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by Darren Held

Sometimes, I have students who get frustrated with me because we don’t just jump right into doing improv scenes. And I get that… I mean, if you’ve watched Whose Line or seen shows at Groundlings or whatever, you think woohoo! that looks fun! and you want to try it.

The thing is, you might watch a football game or Dancing with the Stars or a brain surgery and think it looks fun – but you don’t assume that because you’re interested in it, you are automatically endowed with the skills needed to do it.

I’m not saying improv is brain surgery. But it does have rules and a structure, which vary according to the type of improv we’re talking about. So we spend a few weeks doing exercises focused on the various rules like agreement, adding information, commitment, not asking questions, being an expert, not being sarcastic, having big emotions, not trying to be funny and the like. And guess what? Even though those exercises aren’t complete improv scenes, you’re still doing improv. You are doing improv from the minute you walk into the very first class and holler Yay!

Any group of friends can get together and play Scenes from a Hat and be hilarious. But when you sign up for an improv class, it’s my job to teach you stuff. Trust me, I’d be happy to jump up onstage with you and just play, but that’s not why I make the big bucks. If you’re constantly looking ahead and wondering, “When is she ever going to let us do scenes?” you’re missing out on all the learning and all the fun!! It’s not as if the exercises are like, well, exercising. They’re fun to do and hilarious to watch. And if you’re constantly looking ahead, you aren’t in the moment.

Since being in the moment is more or less the underpinning of improv… well, I think you get the point.

By Sonnjea Blackwell

Darren Held
About Darren Held
Darren is the CEO and Creative Director of Held2gether, Improv for LIfe. He has been teaching and performing improv for 15 years, and has performed with H2g, the Groundlings, UCB and Second City. He loves Moto, red wine, and Madonna.

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