I’ve never really been one to come up with witty banter or snappy side remarks. I think well on my feet, but I’m really just not that funny.
Surprising, for someone who’s also a graduate of the Player’s Workshop of the Second City. Or maybe not.
I started my career in media planning and buying at Leo Burnett. One of the little-known perks was that all employees could take improv classes. I’m sure it was really meant for the creatives to get their juices flowing, but I decided to take advantage of it.
There is video evidence somewhere of my final grad show (on VHS, thankfully, this was pre-smartphones and WAY before YouTube), and it’s not really that funny. In fact, there was one sketch that totally bombed - you can hear the awkward laughs and silence from the audience, but we adjusted and kept going.
But, what I got out of that year of classes at the Athenaeum on Southport (and the post-class drinks at the now-defunct Jax up the street), was not lessons on how to be funny - it was confidence, it was an ability to think on my feet, and important lessons in team work.
I recently came across this great article about improv and advertising and I loved the rules she outlined about improv:
1. React in real time.
2. Address directly what’s in front of you.
3. Make bold statements — give your partner something to react to.
4. Shift gears immediately when you start losing your audience.
5. Do your best to make your partners look good.
More than rules for good creative, these are life lessons.
But, there is one lesson that she left out: Always react with “yes, and…” Basically, whenever a fellow player throws something at you (literally or figuratively), you never say no, you never drop the ball - you take it and you make something of it.
Just like life.
— Anne Lamott (via awelltraveledwoman)