So you just signed up for an improvisation class and you sucked, or you were so terrified you never left your seat. Well here are some tips on how to be better an improv.
1. Improvisation isn’t about being good.
We speak a lot about the importance of improv. It’s important for a number of reasons, but here are the main ones:
A. It frees you up.
B. You become a more imaginative and bold actor.
C. You have fun (and yes fun is important for actors).
Did you notice how none of these included getting an acting role, landing an agent or being the best/funniest/cleverest in class. Improv class is for you and your craft. So stop worrying. If you are struggling with any aspect of your improvisation, that doesn’t matter. It only matters if you give up!
Do it for you, and get out of it what you want. Hopefully reframing it in this way makes you a little more confident to get on stage and have a go. Remember even the best improvisers flop. That’s part of it. Shake it off and start a new scene.
2. Say “Yes”
Okay you’ve heard it a hundred time, but it’s the cornerstone of improvisation for a reason. Say “yes” to ideas and then take them one step further – YES AND. However ridiculous the “offer” is that the other actor makes, go with it or take it somewhere else. Never kill the scene. This can often be an easy way to get a cheap laugh, but saying “no” or laughing at an offer doesn’t help you or the scene.
3. Say “No”
Once you’re comfortable with improv, break the sacred rule and say “no” to an offer. But still don’t kill the scene. Say “no” and keep the scene moving forward. Why did your character say no? Give your scene partner something to work with.
Side note: do this only with confident improvisers. Saying no to an offer from an inexperienced actor can really throw them.
4. Get inspired.
The biggest thing I find when teaching improv is the lack of creativity. Read more, watch more, think more. Get inspired as an actor, so that when you make an offer it is more interesting than just ‘at the dentist’. I’m not necessarily encouraging preplanning scenarios, but I think if you are inspired creatively you will naturally have more interesting ideas.
5. Find what’s underneath the scene.
Actors often like to keep improv scenes on a surface level. A great line to help delve deeper is to say: “You always do this”. This simple statement makes the scene immediately more personal. If you keep trying to make it all about the location and the action of the scene, you will go around in circles. Remember improv scenes don’t always have to be funny! Some classes may have a culture that encourages comedy, but if you were in my improvisation class I would love to see a dramatic scene.
I hope this helps and if you have any further questions please ask in the comments…