comfortable with sucking

To Be Great, You Have to Be Bad First

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.

Want to get some tips on how to get better at improv faster? Don’t miss Jimmy’s Art of Slow Comedy Summer Intensive happening Aug. 10-11! Only a few spots left!

2 replies
  1. Michael Greenberg
    Michael Greenberg says:

    This could be the most important advice that anybody early in improv training could receive. Thank you, Jimmy. You’re right, of course. I hate this part of the process, but I’ve been hearing it since my first improv class — if you don’t fuck up from time to time, you’re not doing this right. And as you recently said to me, “I’ll learn more from the messed up scenes than from the perfect ones.” And damn it, you’re right about that too! LOL

  2. Michael G
    Michael G says:

    Very helpful to hear that. Fear of failing or sucking is hard to get over for me, but as you point out a necessary evil. Thanks. (BTW your show was fantastic)


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