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by Darren Held

improvninjaby Sonnjea Blackwell

Happy New Year, peeps! Time to kick of 2014 like an improv ninja!

Wait, what?

Okay, this isn’t my theory, but it’s a good one. Billy Merritt, a kinda famous instructor from UCB wrote something about peoples’ improv styles, and I thought it had, um, merit (see what I did there?) so I’ma paraphrase it and share it with you now.

The idea is that there are three basic types of improvisors: improv pirates, improv robots and improv ninjas. Most people naturally fall into one of these categories, although with a certain amount of crossover. I would argue that the best improvisors combine all three as needed.

An improv pirate is a larger-than-life performer, throwing out all kinds of information, characters, you name it – they’re pirates! They aren’t overly concerned with making sense, justification or subtlety. They have energy and they’re not afraid to use it, by golly!

An improv robot is the person who always has all the pertinent information – they supply the who, what, where, relationship, justification and all the other stuff the pirate can’t be bothered with. They will remember everything that’s been said in a 30 minute set, if necessary.

And an improv ninja is that stealthy performer who always knows what a scene needs… and brings it. You’re welcome. They don’t need glory (they’re ninjas! they do everything in secret!) – they just want the scene to work, and they will make sure that happens.

If I had to label myself, I would say I’m an improv robot with healthy ninja tendencies. I am not a pirate, which makes me sad. One of my goals this year is to be able to be a pirate if I choose… although I don’t believe that will ever be my improv strength. Argh!

Anyway, these are the inspiration behind some improv-themed t-shirts I designed. Check ’em out if you want… maybe wearing that improv robot t-shirt will help you remember that you want to work on information and justification this year. Or whatever.

Happy New Year!

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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