Improv Lesson: Make the Other Person Look Good

My improv group had a pre-show chant we would do every time right before taking the stage. The person leading would yell, “what are we going to do?” Everyone else would respond, “Have fun!” The leader would then say, “What else are we going to do?” to which everyone would yell back, “make each other look good!”

It was our way of reminding ourselves right before going on stage what the two most important factors were in having a great show: having fun, and helping each other out.

Having fun should be pretty obvious (if it’s not I’ll write more on it later!), so for now I want to focus on the second part, “making each other look good.”

An improv comedy show can be a nerve wracking affair. You don’t know what the audience is going to be like or say, you don’t know what your fellow performers will do or say, and you don’t even know what you will say! It is very easy to get stressed out or focus overly hard on yourself.

The best improv happens when people put aside those nerves and simply focus on helping each other. If you make an offer, I am going to accept and build on it. If you are taking the scene somewhere, I am going to support and go with you. If you are struggling, I will help you out and pick up the slack.

This doesn’t mean you never get to lead or make jokes or get laughs. With experience, you are able to do all this while supporting the other people on stage. Also, when everyone in the group adopts this mind set, then everyone sets everyone else up. That is a beautiful thing…

Could you imagine what things would be like if you and everyone around you (at work, at home, at your volunteer association, etc) adopted this mentality? If one everyone’s primary goals was to have fun and make each other look good? Would that make things more fun, more productive, and more successful? I would think so!

Give this a try. Go about the world seeing what you can do to have and make others look good. You may be pleasantly surprised at the results you see.

Improv Lessons: Don’t Fight Fire With Fire

There’s an old saying to “fight fire with fire.” Nice idea with some occasionally correct applications, but usually it just amounts to “stooping to the other person’s level” and accomplishes nothing…

Once in a rare while, two performers will have a problem that manifests mid-scene. This is bad, because in order to do a successful improv scene, the performers really need to work together and support each other. When they breakdown mid-scene during a live performance, it’s not a pretty thing to see. To an audience member, it might not be immediately obvious what exactly is happening. They just might feel that something is wrong.

What often happens is that in the middle of a scene, one performer does some “bad” improv. This annoys the other performer, so they respond with some bad improv of their own. This solves nothing and only serves to escalate the problem. The scene continues with the two people not working together, not happy, and not doing anything good at all. At this point there is nothing left to do but end the scene as quickly as possible.

Even though this does happen, it’s really kind of a stupid problem. This is improv comedy we’re talking about! There’s nothing really at stake other than a good show.

And yet people often let their egos get in the way of their success. Sure, the first performer did something wrong. But then the second performer, out of annoyance, ego, or a desire to “punish,” responded in a poor way. And it is this second performer I want you to think about…

How many times does someone do something wrong to you, and you feel justified, if not compelled, to respond in kind? This doesn’t work in improv, and it doesn’t work away from improv. All you get when you fight fire with fire is a much bigger fire that hurts everyone.

There is a time, place, and method to dealing with problems. That time is occasionally right now, the place is rarely “right here in front of customers or observers,” and the method is pretty much never to respond with the same problematic behavior. Instead, take the person aside and address the issue calmly and rationally. If they did something “bad,” let them know without emotion or anger. Try to fix the problem, not punish the person.

Do this, and your life will be much easier and more successful.

Better Relationships Through Improv Comedy!

Valentine’s Day is approaching, so I have decided to share some ideas on how to use improv comedy to be a good “Valentine” It’s a little (or a lot) different from the traditional “Improv for Business” stuff, but if an improviser can’t act outside-of-the-box once in a while, who can? :-)

Here are the “Better Relationships Through Improv Comedy!” Tips!

Put Your Focus on Your Partner

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