For the last few weeks, I’ve been taking a beginner improv class as a way to meet people and broaden my horizons. Overall, the experience has been highly positive and I’ve learned a great deal on not just improv, but comedy as a whole.
The first phrase I have been telling friends what the classes are like is “adult daycare.” Certainly a lowbrow phrase, but how else can one interpret a class where we try to channel different levels of an animal? Or one where we try to perform a Busby Berkeley dance without a priori discussion? Another great example of an improv game that I (and I suspect many kids) would enjoy is equivalent to the everyone-tell-a-story-but-can-only-say-one-word.
At some point, silliness from all becomes just straight up fun. The key phrase there is “from all”: we all paid for the lessons, and thus had a stake in being whimsical. I’m glad none of my classmates hesitated to do any of the exercises and in fact most put themselves out there. This was one of the lessons from improv: action with confidence supersedes hesitancy, especially if no one knows what you’re doing.
Joking aside, it’s been actually very informative on what exactly makes good improv, well, good. Some can be attributed to the spontaneity of the performers, but there are general frameworks which help add structure. For one, we learned that it’s much easier to grasp a scene if we self-impose a goal and also add some sort of familiar relationships between the characters. People can grasp onto the characters much easier that way, and there’s established frameworks to manipulate.
As something that I signed up for willy-nilly turned out to be quite the happy accident. I really did enjoy the class and the challenges it gave me.