Improv Comedy: A Life Lesson

Screen Shot 2013-05-16 at 12.10.55 PMMalcolm Gladwell wrote a book called “Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking”. In it he describes the number one rule of improvisation: Never Say No. An improv comedian is a Yes Man. Most scenes in improv comedy have the same pattern; the actors take whatever is being thrown at them and they turn into something real and funny. If they were to suddenly turn down something another actor offered, the scene would end, and it probably wouldn’t be all that funny. No matter how ridiculous, the actors must go with the flow. Why were the Three Stooges so funny? They accepted the eye pokes and the pies in the face and retaliated with something funnier to top that.

So, why am I mentioning Malcolm Gladwell, a business and science writer, who writes books on the philosophy and psychology of life? Because most comedians, like Gladwell, understand their work is their life and vice versa. Turn that failed interview into a potential scene onstage. As Keith Johnstone once said, “Think of something you wouldn’t want to happen to you, or to a loved one, and then you’ll have thought of something worth staging.”

How is this a life lesson? Well, for any non-comedian readers out there, this means that you should just take what life throws at you. Oh, you were diagnosed with cancer? Well, think of all the cannabis you can now legally consume. You and your girl had a major fight? Think of all the make-up sex you’re bound to have. Take life like a comedian.

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