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by Darren Held

People in improv classes sometimes get annoyed that there are rules to improv. There is a tendency to think that you get a suggestion from the audience, then do whatever you want on stage based on that suggestion, and somehow it turns out funny.

It doesn’t. I’m just sayin’. And if that were the case, there would be no need for improv classes.

The rules are not meant to be constraints to stifle your creativity. They’re really more like the structure within which you get to let your creativity run free – but that structure is necessary so that all the players have some idea of what to do, and what is expected of them.

If I have NO idea what my scene partner will do, it’s virtually impossible to trust them. But when I know that they will play by the rules and “yes, and” me, commit to our scene and add information that makes sense, I can relax and trust them and we can play the scene and somehow it turns out funny.

The rules of improv are like tools. Whether you’re fixing your car or making dinner or performing brain surgery, you use specific tools. You could conceivably fix your car with a grater and a scalpel, but those aren’t the best options and the results will not be ideal. You maximize your chances for success by using the right tools for the job.

Improv’s the same. You could ask a question, and it might be okay. But when you use your “Making a Statement” tool, you add more information and don’t put the burden on your partner. If you go for a joke, you’ll probably get a cheap laugh. But when you use your “Playing it Real” tool, you advance the scene and layer information that gets you AND your partner a lot of laughs.

There’s an “Agreement” tool, a “Listening” tool and a “Being in the Moment” tool as well, among many others. And unlike other schools, at improv school we give you all the tools you’re gonna need.

You’re welcome. (Toolbox not included).

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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