Taking An Improv Class Will Change Your Life

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By: Jimmy Rhoades | Adapted For Web By Dave Hanson Posted: 3:42 PM, Sep 14, 2022 Updated: 4:16 PM, Sep 14, 2022

We’ve all heard about Hollywood stars who came from improv comedy backgrounds —

Melissa McCarthy, Keegan-Michael Key, Stephen Colbert, Amy Poehler… just for starters.   But what you may *not* know — the skills you learn in improv can improve your life no matter what you do!   Actor Marc Evan Jackson, who you may recognize from Brooklyn 99, Parks & Recreation, and The Good Place, is head of the Detroit Creativity Project, a non-profit that teaches improv to kids — and he’s telling us why everyone can benefit from improv classes.  

For starters, it makes you a better listener.

Whether you’re at a party or a business meeting, a lot of people are waiting to say their part without really listening to what you have to say.  But really listening is crucial to improvisation.  That’s because you have to digest what’s being said, agree with it, and then add to it.  If a scene partner says you’re on Mars, you have to accept and then build on that reality, by saying something like, “Yeah, and there’s the Starbucks.”  In improv, all you have is what the other person is saying, so you learn to pay attention! 

Next… that deep listening makes you more empathetic.

In order to succeed, you have to see things from the perspective of your improv partner.  Otherwise, it’s just an argument and the scene doesn’t advance.  Any kind of acting requires you to play the role of someone else, but improv goes even further: you have to accept reality as it’s presented to you by your scene partners.  Improv also teaches you to ask questions and be curious.  Instead of saying, “Cool, thank you, please don’t tell me anything more” you say, “I don’t know anything about that, tell me everything!”  It teaches perspective, it teaches empathy, and it makes you curious, which makes your life a lot better.

Next, improv teaches you to face risk with a sense of play.  

Yes, of course when you make stuff up out of nowhere, a lot of it won’t work — but improv will teach you that failure isn’t a lasting condition, and it isn’t fatal.  And some of those risks result in laughs, which are thrilling to receive.  Jackson says when you do improv, you’ll make the best friends of your life because you’re learning something new and you’ll be vulnerable and you’ll learn to embrace how silly it is. It’s just fun.

So go ahead!  Find a class, and reap the benefits. 

And… scene.