Improv = Laughs & Learning to Listen

“THERE ARE NO MISTAKES, only opportunities.” – Tina Fey

Recently I attended the Steel Stacks Improv Festival for a laugh-all-day, no breaks, improv-all-day event that was jam-packed with talented people doing amazing improv comedy on stage. It was awesome and so much fun.

Yes, And… that’s what Improv is all about. Accepting what is presented, without judgment, true acceptance of what is being said, AND offering up something in return. Improvisers have a goal of creating and inspiring their fellow stage performers to buy into whatever the story/event or tale is being discussed AND bring their own ideas, all while an audience watches and tries to follow the scene, which has no clear storyline, plot, or ending.

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It’s unique; each show is its own experience. If you aren’t familiar with improv comedy, or the many styles and formats of skits, games, long-form, short-form, or otherwise, there are tons of ways to do improv. It’s something you can invite a few friends to attend, and laugh in the audience, experiencing a one-time-ever show.

My first improv comedy show was sometime back in 2012 when a friend had invited me to come with her to attend the Oxymorons, an improv troop that does games similar to “Whose Line is it Anyway.” I had been stressed out about work and she said I should come and just laugh for a bit, forget my troubles. And it worked, I enjoyed meeting new people and laughing as stage improvisers took audience suggestions to create some kind of tale onstage. Over time, I kept going back to the shows because it allowed me to experience viewpoints from others in such a non-judgemental way.

After five years of watching improv, in 2016 I decided to try it out, taking a class at the Harrisburg Improv Theatre. I thought I’d be awesome, I had always thought I was capable of being on stage and wanted to try. However, after the class show, I felt that I really was still in my head, nervous about what everyone was thinking. So I gave up on the idea of being on stage and went back to laughing in the audience.

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Recently a friend and I had a conversation about an upcoming Level 1 Improv class, I knew it was time to try out improv again. So I am doing an improv class right now which is wrapping up in a few weeks. This time it’s been more helpful for me to work on letting go of what others think, stop trying to be funny, and just be present.

I’ve been working on being more mindful this past year, practicing yoga and meditation to listen to how I feel, and working to practice being aware and present in the moment. There’s no better way than improv to improve these skills.

Standing on stage is still scary for me, but I’m learning to laugh at myself and not take things so seriously. That phrase “Yes, And…” is something that is so profound to me, because just stopping is hard, I’m so used to responding. So to slow down, and say ACCEPT what someone says, and also adding something, has been an amazing opportunity for me to let go of my attitude and just BE PRESENT. It means I need to LISTEN to what that person is saying to be able to offer something in response. And I LOVE that. 

I love this from Tina Fey, and her book is now on my list for reading. 😉


Books I’m currently reading –

I’m re-reading The Artist Way with a book club

Daily passages of The Book of Awakening have inspired me to think more mindfully

You are a Badass Everyday has been helping me keep positive and motivated

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