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Upright Citizens Brigade - one of the world's most famous improv troupes. Photo via CreativeCommons.org

Through a string of coincidences and the inability to turn down anything that is free, I recently attended an intro to improv class at Jesterz, an improv comedy club in South Scottsdale.

For those of you who have not seen an improv show with actual, trained improv actors, cancel all your after-work plans and find a show NOW. It is incredible how hilarious a good troupe can be by just feeding off of one another’s (and sometimes the audience’s) imaginations. It is hard to believe that the skits are not prewritten and well- rehearsed, and that one heckle from the audience can change a skit entirely.

Being able to think on the fly like that is definitely a talent that can translate into the professional world easily, especially when working with the immediate-isn’t-good-enough media. Through a series of exercises, we learned the basics of techniques to help with quick, original thinking.

While I can’t reveal all the exercises and their lessons in this post – you’ll have to check out Jesterz for that – but I can share some of the key lessons I learned:

  • Give 100 percent - While it it’s been said a million different ways, committing 100 percent of yourself is easier said than done. . In acting, it is about fully submerging yourself in a character. In business, it’s about being passionate about your work. You may think that you are the only one that knows if you are truly giving your all, but everyone will know by the end result.
  • Think outside the box – Another basic lesson that is drilled into us since childhood, but it is a skill that sometimes fades as we grow older. It is easy to use the most obvious method to achieve something, but that doesn’t always mean it is the best. Think of several ways to approach a problem, project or issue in order to find a unique solution.
  • Agree with everything – One of the biggest tricks to improv is to always agree with whatever another person is saying in order to progress the story. We discussed this idea as part of brainstorming exercises – agree to all ideas and fine-tune later. Even if an idea is off-the-wall ridiculous, keeping it up for discussion can trigger more creative thinking.

While these were all great lessons, Jesterz also offers an improv class specifically for professionals. For more information, visit http://www.jesterzimprov.com.

Stephanie Lough
Stephanie Lough
A former HMA Public Relations employee.

3 Comments

  1. David Landis says:

    Stephanie – great ideas here. I’ve learned a lot about improv because my very talented niece, Jessica Landis, is part of a Chicago-based sketch comedy troupe called FrankenReagan. If you’re ever in Chicago, check them out, upstairs at Mullen’s Bar on Clark Street every Monday night. Here’s a link and say hi to Jess if you go there: http://www.frankenreagan.com/

  2. Stephanie- Yes!
    Great post, I’m seeing more and more realization that improv can be used not just for entertainment but to help people in all occupations grow their strengths.

    And……
    Improv, at least here in Chicago, also focuses on knowing when the scene (or meeting!) needs you to step up and when you can provide background support. This is something I always emphasize when working with professionals. Giving support is just as important as being the guy with the funniest line, because your audience sees the entire group, not just the “star”.

    I’m so glad you were able to connect with a local group. I’ll have to keep an eye out for Jesterz on the festival circuit!

  3. Edith Bond says:

    This comedy troupe is a human pyramid consisting of professional actors, seasoned improvisers, and stand-up comedians. With years of performance experience tucked beneath their collective championship belt, the team is well versed in performances stocked with surprises, flaming donkeys, and chortles. Jester’z troupe members even teach classes for up-and-coming funnymakers, spreading their comedic wisdom like a wishbone. Reservations are required to ensure seating, so call ahead after snapping up today’s Groupon.

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