I have been performing since I was in my 20s. And when I started out, I wish to God someone would have told me that to get good at improv, you’re going to have to get comfortable being bad at it for a while – in public – before you can master it.
There are no short cuts.
I don’t care how funny you were in high school or college or how talented you are or that you are a natural.
Unfortunately, the only way to really learn how to do improv is to do it in front of an audience on a regular basis when you are not very good. This is still the most painful part of the process for me.
Talk about being vulnerable. Talk about being exposed.
This was torture for a perfectionist.
I went through this recently when I put up my one-person show, “World’s Greatest Dad.”
Each week the show was not where I wanted it be, and I was torturing myself because I knew the show wasn’t as good as it could have been, but there was no way to make it better without putting it up on the stage.
But each week the audience came in and enjoyed it anyway. The only person who was not enjoying it was the guy on the stage because I had expectations that I would be awesome on the first night.
I also knew the only way to get the show to where I wanted it to be was to do it in front of an audience on a regular basis and listen and learn what the audience likes and doesn’t like. Let them help me find the story.
As long as I have been performing, I still don’t like this part of the process. Who wants to go out in front of an audience and suck? But the only way to avoid this part of the process is to quit. And at this point, I am not interested in that. I’m glad that I walked through the shame of the first few shows, because by the time I got to the last few, I finally felt like I had shaped the show into something I could truly be proud of.