So you’re thinking about signing up for your very first improv class. Maybe people have told you that you’re funny, or that you should take an improv class just because it’s fun. But what is an improv class really like?
Before you panic or try to get out of it before even showing up, I thought I would put together some things about what you can expect to experience at your first improv class.
- You will plays games, do exercises and maybe even scenes
Unlike stand-up, most of what you do in an improv class is in a group. If you get a good teacher, most of the learning will be done by doing games, exercises and scene work. The good news is that for most of the games and exercises, you will be doing it with the group or part of the group. It is very rare you have to do something alone. If you do scene work, it most likely be with other people, at the very minimum one other person, so there is safety in numbers.
- You will have fun
Yes, you maybe sacred shitless and feel as uncomfortable as hell, but you are going to have fun. Lots and lost of fun. Because improv is all about having fun. In fact, sometimes you’ll be having so much fun that you’ll forget you’re learning something. Trust me, this is normal. It’s all good, my friend, all good.
- You will be asked to be silly
No way around this one. You cannot avoid acting silly or goofy in an improv class. It’s impossible, especially if you want to get anything out of it. In most improv classes, they are trying to try to break down years of social conditioning that tells you it’s not ok to act silly and goofy and free. In your head, you may feel like an idiot playing games where you make funny sounds or bounce up and down like a piece of popcorn. But if you feel like an idiot, you are on the right track.
- You don’t have to be funny
I think a lot of people who are taking their first improv class think they have to be funny or mistake it for stand-up comedy. I am here to tell you, you don’t have to do any of that stuff. You are there to play and collaborate with the other students in class. That is it. If you let go of being funny from the start, you will take the pressure off yourself and have a much better time. As you continue to take classes you will have plenty of time to focus on the funny, but for God’s sake, not in the first class you take.
- You are going to be afraid
Know that you’re going to feel afraid, and this is good thing. Most likely, you’ll be way outside of your comfort zone, and believe it or not, others are just as scared as you are, and though they may not look like it, trust me, they are. Sometimes the fear goes away and sometimes it lasts the entire length of the class. Don’t use this as an excuse to quit or think that there is something wrong with you. Fear is good. It means you’re trying something new!
- It won’t make sense
I see improv students in their first improv class trying to figure out what we are supposed to be learning from each exercise or game by asking a question. Improv will not make any sense when you first start out, so don’t try to make sense out of it. Please, I am serious. People ask these questions because they are afraid and they want to control the outcome, which in my experience kills all the fun.
- You don’t have to want to do this for a living
That is right, you don’t have to want to be on SNL or write for the Daily Show to take an improv class. Other people in the class may be interested in that, but don’t let other people’s aspirations scare you off. I especially hear this from people who are taking their first improv class later in life. They ask themselves, “What am I doing this for if it’s not going to lead to anything?” They feel foolish, like it’s a waste of time. I am here to tell you learning how to be more silly, spontaneous and outgoing is a great skill to learn at any age in life.
- You are going to fail a lot
If you’re reading this thinking, “That sucks. How can I avoid that?” Know that you can’t. Failing is where all the best learning comes. So plan to fail, plan to screw things up, many many times, in fact, if you want to get the most out of an improv class. The best way to say this is embrace failing.
- You’re going to want to compare yourself to others
Watch this one, this kills more first time improv students then is ever reported. Remember, everyone learns at a different rate. Some people may be coming with an acting or stand-up back ground. Other may have done improv in high school. So don’t get in the habit of comparing yourself to others. The only one you need to compare yourself to is you. Are you making progress? Are you having fun? If so, you’re golden.
- You will make friends
As long as you’re not a jerk or a creep, you have a great opportunity to make a slew of new friends in an improv class, especially because unlike taking a lecture class, improv is an art form where you have to work together and experience it by doing. Warning: Sometimes the people you meet in improv classes can become friends you’ll have for life.