The Art of Improv

I recently started improv training at Second City, and in addition to teaching me how to hone my silly side into being even more hilarious than usual, I've learned a lot about life.

Improv is, obviously, about improvisation.  It is about giving up control and letting yourself go with the flow.  It is about silencing the voice in your own head, and letting yourself be spontaneous and uncensored.  Comedy, I think, is about truth.  When the truths that we repress in our daily lives are revealed, even a little, we find it funny, because the truth is life is silly.

Improv is unpredictable; anything can happen, and that's the best part about it and why we are so interested by it.  During the course of my class, there have been some amazing moments of comedic gold that arose because my classmates and I were forced to be creative and think quick on our feet.  Of course, it's easier to be silly in a judge free zone where everyone is being silly, but I think that we should all strive to be as spontaneous in our daily lives.

Good Things Happen When...

You "Yes, And"... I mentioned this principle in a previous blog, and it still rings true.  Improv is about "Yes, And".  You accept what your partner says or does, whatever it may be, and you add something else.  You accept, and then you adapt, then you send something back to your partner.   It is an exchange of ideas and creative energy through eye contact, good communication, and therefore support of one another.

Improv isn't really about helping oneself; you are in it with your team.  If you say "no" or deny an idea, you are effectively blocking the creative flow, and the dialogue and story stops.  "No" is a refusal to play along, and to contribute to the team effort; you block the creative process by not letting yourself go with it, and make sense out of situations that arise organically and naturally.

I, like many of you out there in the real world, think way too much.  I'm a neurotic mess.  I like Woody Allen movies because they speak to me directly, and I agree with every single thing Larry David's f%^%^d up mind comes up with (I think I was meant to be Jewish, if neurosis is in fact a Jew thing, perhaps it explains my love of Neil Diamond)  Anyways, the point is that instead of engaging with life and what's happening now, I stress on what's already happened and, alternatively, what's going to happen.  All along I should have been not worrying, but enjoying the adventure of figuring it out; of problem solving with my life partners - all of them.

What I've realized over the past few weeks is that the only thing that matters is focusing on present matters, and letting those experiences carry you into the next moment, and the next, and the next, and so on, with the people you are connected to.  I like comedy because it is lighthearted and has the power to lift people up, flaws and all, instead of dragging them down.  The best comedic moments I can think of are those that occur naturally, and don't seem premeditated - things that don't seem like their trying to be funny.  Furthermore, even the mistakes people make in performance can lend itself to hilarity - for example, an actor breaking character in a comedy sketch, and struggling to hold in their laughter.  There's no right, and there's no wrong; really, it's all good. 

The determining factor is opening yourself up to all possibilities, and being content with the outcome and what you make of it.  That's the Art of Improv.  

Arianne TongComment