5 tips about improv for eternal learners

My first contact  with improv was 6 years ago, at a Sunday workshop at easylaughs. I discovered then that Improv has the perfect combo: learning and fun. I was hooked. This was exactly what I was looking for. As a bonus, I got in contact with creative, open-minded people.


I don’t dare to say I am an expert in anything and I am totally OK with that. I strive to learn and remain curious forever. When I was 12, and started the Conservatory, I remember thinking to myself


"I am going to learn EVERYTHING there is to learn about music".


After one year I realised that even if I dedicated my whole life and I didn’t sleep or do anything else, what I would learn would be infinitesimal compared to the vast ocean that is music.


So I decided to enjoy the journey. Enjoy the learning. Instead of focusing on the results (how many chocolate bars can you eat?), you focus on the process (flavours and textures of all the different chocolates, nice).


So with that Socratian " I only know that I know nothing " image of an eternal learner, I give you a few tips about improv. From one eternal learner to any other eternal learners out there.

Photo by Mimi van Amerogen
Elena Carbonell (photo by Mimi van Amerogen)

These are my top 5.


1. Don’t do improv.

Yes. Sounds crazy, right?. Doing anything but improv can help you improve your improv. You feed your improv with your experience. With your life. If you only do improv…then your improv feeds off itself. You end up in a loop. It’s improv cannibalism.


How can you really  yes and  on stage if that doesn’t show in your life? Be interested in your life and what you do with it because that’s where you will get your ideas from.


This takes me to the second tip.


2. Have a variety of interests.

Go to the cinema. To the theatre. To ballet. Opera. Listen to music. Read. Write. Dance. Paint. Go to a museum. Sing. Travel. Meditate. Run. Gardening. Knitting. Yoga. Pet your cat. Do a silly walk. Stare at the ceiling. Anything! All those things will help you get ideas for your characters and storylines, do excellent object work, have a flexible mind, and get your cultural references and tropes.


In improv, generalists thrive. A generalist is a Jack of all trades and master of none. Since generalists have a broad knowledge of many subjects, they can also make connections a specialist would not do.


Read this article about generalists. Doesn’t it sound like it’s talking about impro?


3. Try different things in improv.

Experiment. Do you love doing short improv games? Try long form! Do you love long form? Try to develop your own format! Are you scared of singing? Do musical improv! Explore, dare. The improv community is a safe environment to try new things outside of your comfort zone. Get out of your comfort zone. The biggest failures and glory awaits you there.


4. Watch shows.

I know, I know. There are so many improvisers out there that don’t want to be an audience. Some writers want to remain pure; they don’t read other authors for the fear of becoming overwhelmed with someone else’s talent or tainting / contaminating their style. Mmm… To each their own. You learn so much from watching other improvisers. And…you have fun. (Yes, yes, I know it comes back every time, this learning and fun).


5. Don’t force anything.

Do you remember your best scenes? do you remember what you were thinking? Probably you were not thinking; you were doing, you were in the flow. Letting things happen. The scenes that made you go «I am a total failure » were the ones you were forcing a storyline, you were forcing your great idea, you were forcing comedy or tragedy. If you are making an effort, you are not in the flow, darling!


I hope this is helpful and that it lights up the spark of introspection about what you have learnt about improv and what do you think can help others. Does this inspire you to come out with your five tips for other improvisers in the community? Nice! Please put it in writing and share.