Jimmy Carrane and Susan Messing

Do These Things to Be a Better Improviser in 2017

It’s almost the end of the year, which means it’s time to clean the slate and focus on what we’d like to improve on in the coming year. Here are a few simple tips to try in 2017 that will improve your improvising and hopefully bring you more joy as you are doing it.

  1. Say ‘Yes’ More Than ‘No’
    Sure this sounds simple enough, but when people have several years of improvising under their belts they start thinking that they are beyond agreement. They think they are so damn good that they can start being selective about when they are going to say “yes” their partner’s ideas. I don’t care how you justify it to yourself, but when you’re denying what other people give you, you are not doing good improv. All I can say is when I started saying “yes” more in my improv this year, I started to have a lot more fun. My wish is for you is to try it a couple of times, and if you don’t have more fun in your improv you can tell your friends I am full of shit.
  1. Add More Emotion To Your Scenes
    In 2017, strive to start your scenes with an emotion, react to something your partner says with an emotion, or heighten the emotion that’s already in the scene. All of these work well to create more powerful scenes. Emotions are the rocket fuel for scene work that can propel you into the next dimension. The beautiful thing about using them, besides making the dialogue easier, is that you are always far more interesting to watch.
  1. Play Vulnerable
    This is so easy, yet we forget all the time, including the idiot writing this blog. We can all play pissed off pretty well, especially in cliche scenes, like where we are in a fight with our roommate for not doing the dishes. I have either done this scenes or a scene like this about 5,000 times in my life. If your partner starts off a scene being pissed off, instead of getting pissed off back, tap into your vulnerability. Play someone who is hurt or sad or rejected, afraid, or embarrassed. Trust me, the scene will completely surprise you.
  1. Use Fewer Words
    Another surefire way to improve your improv in 2017 is to talk less, and one of the best ways to do that is to go a line at time. Your partner speaks and then you speak and add or react to something they just said. Use the silence and the tension between you and your partner to fill the space instead of rambling on and on. This will also help you make discoveries instead of relying on those boring inventions we pull out of our ass.
  1. Act
    A great improviser is a great actor. You are both, and my wish is for you to start believing it — not for me, but for your improv. I am blessed lately because in my improv classes I get students who don’t think they are good actors, but the minute I tell them to do approach a scene like an actor, rather than worrying about being funny, they instantly become compelling to watch. They seemed shocked when they get the compliment that they are a good actor, but they are. So start believing you are both a great actor and a great improviser and watch your scene work transform.

Want to learn more of Jimmy’s tips? Sign up for his One-Day Art of Slow Comedy Improv Workshop on Dec. 30 or his Art of Slow Comedy Level 3 improv class, starting Jan. 4. Early Bird specials end Dec. 15. Register today!

5 replies
  1. David Patrick
    David Patrick says:

    Great post! It will certainly help in my teaching. I especially love the idea of playing vulnerable. When someone starts a scene with anger it’s so easy to mirror and respond with anger. So much more interesting to do the opposite.


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