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by Darren Held

By Sonnjea Blackwell

Improv is hard. There’s just no getting around it. You go up on stage with no clue what’s about to happen and you get a suggestion like “you’re bowling,” and bam! you gotta make something funny happen and you gotta be quick about it cuz it’ll all be over in 3 minutes.

What the hell?!?

Okay, sorry. I’m not trying to freak anybody out here. I had a rough improv week; whatever, it happens.

The good news is, improv is also totally easy. No, really. You go up on stage with no lines to memorize or expectations to live up to and you get a suggestion like “you’re bowling,” and bam! you get to be whoever you want and call your scene partner whatever you want and yell or laugh or cry or stomp your feet and you don’t have to worry about anything cuz it’ll all be over in 3 minutes.

The only thing you don’t really want to be in improv is neutral. Sorry, Switzerland. Nobody likes someone who won’t take a stand. A teacher told me today that audiences mirror the improvisor’s faces when they watch them – if you’re smiling, the audience is smiling; if you’re scowling, the audience is scowling. Either way is great because they’re in the scene with you. But if you’re neutral, they’re neutral. They don’t know what side you’re on, so they can’t root for you. All they can do is wait for you to speak and then see how they feel about whatever you say. And after making them wait like that, you need to really bring it, which just puts even more pressure on yourself.

So to hedge your bets and have your experience be “improv is totally easy” as often as possible, don’t be Switzerland. Go up on stage with no clue what’s about to happen and be GIDDY about it or in DESPAIR about it or FURIOUS about it and get a suggestion like “you’re bowling,” and bam! care about it, one way or another, and tell your scene partner in no uncertain terms what you think about it and how you feel about them and have a big ol’ reaction to everything they say and …

Sorry. Your 3 minutes are up. See? Told you improv is totally easy.

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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