Why You Have to Network to Get Ahead

If you want a bigger career in improv you are going to have to network. If you want to climb the improv ladder, you will not be able to able to avoid this step. You are going to have to play the game. You are going to have to schmooze.

If you don’t want to, fine. Maybe you think your career is big enough as it is. You can hate me for saying this, but when I hear people who refuse to network, what they are really saying is they are afraid of success. That’s been my experience.

Networking is important because talent is rarely enough to get ahead. Your talent will only take you so far, and the quicker you learn this, the better off you will be.

Ideally, networking should start the first day of your first improv class. You don’t have to whip out your headshots and business card, but you do have to think about building relationships with people and trying to be someone people want to be around and someone who is easy to work with.

When I was coming up in the early ’90s in Chicago we all wanted to be hired by The Second City. We were all told we had to go see the improv sets after the Mainstage shows. We needed to hang out. We needed to get to know Joyce Sloan, who was the producer at the time and who did the hiring. If Second City had a party, you had to find a way to go. You needed people to get to know you. Unfortunately, you can’t get ahead in show business by being anonymous.

When I was at The Annoyance Theater, the only criteria to get cast in a show back then was if you were a nice person. How would we find out if you were a nice person or not? You had to hang out there or go to the bar down the street after a show. If The Annoyance had a party, you had to make sure you got there. I don’t think a lot has changed since.

Networking is simply about building relationships. I have had opportunities fall out of the sky because people I had worked with in the past gave me a job or referred me to people who could hire me. And I have missed as many opportunities as I have gotten because I refused to the play the game.

This doesn’t mean you have to be running for president or buying people drinks at the bar. You just need to show up and be yourself.

Here are my Top 4 Tips to Networking in Improv

  1. Be nice to everyone
    Be nice to everyone — not just the people who you think are talented. Remember, you never know where people are going to end up. They may become directors, producers or writers — the kind of people who can actually give you a job someday.
  1. Ask questions
    If you are nervous or afraid to talk to people, remember to try be interested versus interesting. Put your improv skills to good use and listen to others. People love to talk about themselves. It makes them feel good.
  1. Know the players
    Do a little research and know who the Charna’s, Mick’s and Ali’s are in your theater. It’s your job to know who the teachers, directors and producers are, as well as the players on established teams.
  1. Be a person
    There’s a time and place for bits. You do not have to prove you are funny all of the time or prove that you are the smartest person in the room about improv. In most social interactions, sincerity and being genuine will go much farther. You have nothing to prove, other than that you are a good person to hang around with.

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10 Tips for Getting Ahead in Improv — Part 2

Last week, I outlined the first five points of my ten-point plan for getting ahead in improv. Read last week’s blog here.

This week, I’m back with more of my favorite pieces of wisdom. I hope this helps you, and if you have any questions for me, please email me at

6. Everyone says it’s important not to be a dick in the improv community. How do I stay off the Dick List?
Getting on the Dick List is like stopping payment on your student loans — it stays on your credit report for seven years. If you want to stay off of the Dick List, be respectful. Speak your truth and know that you are not always right. In any group, you will need to learn to give and take. What seems so important and worth fighting for in a group or show will seem stupid in a couple of weeks.

7. How do you get over jealousy of other people’s success?
We are all jealous, like we all breathe. So admit it. When you deny it, it comes out sideways, and you end up alienating people. When you admit it, you have a chance to get rid of it.

Jealousy hates when you start creating because creativity cuts it by an average of 54 percent. So start creating: Work on a solo show, form an improv group, write a book, teach your own workshop. And if that doesn’t make you feel less jealous, pray for the people you are jealous of to keep being successful.

Also, remember that the person you are jealousy about today may help you out in the in the future. I cannot tell you how many guests I’ve had on Improv Nerd that I was jealous of their success, and because I was not a dick and let my jealousy come out sideways, they ended up appearing on the show.

8. Why do I even need to ask people to come to my shows?
Because it’s good practice in getting bigger and getting seen, which is one of your jobs as an improviser. In fact, I believe asking people to come to your shows is as important as any class you are going to take.

Most improvisers ignore the process of asking people to come to their shows because on some level they don’t really want to get bigger. Instead, they hide behind social media or have this attitude that they “just want to show up and play.”

Fine, stay small. I still struggle with this, but at least I am not kidding myself — I know am resisting getting bigger.

9. What is the best way to get people to come to my show?
Let me start by saying that Facebook is great, I love it, but creating a Facebook event and inviting people to it is not enough to get people to come to your show. You need to do more than that.

Doing something personal – such as a personal email or actually picking up the phone and talking to your friends and family – is harder, but it’s way more valuable. When I have a show, I typically write an email to my friends and say something like this: “I need your support. I have a show this Sunday, and I am really scared because I am interviewing Judd Apatow.”

You can also try other methods, such as creating flyers and postcards and sending out press releases. But nothing is going to beat asking people individually if they would be willing to support you.  Remember, it’s not about the results necessarily, it about the asking.

10. What is the quickest way to get better faster?
Get comfortable with failing. That is why you are taking classes: to learn how to fail. Once you get good at failing, you are ready do it in front of people. There’s no better teacher out there then failing in front of an audience, many times. Those lessons stick to you like Velcro. They enter your brain in a different way. Yes, it’s painful, but there are no short cuts. The more you fail, the faster you will get better, so fail, fail, fail all the way to the top.

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