6 Simple Steps to Make Your Improv Great!

I get lots of students who think they can’t do improv. That’s ridiculous! Anyone can do improv. But if you want to be a great improviser you have gotta take it to the next level. Aside from knowing the rules there are other things you can do to separate yourself from the rest. So get ready for me to take the mystery out of doing great improv.

1.) Start by agreeing to take chances.

First off, give yourself permission to be silly! You have to be willing to embarrass yourself, to be boring, and to fail. Set yourself free to try anything. Get into your creative zone. Trust that anything that you feel like doing or saying is OK. Even if it doesn’t make sense right off the bat, it will lead to something wonderful. You will surprise yourself along with your audience, and that’s what makes improv so special. You cannot judge your choices or censor yourself. Just trust yourself and go with your first thought or action.

2.) Making choices.

A. Who (basic character type).
The best way to create a character in improv is to think of a very specific personality type. Choosing an occupation might help to spark a character. Or you could pick someone you’ve seen in real life or a movie. Get into their body and physicalize your character. Also, use your voice in interesting ways. Whatever the other person chooses as a character, you can choose the exact opposite of them to create conflict. For example, if I am the clean freak, you would choose the slob. Or you could decide to mirror the other person if they have a very specific character. Mirroring is a great way to make an immediate connection and agreement with your scene partner.

Two choices work well for comedy. First, choose to play every detail that is exactly like your specific character. (Do everything a real old lady actually would do in great detail, for example.) Second, choose the exact opposite of who we think you would be in the situation (the Queen of England working at a fast food restaurant).

B. Where (setting).
Create where you are very specifically. Choose someplace interesting. Don’t ever talk about the setting, but show us instead. For example, don’t tell me you see the ocean, but splash water on someone.

C. What (conflict, or “the game”). 
The conflict is so important that we call it “the game.” You can’t have a scene without a conflict. This rule is going to save your tush in any improv scenario. As soon as you establish your characters, whatever the other person does that you notice first irritates you. Once you are obviously irritated by it, you have basically told the other character “the game,” and he does more of it.

Always allow the conflict to heighten and move forward so it grows and grows.

And always remember to make “specific choices”.

3.) “Yes, and…” 

It’s the golden rule of improv. Whatever has been established, you must agree with and move it forward. “Yes, and…” will take you to places that you never expected your scene to go. And that’s what makes your improv so successful.

4.) No negation.

That leads us to the next rule: Never negate someone else’s reality. For example, if Bob pretends like he has found $100, you would not say, “No you didn’t.” It gets us nowhere.  Just make the choice to agree.

5.) Everything affects you.

Have an opinion about things that are happening or your scene partner. How do you feel about your scene partner? Do they drive you nuts or are you in madly love with everything little thing they do? And always just go with what’s right in front of you. Don’t try to make some amazing plot work out. The little truths that just happen are the best. Pay more attention to the other person than you do yourself. 

6.) Physicalize.

Don’t be a talking head. Physicalize! Use your body. Show us, don’t tell us. If you move, your imagination gets unlocked and something will happen. You don’t even need to know what you are going to do. Just start moving and it will turn into something.

I do not know any great improviser who avoid these steps. 

Now that you know get out there and be great! And have fun!

Feel free to let us know what you think by leaving a comment below 🙂

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