By Steve Taggart
To quote Adam Smith – is “Every man lives by sharing”. The simple fact of stepping onto a stage, with no idea of what your fellow improvisers are going to say or do, means you have to be open and receptive, and ready to reciprocate. A core improvisation rule is “Yes… and” i.e. take an idea, react positively and then respond. Taking what is offered to you and adding something to that offer yourself is perhaps one of the most valuable life and stage skills possible. How many times have any of us been in a conversation, meeting, interview and have become uncertain, over thought and misrepresented ourselves?
Sharing and trusting our natural responsiveness are a good rule for any area of life, and learning to do that instinctually (something you need to do in Improv) is a very useful skill to have any time any place.
The applications of improvisation are of course most visible in comedy or stage, where a performer is required to be responding naturally and with ease, with a fellow performers or a whole audience – anyone going into stand-up comedy can learn most of the skills just through improvisation courses, being an a room, a safe space with other performers, and taking the same kind of risks that others take for the first time in front of a paying audience.
But these obvious examples aside, the biggest applications of improv in everyday life – another key lesson is to take reasonable risks and accept that you will make mistakes; when you don’t know what’s going to happen in a scene you have to trust your instincts, and they will sometimes be wrong – and paradoxically those mistakes can often be the funniest, best or most dramatic moments in a scene, and it’s by embracing them, accepting them and integrating them that everyone can make a scene that a whole room or crowd remembers for years. Practicing improvisation isn’t just for comedians, it’s for anyone who happens to be alive.
Second City have taught improvisation to some of the worlds most successful people and the best comedians – Bill Murray, Tina Fey, Mike Myers, Steve Carrell. They have never taught in the UK before – and are coming to do so in May.
Courses in Improv are taking place at Angel Comedy, Islington in association with Comedy Blogedy. They run from the 4th – 8th and 11th – 18th May, with a festival of improvisation 10-16th May. Reserve places at www.angelcomedy.co.uk or www.secondcity.com