Improv Needs You to Stop Trying so Hard

That human beings are inherently interesting is the fundamental premise of improv. We don’t need you to be anything other than what you are, and in fact we’ll actively lean back from people desperate to be funny (or desperate to be anything, really). Which is a discouraging idea for those of us who have spent our lives working way too hard to be liked – modifying our behavior, compromising our inspiration and cultivating the acceptable social faces to charm and disarm anyone we think might be looking. If we have a hard time being the most genuine, effortless version of ourselves in life, and on stage that difficulty is magnified by the pressure of attention. But improv proves again and again that the best version of you, the YOU that fascinates and delights audiences, is the one whose not trying to do anything more than what comes immediately and naturally right now as an honest reaction to whatever just happened right then. And yet so much of what happens on the improv stage is a panicked attempt to MAKE things interesting, and to MAKE things funny. We dredge up negative emotions, introduce sweaty conflict, force a “funny idea.” To get back to that unfiltered self, you have to let go of the need to be funny, of the need to please and be judged worthy. You have to accept that the vulnerability of not having control and of accepting the possibility of success or failure in every moment is what truly thrills other human beings – because that freedom is what every single one of us is longing for and seeing it...