10 Reasons Taking an Improv Class Will Make You Happy
I attended an improv show at National Comedy Theatre for the first time last year and thought it was one of the funniest performances I’ve ever seen. I loved the element of having the audience participate making the entire experience fun and interactive. After attending the show, I not only kept bringing friends back, but I also learned about their improv workshops and was very interested in signing up. They offer 4 levels of workshops. Each level is 6 weeks long. I knew improv would help with my professional speaking skills. And since I’m constantly looking for ways to educate myself (I recently took a Photoshop class and I learn from teaching others too) this sounded like a great opportunity.
I’ve taken 5 level 1 classes so far with my teacher is Jamie Fox. She’s one of the Directors at National Comedy Theatre but she’s also a mover and shaker in the San Diego political scene. In fact I was so proud to recently learn that my very own improv teacher was nominated for San Diego Magazine’s Women Who Move the City.
First, a brief explanation in case you’re not familiar with improv: Improvisational theatre (also known as improv) is a form of theatre in which the improvisational actors use improvisational acting techniques to perform spontaneously. Everything is made up on the spot and no scene is ever repeated so you can never predict what will happen next. It’s not stand up comedy and there usually aren’t any physical props. This sounds both exciting and scary at the same time. After only taking 5 classes so far, I am already a huge advocate for everyone taking an improv class. It has helped me significantly improve my professional speaking skills, but it’s also taught me so much more! Here are 10 reasons taking an improv class will make you happy.
1. Laughter is the best medicine– You’ll be laughing at least every 5 minutes, if not for the entire class. This alone makes coming to class every week worth it. If you’ve had a rough day, you can be sure that going to improv class will make you forget about your worries at least for a couple hours. If you’ve had a great day, you can be sure that your great day will turn into an amazing day.
2. Fear of public speaking begone– It’s true that most people would rather be in the coffin than be giving the eulogy. Public speaking still remains a top fear, over death. Improv pushes you to step outside of your comfort zone with public speaking. To participate in the class, you have to go on stage but you’re surrounded by supportive classmates and a teacher who will cheer you on and motivate you to find your voice.
3. Release your inner child- You get to make up stories, scenes, characters and really let your imagination run wild. Imagine playing house as a child and making up characters to be the mom, dad, kids, etc. This is the adult version of “playing house” where you get to create even more elaborate characters and locations.
4. Improve your vocabulary- I have mastered the art of learning something new every day and I’m pretty sure I have learned at least 1 new word or term every class. You never know what you’re going to get with improv. Many of the activities and games are based on audience suggestions so you’ll often hear someone giving a random suggestion about something you have never even heard of. I can’t think of a better way to learn new words and information.
5. Practice being present– Being truly present has become more and more difficult with so many distractions we encounter every day. Whether we’re distracted by technology, something that happened in the past or something that may happen in the future, improv forces you to focus your attention on the present moment. You have to listen to each word that’s spoken and watch each movement in order to effectively step in and participate at a seconds notice.
6. Say yes to life- Saying yes to everything sure makes life a lot more fun. Saying “yes and” to everything spices things up even more. The term “yes and” as used in improv refers to accepting whatever information is thrown your way. When you get this information, first, accept it as fact and second, add some more information. If somebody tells you you’re swimming with sharks, tell them yes you are, and not only are you swimming with sharks but you’re also hypnotizing them so they don’t bite you. Keep doing this long enough, and you’ll have a scene full of fascinating facts, objects and relationships. If we accepted everything in our real life, rather than resist what is, we would all be a lot happier.
7. Make new friends- People from all walks of life take improv classes for so many different reasons. I used the verb “hypnotizing” in #6 because it was the first thing that came to mind. That’s probably because there are 2 hypnotists in my class (neither of them knew each other prior). My class also has people who are working on creating their own stage show, military heros and business professionals. While we all have different backgrounds, we all come together and bring our own unique experiences to class. I have met so many awesome people who are successful, passionate and fun.
8. Exercise your brain- Many activities in life allow us time to think about our response. Often, thinking too much can lead to self doubt and negative thoughts. Am I doing this right? Did I make the right decision? With improv, there is no time to think. You’re going to give your brain a work out by saying the first thing that immediately comes to mind, every time. There are no wrong answers and if you say something that’s out of context, it’s perfectly okay.
9. Learn your own strengths- Once you put yourself out there you’ll begin to listen and observe yourself. You’ll discover things about yourself that you may not have noticed prior. Perhaps you’re really great at playing characters. Perhaps you’re able to add emotions to scenes flawlessly. Or perhaps you simply have a strong voice. Whatever you discover you’re good at, you can play off your strength and use it to help other team members during your scenes.
10. Build trust in yourself- One of the main reasons so many people fear public speaking is because they don’t trust themselves. They’re afraid they’ll mess up or say something wrong and humiliate themselves. At improv classes, the positive energy is absolutely amazing. The negative thoughts the come along with public speaking are dissolved. You can safely speak your mind without fear of rejection which will ultimately lead you to trust yourself more in any situation.
My last level 1 class is coming up this week. After level 1 I’m definitely planning to take level 2. If you’ve ever considered taking improv classes, I encourage you to just go ahead and do it! I’ve you’ve never considered taking improv classes before this post, well you now have something to ponder. But don’t ponder for too long, get up and get on stage! Classes are starting up again soon. You can check the improv workshop schedule for National Comedy Theatre here.