31: Improv

The heat is on! You need to come up with a great idea, or story on the spot.  Nothing is prepared.  No notes.  No words.  Nothing is scripted. Just you and the great white expanse of what lies ahead.  Oh no!  What will you do? Have no worries today’s word in our 42 Words to a Better You countdown can help with this type of situation………


photo courtesy of @Istockphoto.com/Peshkova

31: Improv

No, I didn’t make a typo.  It’s supposed to say “improv” and not “improve”, but you can improve your life with improv.  Impossible? I’m not inclined to think so. Improv is short for improvisation. As per the Merriam Webster dictionary, it means, “to make, invent, or arrange offhand.”

Improv performing is one of the joys of my life.  There is nothing more therapeutic than getting on stage with my friends at both Off Book Improv and Uncorked and letting the free flow thoughts come out. The real magic is that the scenes that we perform are not scripted. They are based on suggestions from members of the audience. The scenes are performed on the fly while keeping in mind a basic set of rules/guidelines.  These guidelines not only provide a framework for the comedy that ensues, but they can be applied to everyday life as well.  A well-known example of improv comedy is the show “Whose Line Is It Anyway?“.

The five basic rules of improv as per the improv encyclopedia are:

  • Dont’ Deny
  • You don’t have to be funny
  • Don’t ask open-ended questions
  • Make your partner look good
  • Tell a story

For this post I am going to focus on the first rule.

Don’t Deny:  If given a suggestion from an audience member or fellow actor, you have to go with it and build upon it.  For example, if Charlie says to Lucy, “I see you brought your purple hamster with you today.”  Lucy can’t say, “That isn’t a hamster, it’s a dog and he’s orange.”  That would shut the scene down since Lucy denied all of Charlie’s suggestions.  Instead, Lucy could say something like, “Yes. I do have my purple hamster today.  He is purple from stomping grapes at petting vineyard yesterday.”  This response gives Charlie the framework to keep building upon the story adding another layer to their story by now incorporating Lucy’s stomping grapes into the story. And the process would continue.

How can this apply to everyday business and personal life?

  • Brainstorming Sessions – No denying is a great way to get the creative juices flowing and combine suggestions that may result in fantastic, unexpected results.
  • Story Building – Create stories with your children by allowing them to express their imagination and building a story upon yours and their suggestions.  We have done this and ended up with some zany tales.
  • Team Building – Allowing everybody to have input and not be shut down can bring teams closer together

You never know what will result from following the no denial rule, but being open-minded and taking suggestions from all those involved can result in amazing collaboration.

Warning….another shameless plug ahead…..feel free to click on and visit Off Book Improv and see some videos of our improv troupe in action.  You may actually LOL.

What are some ways that you get beyond the blankness of life? Post your comments below and be sure to subscribe to my blog to keep the aha blogs coming your way!






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