160 – Forming an Improv Team

these people could be doing improv or committing a murder. it's really up in the air

these people could be doing improv or committing a murder. it’s really up in the air

I love improv. I won’t apologize for that. I know it’s an unpopular opinion, but I personally believe that you ought to do things that make you happy. And getting on stage and making shit up with people that I like makes me happy. Sue me! I dare you! Good luck with that one, buddy. Have you calmed down? Good, because here’s the point. You can’t do improv without being on an improv team (surprisingly I’ve had no bites on my one-man improvised Shakespeare act), but – as we have previously established – I am not a social person. So what the hell am I supposed to do?

There are two analogies for improv teams that get bandied about all willy-nilly. The first is the band comparison. They are similar in a lot of ways: each member tends to fill a certain role, creative struggle is not uncommon, and it usually takes an inordinate amount of time to come up with a name. Once I spent an hour debating names with an improv team, ultimately landing on a pun that no one was happy with, but that stuck nonetheless.

So if you can play in a band you can probably play in an improv troupe. Here’s the thing, I was never in a band. I auditioned for one once. Didn’t work out, mostly for those same socialization issues – too meek, too insecure. I have more self-confidence these days. I almost wish those guys from high school would get the band back together so I could show them what I’ve really got. But then, if Adam Sandler comedies are to be believed, I would probably have to go back to high school or something. Actually that isn’t far off from my current job. Oh god. I’m living my nightmare.

The other improv analogy is dating. As recent posts can attest, I’m probably a little more familiar with this metaphor. And it’s apt. I sometimes get just as nervous asking someone to do improv with me as I do asking someone out on a date (doubly nerve-wracking: I have asked both questions of the same person on more than one occasion). Those same questions of “am I good enough?” are ever-present in the mind. You gotta shake those off, pal. Unless you really aren’t good enough. In that case, why are you even asking?

Member selection is integral to the improv team formation process. If you don’t actually like the people you ‘prov with, you’re gonna do bad ‘prov. It is as simple as that, and you know I’m speaking the truth because I use cool slang like “‘prov.” But what if all of the people you like are significantly better than you? Sure it’s fun to play with stronger improvisers – they up your game, like when you play tennis with someone who actually knows what they’re doing (ah! Another analogy). But your more gifted friend probably won’t want to play with just you forever.

That means it’s time to branch out. Conquer your fears of social incompetence and talk to random performers at indie shows. We’re all in this together, as the song says (that also happens to be the motto at my high school), so get your face out there. If you’re really a good improviser you can probably pretend to be charming.

Or do what I do, and attach yourself to a slightly less anti-social person and expect them to do hard work. It may or may not pan out.

Getting up on stage is fun. And it’s an essential part of the improv learning process. Whether your improv is career-oriented or just directed toward self-improvement, you need that feeling of flying without a net onstage. So start a team, go to shows, and if you see me there – please don’t talk to me. I’m probably really busy thinking about how isolated I am. You definitely don’t want to break up that goldmine of a thought-stream.

One thought on “160 – Forming an Improv Team

  1. Pingback: 240 – Starting a Podcast | Steven Cohen's 365 Days of Reviews

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