By Darren Held

Improv is Risky Business

by Sonnjea Blackwell

Sometimes (today is an excellent example) I suck at improv. You know what? I don’t care. I’m glad, even.

I know a lot about improv. Not everything, obviously, but enough that if I wanted to play it safe, I could do decent improv pretty much every time.

But, seriously… who the fuck wants to do decent improv? Improv is a terrifying, seat-of-your-pants, sink-or-swim endeavor. The stakes are huge! You have nothing: no sets, no props, no costumes, and you have to make some funny shit happen in 3 minutes or less based on a suggestion that probably came from a drunk guy who thinks penises are the funniest thing EVER.

When you’re taking that kind of risk every time you step on stage, you don’t want the payoff to be decent. You want it to be great. Hilarious. A home run. Which means you can’t play it safe. You have to pile more risks on top of the risk you already took by agreeing to play this magical, ridiculous game. You have to say stuff, trust your partner, trust yourself, be in the moment, respond, heighten, listen, agree, commit, have a character, say some more stuff and listen some more.

Guess what? Sometimes when you take risks, they don’t work out. Michael Jordan blew the game winning shot sometimes. But he made the game winning shot way more often, because he was always willing to go big and give the game everything he had. Or, you know, some kind of sportsy type analogy.

What I’m trying to say is, settling for decent improv is selling yourself short. You’ve pushed yourself out of your comfort zone just by trying… so you might as well push yourself a little farther and really go for it. I will guarantee you that sometimes it won’t work out, and you will do shitty, unfunny improv. I will also guarantee you that the world won’t end as a result, your friends won’t stop loving you, and nobody will die.

And I’ll also guarantee that the more you’re willing to accept the fact that you’ll suck sometimes and just push yourself anyway, the more often your risks WILL pay off and you’ll do awesome improv. Hey, that’s kinda like life, don’t you think? Weird.