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by Darren Held

I’ve been thinking again, and you know what that means: headaches for me and strange new improv analogies for you. You’re welcome.

Lately I’ve been hung up on the idea that improv is like sports. Not with the sweat and the beer and the rowdy fans. But in many other ways, they are practically identical.

If you want to get good at a sport, you have to practice. A lot. I was on the swim team in high school, and I had to practice for three hours, five days a week. I didn’t even want to get good, and I looked like one of those East German swimmers from the 1976 Olympics, and my hair was trashed, and I’ve forgotten my point.

Oh, right, practice. Improv is hard, people. Doing it for two hours a week is enough to learn the fundamentals and play a variety of different games and meet cool people and get hooked on improv. It’s not enough to get you on SNL. Do you really think Michael Jordan would’ve made it to the NBA if all through high school he shot hoops for just two hours a week? Yeah, I don’t think so either.

Another sports analogy: playing by the rules is key. When you and your pals get together for a pick-up game, you don’t all play by your own rules. You play by the rules of the game. It would be dangerous for players and annoying as hell for spectators if athletes all just did whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted. Playing by the rules is what makes a sport fair, understandable and enjoyable.

Same with improv. It’s important to start with the Held2gether Intro to Improv Comedy class because that’s where you learn the rules. While the different improv schools and styles share certain commonalities, like agreement and commitment, they all have different rules that they play by. Just because you know the rules of baseball doesn’t mean you know the rules of football, and vice versa. H2G has its rules, and you’ll only learn them in H2G’s Intro class.

And finally, mastering the basics. From kids playing city-league t-ball to the pros, athletes are always practicing the fundamentals. Batting practice, running routes, doing layups – doing drills over and over helps you improve and keeps you in shape.

In improv, people are often eager to move “up” to the next level of classes. But mastering the basics takes time. And even when you do advance, it’s a good idea to periodically take an Intro class, or a 1/2-day Intro workshop, just to brush up on the fundamentals. Just think of it as improv batting practice.

Oh, and I lied about the sweat and the beer and the rowdy fans. Those all apply in improv as well.

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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