Have you ever taken an IMPROV class or been interested in what goes on during one? Many comics today get their start by taking an IMPROV class. It is an easy and accessible way to get started in the field. Many colleges have IMPROV troupes, and many comedy clubs offer IMPROV classes. Some people who have no plans of going into the comedy scene even take an IMPROV class just for fun. I have even heard of a college professor who teaches a fast paced course, strongly encouraging his students to take an IMPROV class in order to become more accustomed to being in a fast paced environment.
I just took my first IMPROV class and I thought it would be helpful to provide some insight into my experience. The nice thing about IMPROV classes is that you can go into the 101 class with no experience. In my first 101 class, we started out by introducing ourselves through a silly name game in which we went around the room and said what our name was and attached a fun word/action to match it (for example, I was “Joking Jen”). We did some other warm up exercises similar to that, and then we jumped into the class. My teacher then had four people come up to the front of the class and told them to each talk about something that they were interested in. The way this exercise works is that the first person starts talking about their topic, and then the teacher cuts that person off, and the next person starts talking about their topic. This goes on through the 4th person, and then the first person picks right back up from where he or she left off as if there was never a pause. Each person talks four times.
The next exercise we did had three people going up at a time. My teacher asked us to act as if we were on a panel, and the topic we would be discussing was whatever she asked us about. For example, when I went up, she asked my group, “So, you said that you three encountered an Alien, what was that like?” My group took the topic and ran with it. By the end of the activity we somehow came to the conclusion that these Aliens had New Jersey accents, looked exactly like humans, and may have just been ordinary people from New Jersey who were pretending to be aliens.
For the remainder of the class we did a series of exercises that practiced the IMPROV technique, “Yes, and…”. One person would say something (“Let’s have a party”), and the next person would answer, (“Yes, and let’s bring a cake”), and the first person would answer again with a “Yes, and…” response, and so on. These activities forced us to go with the situation even if it was not going in the direction that we had originally planned.
As you can tell by my description of some of the activities done in an IMPROV 101 class, the goal is to push people out of their comfort zones and to think on their feet. While it may seem intimidating to do this in front of a group of strangers, you would be pleasantly surprised to find that the feeling is quite the opposite. The class environment is very friendly and supportive. I really enjoyed my first class and I am excited to continue with it.
However, perhaps my experience has convinced you that IMPROV is not your thing. Maybe you prefer starting your comedy career in Stand Up? If this sounds more like you, great! Come check out “Bring It” here at Stand Up NY. “Bring it” is a great opportunity for new comics to show an audience what they’ve got. It is held on Saturdays at 5pm. A great perk of this opportunity is that there are industry guests every week, you will receive discounted video footage of your performance, and that the best comic will be invited back for stage time alongside professional comedians. Come check it out!