“Improv is communication training. And it’s empathy training,” he said. “Improv is really just a fancy way of talking about how we understand language and how we understand the communication that a group of people can have amongst themselves.” Jean-Michel Cliche in article from The Aquinian, St. Thomas University’s independent newspaper, is a student-owned-and-operated publication.
So well put and in these times, more than ever, we have so many punches to roll. Pandemic plus politics plus financial ruin equals a beyond psychologically tough 2020.
But those that will emerge from successfully, or at least this less scathed, will take the good and take the bad (The Facts of Life) and stay focused on their goals.
This past week top CEOs denounced ZOOM meetings, calling them far less creative hubs etc.
They are not wrong.
Improv teaches us to thrive working with perfection.
These #unprecendented times call for unprecedented measures.
I miss performing on stage but I know folks need laughs. Teaching on ZOOM is draining but I press on, motivated by the joy my students get from the work.
If we stop focusing on what we can’t do, and drive the machine that does work to its max, we will find new ways, sometimes better ways for forge forward!
YES! And… Is the #1 rule in Improv. This simple two word governing principal packs a lot of benefits for your personal and professional life.
How much easier would it be to interview for a job, make new friends, interact with co-workers, have an honest conversation with partners, or even lead a team if we could reduce or out right eliminate fears of failure, fears of the unknown and social anxieties such as stage fright?
We daily claim to clients from corporate teams that Improv Comedy will help build team, leadership, sales and service skills. We claim Improv builds creative writing, critical thinking, public speaking and self-confidence.
But how does Improv comedy build these skills?
Stage Fright is the #1 phobia, combining both the fears of unknown and fear of failure. Combined these fears paralyze the best of us and even cause physical sickness and nausea.
Similarly social interaction anxieties thrive in this phobic space.
Improv turns fears of public speaking and social interaction on their head by simply playing games as a team. No one individual is left out to fail. The team forms a tight knit unit that works together to play.
That’s right, we don’t perform, we play. We play games.
We pass words around like a sports team passes a ball. In fact, sometimes we even pantomime passing around a ball.
We start with the basics. We play games that require listening and focus to succeed and nothing else. A game like ZIP ZAP ZUP seems silly and ridiculous, but it’s genius is it’s break down of all other needs. All you have to do is to follow the energy around the room, listen and focus. You don’t have to think. You don’t have to impress. You just do.
Then we add words. We don’t try to be funny. We don’t try to be clever. We just listen and respond. We simply contribute to the team.
Then we create sentences, one word at a time. Eventually we offer entire sentences at a time.
At each step we teach just adding a word is better than trying to think of the perfect word. Any word you say is good enough and accepted. There are no mistakes. There is no failure. There is no judgement.
Think like a five year old. Just play. Leave behind all those things we learned in middle school like fear and judgement.
Also let go of ego, the over compensation for insecurity. Find a space where all are on equal footing, regardless of age, experience etc.
I tell students of any age not to even hold myself, the teacher with 18 years experience as better.
Psychological Safety achieved. The spark of self-confidence blooms. Wonderful things emerge….
Creativity Now Thrives
As artists, this space, free of judgement, free from fear, the brain’s synapses start to fire.
Now that we have relaxed our tensions and laughed a bit, oxygen is pumping in at new highs. The head actually starts to tingle.
Ideas flow. As an actor, ideas about character. As a designer, shapes and colors circle. Even programers start to see new patterns for computer codes.
We become open to new ideas from others as well. Creative collaboration thrives.
William Fry, the late great humor guru from Stanford University, states that humor builds a better brain by constantly comparing two otherwise unlike items.
Once you let down your guard, you see more possiblity. You can’t think our of the box when stuck in your own construct.
The world tries to put us in a box, stop doing that to ourselves. (Branding “experts” might disagree lol).
As a team, YES! And… will lead to all sorts of possibilities. The solution to the problem is never found at the initial brainstorm. Too many teams and companies and individuals fail by not fleshing out all the options.
“Never fall in love with your first draft” or idea. But letting those first ideas flow without fear of failure will lead to the amazing choices.
Better Presentation Skills
Most classes in public speaking have it backwards, trying to build your confidence by teaching you better presentation skills.
Simply building confidence, reducing fear of failure and unknowns, opens one up to present information better. Over time you will learn from mistakes, because NOW you are not afraid to make big ones. You are taking chances.
Now if you misspeak, stumble, for draw a blank for a moment you won’t freak out. You can simply smile, breathe and move past the inconsequential moment in time, and find humor and joy in your “failure”.
Also Improv teaches storytelling. Your presentations, whether to a mass gathering or small table of friends, will become more interesting.
Both personal and business relationships are destroyed, or never formed, due to these fears.
Many amazing connections are avoided altogether, because we fear the word NO, in others.
Fear of initiating contact could lead to missing out on a valuable partnership.
Great sales people and con artists are successful because they know about the numbers games AND never fear it’s perceived failures. A NO is not a failure, it’s just a NO.
The Confidence to Say YES
Saying NO is easy choice. Saying NO is the lazy choice.
Saying YES puts responsibility on your shoulders. It requires follow through. It requires listening. It requires confidence in your self.
Saying YES puts yourself out there for possible failure, possible hurt.
How many say no at work, because you fear backlash.
NO, we can’t afford that.
NO, we don’t have time for that.
NO, the bosses won’t go for that.
How many great ideas are left behind because too many lacked vision?
Instead, what if you enacted a little improv exercise? Ignore the kneeejerk NO and take two minutes to brainstorm that idea.
Maybe it leads no where, but chances are it leads to another even better idea that NEVER would have materialized.
This vision takes YES AND leadership.
The Confidence to Say NO
We focus on saying YES in the improv world. But it needs to be stated that we should always say yes UNLESS it puts us in physical, mental or emotional harm.
Having confidence to say NO at the right time can save a life time of pain. Too many reserve NOs for fear of involvement but fear saying NO when it will save us pain, in some cases physical injury.
Saying NO to an abusive friend or family member or partner, because we fear being alone, financial ruin etc is real.
Saying NO to a “friend” daring us to ski down that that slope we are not easy for can kill.
Building confidence gives us the power to choose our story.
It’s Not All Kumbaya
For me, YES And… is a selfish choice. I surround myself with, and support individuals that support me. Those that choose to judge or abuse are left out. I give them every chance to embrace, I try to teach them to let go of the old games, but at the end of the day, I get to choose my family.
I experience pain and hurt. That’s part of life. But in between tough moments I am surrounded with smiles and laughter. I have amazing clients that come back year after year. I work with the best team of artists. When I have love to give I give. When I am hurting I have a village of support, now from around the world thanks to social media.
Have the confidence to make GREAT choices in business and personal life.
Start building your tribe today, surrounding yourself with supportive genuine friends buy discovering self confidence and other skills from improv comedy.
For the past 18 years we hosted events at our Times Square theater(s) and traveled nationwide as far as Orlando, Maine and Nebraska. Since March 2020 we have been working with teams around the world via ZOOM, including Australia, Germany, India, UK, Canada and all over the United States.
Online Improv Comedy Workshop Package
We will host your team of up to 90 on our ZOOM platform.
We invite your team on up to 15 minutes before class time.
One teacher will work with up to 10 of your team mates for 60 minutes playing games that teach teams to play as one through better communication, listening, self-confidence and using humor and laughter to build trust in others.
We will leave the room open after the show for another 15 minutes to interact with your team.
EMAIL Walter now to book an online team building workshop for your team for just $100! (We can negotiate longer times, additional teachers or add on a show)
Corporate clients include JP Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, Twitter, BING/Microsoft, BAML, Home Depot, Ernst & Young, Louis Vuitton, Coach, UBS, BDO, AMEX, Master Card, Datadog, NY Life, Accenture, Macy’s, 360i, IBM, GM, KRAFT, UNILEAVER, HBO, and 100s more… CLICK HERE to read our philosophy behind using Improv to teach team building
In 18 years providing improv comedy team building workshops, the biggest challenge our team faced was answering the question:
“How do we apply these techniques to our remote teams around the world.”
Their team would come to New York and include as as part of their 2-3 day recruiting, team launch or other training.
In the past six months we have now presented 100+ shows online via ZOOM and other platforms plus logged 1000s of hours of class time teaching Improv comedy. We have had to adjust our games, and create some new ones, to continue our own team’s existence.
We are now armed with the tools and techniques to teach team skills on ZOOM to be utilized in your online interactions moving forward.
“YES! And…” Takes Us to the Learning Zone
Psychological Safety is the #1 determining factor in team success, according to 2015 findings of Project Aristotle, the four year study into teams by Google. Balanced with Performance Drive we enter the learning zone.
Our #1 rule: HAVE FUN! But NEVER at another’s expense.
Building psychological safety in your team directly leads to productivity. Psychological safety paired with performance drive also makes you a better leader, a better sales person and better at customer service.
“YES!” produces psychological safety. We agree and support our team.
“And…” is performance pressure. We need to carry our weight and contribute to the team
Together there is nothing we can’t achieve.
Improv Teaches Presentation Skills
Improv teaches presentation skills in two ways.
Public Speaking Techniques
Story Telling Techniques
The first perhaps is more obvious. Improv is 100% performance on day one. Every warm-up game and technique exercise is applying public speaking skills. We grow confident just by doing. We learn to consistently energy our voice, using appropriate projection and diction. We learn very early that something funny is not funny unless it is heard and understood.
Less obvious maybe the story telling skills. When you make a presentation, using story will help you persuade your audience. Whether leading a team in a new direction, making a sales pitch, or appeasing a disgruntle client/customer, story will shape information. When you merely present a set of facts, individuals will interpret their own directions.
Story also engages the audience. The more details you give the more clearly the audience will see your intended message. Improv teaches us to shape our stories with emotion and conviction.
Improv Teaches Critical Thinking
Humor and creativity work in similar ways. By creating relationships between two disconnected items, you engage the whole brain. Humor guru, William Fry, M.D., of Stanford University
Simply playing improv comedy games builds a better brain. Akin to playing word games and SuDoku to sharpen your focus, Improv is problem solving. Two or more play together to create story form scratch.
Improv teaches to think out of the box. By letting go of how we think a thing should be, we are able to discover its true nature. We open up to new possibility. We discover new pathways. We learn to solve problems anew.
We become open to others ideas and interpretations on a subject.
Improv Delivers Much Needed Laughter
In many cases, the laughter supersedes all other benefits. Bringing laughter to a classroom improves test scores, according to research at Johns Hopkins. Laughter increases cardio pulmonary function, getting more oxygen to the brain. Laughter creates community, while reducing stress, depression and blood pressure. The laughter alone increases individual and team health. Laughter tears down walls of resentment, replacing with strong bonds of trust.
Laughter and Joy will make your team work together better, will make folks follow your leadership, make your students listen to your teachings, buy your products, and accept your customer service efforts.
NOW MORE THAN EVER you need to bring laughter to your work, school, home and community. We do this with shows and classes.
8pm Unsensored Improv Comedy hosted by Nathan Armstrong with Amelia Fowler, Patrick Reidy and Ivana Méndez.Tickets $0-20 to join us on ZOOM. Improv is always more fun when “in the room where it happens!”
This class is designed to go past improv basics. Through different drills, exercises and games, we’ll strengthen your improv skills. We’ll focus on improv techniques that will help you build richer characters, make stronger initiations, and raise the stakes of your scene work by making more dynamic choices. If you have fun and want to sign up for more. CLICK HERE to register for SIX week course that starts 9/19. $125 for six classes plus showcase. $200 get unlimited drop in to all our adult classes for the next eight weeks.
We are bringing back our comprehensive 8-week program online. We start each day with a warm-up developing story telling and performance skills. Then play some Improv Comedy Games. Every class will include a mini open mic where students develop original stand-up comedy comedy routines based on personal stories of experience and observation. No experience necessary. CLICK HERE to Register. $200 includes EIGHT 90-minute classes plus unlimited access to drop in shows and classes though 10/31.
RAIN OR SHINE: Nice days we hang by the Fountain. If it rains we escape under the Bethesda terrace overpass. Andrea will lead Improv warm up (ZIP ZAP ZUP is back!), and more at 9:30am. 10-11pm master class in performance games. At 10am playing large group games. At 10:30 each week playing a different scene game (switch, columns etc) We welcome students to continue after 11am but we will not have supervision present at that time.
Please bring water and hand sanitizer. It could be hot, but hopefully, working in the morning will beat the worst.
CLICK HERE: $40 to drop in but just $200 for unlimited access to in person AND online classes for kids and teens.
CLICK HERE to pre-order your Kindle Copy. Available soon via Paperback and Audible.
EIGHT IS NEVER ENOUGH Artistic Director, Walt Frasier, has transcribed his Stand-Up Comedy course into a new text book. Dedicated to his students and all lovers of comedy. this book takes you from zero to five minute routine in four easy steps. Also learn about getting stage to you need to develop as a comic.
Featuring a FORWARD by the funniest kid in America
I wasn’t born a comedian. Though I spent many of my 13 years
on this planet trying to find where I fit in, I don’t want this to sound like a
cheesy finding-my-place story; so I’m just going to tell it like it is. I tried
everything before comedy (yes, everything). I did violin, guitar, sewing,
singing, robotics, taekwondo, tennis, and even soccer for a hot minute. But
everything I did, I got bored of. I didn’t want to practice chords or kicking
with the inside of my foot. You can probably imagine this wasn’t making my
parents too happy; honestly, they were getting pretty desperate, and my dad
didn’t want to waste any more money on weekend activities. So, in the last week
of one long summer, my mom had run out of options for me. Instead of keeping me
at home for a week of relaxation like I wanted, she stuck me in the basement of
The Broadway Comedy Club in Walt Frasier’s improv/standup camp Improv4Kids. Walt’s camp was the only one still open that
late in August. Keep in mind, I was about eleven, and there was a bar right
down the hall. And yet that’s when it happened; in that one week alone, my
yearning for performance could not be satisfied in five days; and, lucky me,
there were Saturday and Sunday comedy classes that started in the fall, so I
immediately knew where I would be every weekend.
Being in Walt’s class, you never know what to expect, never
know what games you’re going to play, or even when you’re going to crack your
next joke. The most important thing you have to do, or bring, rather, is your
energy (never leave that at home). Energy is key when it comes to improv;
without it, scenes fall flat, and they’re not as structured or fun as they
could be. The thing about class with Walt is no one is ever pressured to
perform at all. You’re never pulled up on stage or forced to be in a game;
there’s free choice for everyone to do what makes them feel comfortable. I
never felt like I had to be anyone/anything because performance is about
finding yourself and your style…then run with it! If anything, you have to be
more of YOURSELF.
Walt has a tendency to ramble a bit, but when he does, most
of the stuff he says can be super crucial to perfecting your craft. For
example, every morning, Walt tells us to smile. Not only does it wake your body
up by stretching your face around, but chances are fake smiling might make you
“real” smile. Being in a better mood will 100% boost your energy, which you
know you need in order to be at your best. To quote one of my favorite Walt
mottos, “Treat every rehearsal like a performance and every performance like a
rehearsal.” In other words, bring confident energy to rehearsals and your
playful spirit and ease to performances.
Unfortunately, I’ve come to the end of this Forward…I
know, I know, I’d love me to write forever, too, but to finish I thought I’d
add why you should read this book. I can tell you, it’s jam packed with great
advice on how to critique and better yourself (in terms of performance) that I
hope will inspire you to step out of your comfort zone, help you to get just
one more laugh, or maybe even make you chuckle at some of the stories.
(If you’re still here, after this Forward thing, thank you!)
(An 8th grader living in Manhattan, Carolyn is the Winner of Kenan Thompson’s Ultimate Comedy Experience 2019— “Funniest Kid in America”)