There is so much to say about improv that I don’t know where to start. I’ve only taken two improv classes at Bad Dog Theatre in Toronto out of a total of eight so I’ll tell you a little bit now and then tell you more in a couple of weeks. I was curious to try improv as a handful of friends have tried it for various reasons. Some have taken the beginners class several times. I know improv comedy classes can be a fun and a creative way to express yourself, which is the main reason I wanted to take them. However, there is more. There are many levels to it and I want to explore them all.
One friend is trying to be more comfortable in social settings and finds that the improv classes do help. The classes encourage you to not think so much about what comes to you naturally, but to just let it out. I don’t think we want people blurting out whatever is on their minds; however, having something to say, and to have words come naturally and also quickly is something to develop through improv.
Another one of my friends says the classes help break down blocks, which happen when saying ‘no’. They teach you to say ‘yes’ and collaborate with others. Improv training increases the likelihood that team members will feel comfortable communicating in a variety of situations. ‘Yes, and’ is the key. When you say ‘yes’ to something and find a way to make it work, you are coming up with solutions. Yes.
Studies have shown that people can improve their communication skills and lower their anxiety with regular practice of improv. Yes, indeed. That’s what most of us need.
Improv is said to improve:
- Thinking on the spot
- Listening and communication
- Innovative thinking
- Taking initiative
- Team Building
- Presenting with confidence
For some if not all, improv can strengthen confidence. You can work on your dislike of being the centre of attention, if that is your weakness, and learn to like being the centre of attention, or even love it. I know that it varies for me. I enjoy being the centre of attention if I’m sharing my knowledge about something I know well, especially if I know something better than the other person. However, I don’t like being the centre of attention when discussing something I don’t know well or not at all. When someone asks me something that they expect me to know, but I don’t and I can’t diffuse the question – well – that is uncomfortable. But improv classes can help. It gets us thinking on the spot.
Getting us to the front of a class and throwing out a scenario and expecting us to create a scene spontaneously, well that is not putting me in a comfortable spot that I like to be. That is what happened in my second Bad Dog improv class. I went to the front of the class to create a skit with apartner, which was a little nerve wracking. My first improv scene ever was to take place in a zoo, as determined by my imaginative classmates. That’s all my partner and I had to go with – we were asked to make a story from that. Yipes. At least actions were not part of the five-sentence limit for this skit. Being given no time to think this out, I started the scene by feeding a tall animal – I was thinking a giraffe. My partner, let’s call her Anne, said something about my feeding a gorilla and I threatened to feed her to the gorilla if she came too close (how harsh – what was I thinking!). It was easier for me to act out the scene rather than say anything. Words weren’t coming to me, but I guess that is the benefit of taking improv – to work on the words and let them flow out. The scene was not great (I’m sure Neil Gaiman is not taking notes for his next best seller), but it was fun to act out. We talked about the theme and how it could be improved upon and then we acted it out a second time with the knowledge that our scene was about control: the animal feeder was having control issues with this enthusiastic girl.
We discovered that the students’ performance relies on trusting and supporting one another. We learned that we can be silly, spontaneous and open, knowing we will not be judged. It can take some time to become spontaneous and free, but feeling that small progress has been made is exciting and knowing that changes will happen, is thrilling.
Most people are there to be more comfortable in front of people and to be more creative. There are a few people in attendance who are thinking about getting into the performing arts, as a hobby or side gig. The teachers at Bad Dog Theatre are fun and supportive. I find my instructor, Jess Bryson, extremely fun and easy to be with. She makes us work fast, but in a very comfortable way. She got me do to do things I thought I never would. I laughed a lot and really loosened up too. I wasn’t expecting to feel so loose, especially after a day of work. It is anxiety provoking to do, but gets you going in ways you don’t expect. It works the mind in excellent ways. More on that next time. Yes, I’ll tell you more.
Improv comedy workshops and shows are funny and can get you laughing in no time. In a two hour workshop, you will find yourself laughing much more than you would normally laugh. Bad Dog Theatre offers a full range of improvised performance classes for all levels of skill and experience for adults.
Just take their introductory improv course: you will love the self-development!
Bad Dog Theatre , 875 Bloor St. W., Toronto