By Darren Held

Are You Gonna Get a Job Doing the Improv?

Today’s improv wisdom comes from my homie, Kendra Nicholson:

I was talking on the phone to my dad who lives in Missouri. After a few moments of yelling, he finally put in his hearing aid so we could converse at normal levels. He asked what I was doing, and I told him I was getting ready for improv class. We then had this conversation:

DAD: You get paid to do that acting stuff?

ME: First of all, it’s not acting. Improv is completely different than acting, and secondly… No. I do not get paid to do it.

DAD: Well, when you’re done with them classes, are you gonna get a job doing the improv and then get paid?

ME: Ummm… No.

DAD: Then why do you do it? What’s the point?

ME: I do it because I love it. I do it because it’s changed my life for the better. We learn to say “yes” in improv. We learn to just accept what is happening in the scene and run with it. I find myself saying “yes” a lot more in my daily life too. I’m learning to be more spontaneous and to stop planning so much. When you stop planning and worrying about what’s going to happen later, when you let go of your agenda, you can just be in the moment. It carries over into my daily life. You can simply concentrate on what is happening right now, and let those anxious feelings go. Improv has helped me become a better listener. We learn to hear everything our scene partner says before we respond, and when that carries over to your everyday life, it’s a wonderful thing. I used to find myself planning my responses to people I was talking to as they were still talking. I would simply be waiting until it was my turn to say something too. I wasn’t really listening to all of the information. I was just getting bits and pieces. I think most importantly though, I laugh a lot more. I find humor in places I never looked for it before. I have also met some amazing people. I have so much fun with my improv peeps. They are an incredibly supportive and funny group of people. So… That’s why I take improv classes.

DAD: (Crickets… Crickets…)

ME: Dad? Are you still there?

DAD: Huh? Oh… Yeah… I’m here.

ME: Did you hear anything I just said?

DAD: Not really, sis. When I put in my hearing aids, I was able to hear the TV, and that Judge Judy gal was really lettin’ some fella have it! Do you watch Judge Judy?

ME: No. No, I don’t watch Judge Judy.

DAD: What were saying about that acting thing?

ME: Not much. Just that it’s helped me become a better listener.

DAD: Oh. I already know how to do that.

ME: Yeah. You’re a great listener. Can I talk to Mom?

By Darren Held

In the Moment

by Sonnjea Blackwell

The other night was the last session of the Level 1 Improv Class for the year, and we did a little Q & A at the end, like we usually do on the last night. One question in particular wanted to be a blog topic. And, you know, who am I to stand in the way of questions’ desires?

A lady asked, “So, when a scene isn’t going the way you want it to, you still have to agree with it and let it go that way?”

This is an excellent question, and there are two answers. The first one is the short answer, and it goes like this:


The long answer goes like this:

Of course, you must always “yes, and” whatever information has come out in your scene and not do anything to derail it. You can’t deny, or say “yes, but” to change the direction. First information out, wins. That’s what you go with.

But more importantly, you should not have any notion of what way you want the scene to go. None. The extent of what you want to have in your head at the start of your scene is what character you are. THAT. IS. ALL. Everything else should develop in the moment and in response to what your scene partner says and does. You are creating something TOGETHER out of thin air, and neither of you is in charge, so you really want to try to let go of any agenda or idea of what you think should happen.

This means being in the moment and listening. You can’t be in the moment or listen if you are thinking ahead. Also, to be clear, listening means paying attention and actually taking in ALL of what your scene partner is saying, not just the parts that dovetail with what you want to have happen. We’re all good at hearing what we want to hear; improv depends on you hearing everything.

And yes, before you start yelling at me, I know it’s hard to listen, and not plan ahead and all that. It’s scary to intentionally free your mind from plans and goals and just go with the flow. But I never said improv was easy, now, did I? Nope. I said it’s simple. But it’s most definitely not easy. That’s what makes it fun.

And yeah, all that same stuff would make getting through the day in your real life that much better also. I’m just sayin’.