Kicking a member out of your improv group is something nobody wants to do. Most groups avoid it because improvisers hate confrontation. But sometimes it has to happen, and if you do have to let someone go, remember what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. So here are some tips to help prevent you from having to kick a bad apple out of your improv group as well some tips for showing someone the door.
- Hire a Coach
In a perfect world, when you first form an improv group you should pay (yes, with actual money) a director/coach, and as a group, you should authorize them to make all artistic and casting decisions. Then, with the group’s authorization, the coach can then be the hired gun to make the tough decisions about who should and should not be in the group.If you didn’t get a coach when you first started, it’s not too late to hire someone. When you hire someone, express your concerns about the person that you are having problems with, and ask them to work with the group for a minimum of several weeks so they can evaluate the situation and give you an outside opinion on what is going on and what actions need to be taken.
- Set Expectations
Once you’ve formed an improv group, get everyone together and agree on your expectations for the group. What will the time commitment be? How many rehearsals do you plan to have? Are they going to be mandatory? What is the vision for the style of the show? It’s important these things are agreed upon, because then the group can hold members accountable later.Let’s say, a few months after you start playing together, there is an issue with a member showing up late for rehearsals. If they group has agreed that everyone is expected to be no more than 15 minutes late to rehearsals, then there can be consequences. That means you can talk to the person about something real versus just kicking them out because the person is a jerk on stage, though that may be an issue as well.Again, if you didn’t set expectations when you first started, again, do it now. Set a meeting time and get all of your expectations out on the table. Don’t be surprised that when the group sets expectations, it may correct some of the issues you are having with the person, or the person may leave on their own. Commitment will do that.
- Have Monthly Business Meetings
The other thing improvisers hate beside confrontation is discussing the day-to-day business of the group. When you start your own independent improv group, it’s like you’re starting a business or a family. To have a functioning group, you have to make time to discuss things that can’t be addressed in an improv rehearsal. Set aside at least 30 minutes at the end of a rehearsal once a month to talk business and check in with the group. This allows for open communication where more dicey things can be addressed. This will hopefully cut down on the phone calls and texts about the “problem” person in the group, and hopefully, it will give the group the chance to deal with the issue before you have to say goodbye to them. And, if you do have to fire their ass, you have created a format to do it.
- Confront the Person In a Group Setting
If you’ve tried the three points above and you still feel you have to kick someone out of your improv group, call a meeting of the whole group to confront the situation. Everyone needs to be there. Everyone. Sometimes just speaking the unspeakable can correct some of the issues. If you are working with a coach, ask the coach if he or she would be willing to be at the meeting. This may seem scary, but know that you are actually doing the person a favor by telling them how you feel.I know it will be hard to believe, but when I was in my late 20s and early 30s, other people in my groups confronted me on some stuff, and though it was uncomfortable, it made me better and I wish they would have told me sooner.
- Stay Away from Blame
When addressing the person, stay away from blame and instead speak in “I statements.” You can say things such as “I experience you as being a bully or steam rolling in our scenes,” or “I experience you not agreeing in scenes,” or “I experience you dominating the warm-up or playing angry in every scene.”Stay away from defending your point of view or getting into a he-said she-said situation. Let people air their issues with no judgement or without trying to fix them. I was in a group once where we confronted a member because of his type of play and overall attitude. It was difficult, but we stayed on point and tried not to make it personal. Our next show was great, and then the person decided to quit a month later.
- You Don’t Have to Make a Decision at the Meeting
If you are like me, you probably let your resentments against the person build and build until when you finally call for the meeting, you want the person gone immediately. Instead, think of the meeting as a fact-finding mission. After the meeting, it may be clear to the group that this person has to go, or maybe the person will hear what you have to say and be willing to change. The group has to decide that if they want to give them a second chance. If you’re not sure about kicking them out, take time to think about it and call another meeting.
- Learn From It
You’re not going to want to hear this, but the group has a part in this situation. Most likely, the group’s part is that everyone is afraid of confrontation, which is another word for good old-fashioned codependence. Whatever the reasons are, dealing with the situation head-on gives the group the opportunity to become stronger. Once a problem person is gone, think about what the group can do going forward to prevent this from happening again. (See the first three points I just laid out in this blog.)
Want to take your improv to the next level? Sign up for Jimmy Carrane’s Art of Slow Comedy Level 2 class, starting Nov. 2. (You don’t have to have taken Level 1 to participate). Only $259 if you register by Oct. 19. Sign up today!