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by Darren Held

Darren and I have noticed over the past few years that every improv class has its own unique personality. It’s amazing how different one Intro class can seem compared to another. Even though any given individual may struggle or excel in any given skill, it seems that the Intro classes in particular have a strong group dynamic. One whole class may just get it. Another whole class may understand “yes” but not “and.” Another class may tend towards a really dry, smart sense of humor with little commitment. Or whatever.

Sometimes you may find yourself in a class with a bunch of people who seem so brilliant you assume they’ve been doing improv since birth. And, if you’re the “any given individual” who’s struggling this time around, that can be really intimidating. Since I have zero performing background, that pretty much describes me in every Level 1 improv class I’ve ever taken.

I discovered a trick to not let the brilliant improvisers intimidate me, though. And I will now share my trick with you, as I am wont to do from time to time.

Don’t compare yourself to them. No, seriously, that’s my trick. (I didn’t say it was an easy trick.) But it does work. Before each class, review in your mind what you did well and not so well at the last class. Then determine to improve the “not so well” thing, and focus all your attention in class on improving that one skill. After class, compare your today self with your last class self.

This serves two purposes: one, you are so focused on the one skill that you forget to pay attention to the brilliant improvisers around you; and two, when you compare your today self with your last class self, you will see improvement. When you recognize and acknowledge the progress you’re making, your confidence builds and you become less inclined to belittle your skills.

When you aren’t putting yourself down and comparing yourself to the rest of the class, you’ll see that being in a class with strong improvisers is nothing but a plus. You can learn so much from everyone you work with in improv, whatever their skill level – especially when you realize that they are also learning from you, whatever your skill level.

That was pretty profound for a girl who is staring at the clock, waiting for sushi time, don’t you think?

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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