about everything else. The goal is to stay completely in the moment and in touch with your true self.
I find improv gives me the same sweet satisfaction. I never left a class without a post improv glow. It’s really hard to have fun and laugh for a straight two hours and NOT feel good.
6) Be Yourself
I tell people I’m doing improv and I immediately hear hesitation. People don’t believe they are funny enough, creative enough, smart enough. Improv’s deepest secret is that anyone is actually capable of doing it because people improvise every day. You automatically bring a completely unique set of experiences, emotions and ideas to the table - all which could be inspiration for hilarious characters or scenes.
I said the same things before I started my classes, but you just have to try it to see how weirdly natural it actually feels.
It’s now 9 weeks since that first class. I learned some great life lessons and found a community that’s incredibly positive, supportive, hilarious and wonderful. Not just when we’re on stage, but with everything we do.
I was at the Level 3 class last night. And no, Jay, Tom and Hayley (The Making-Box Directors) didn’t “force” me to take it this time.
Are you ready to experience this first hand? The best place to try improv is the drop-in classes that happen twice per month. If you love it, you can sign up for an 8-week course in the Improv Incubator.