Imagine standing in front of a room full of people and you have no idea what you’re supposed to say. Everyone is looking at you. Expectantly. Because you have to make something happen.
I’ll bet you have experienced this before, but then your REM cycle ended and you woke up. Or at least you stopped dreaming.
Improvisers face this nightmare when they’re awake, every time they step on stage. Except it’s worse because they also have to make these people laugh. On the other hand, they don’t think of it as a nightmare. They thrive on it. They love it.
I too love it. I started doing improv comedy in 2009, and I’ve been addicted ever since. Even after all that time, those first moments on stage can still be daunting. But less so than it used to be. That’s because over the years, I’ve learned the skills and techniques to handle whatever comes at me on stage. Not that this know-how is always available when I need it, but I’m getting there.
As my proficiency on stage has grown, the more I’ve used improv wisdom to help me handle what comes at me off stage as well. It’s surprisingly relevant to all kinds of situations. Especially those daunting ones. And for leaders who spend a good amount of time dealing with expectant looks from one crowd or another, comedy-flavored wisdom should be really helpful.
This blog would not be possible without the knowledge and commitment of my present and past improv coaches – Jeff Andrews, Callid Keefe-Perry, Megan Mack, Law Tarello and John Forrest Thompson. Two of my favorite workshop instructors also have taught me a great deal: Jimmy Carrane and Brad Fortier.
I also want to recognize the support and respect for the people I play with most often, my Left for Dead teammates: Roger Sutphen, Tim Shea, Carol Shea, Dan Mulcahy, Patty Farneth and my co-traveler through life, Roger Dube who is also my partner in 1matchfire.
One last thing… the name of the blog comes from the fact that most improv is performed in a black box theater on a barren stage with a few chairs and possibly a doorway or two. And all the players have to go on is a suggestion, their wits and the support of their fellow improvisers.