Styles: Improvised Comedy

Last Tuesday I started an improv comedy class with Monkey Toast. A small commitment of 8 weeks to dip my toes into something new.

Why did I start on such a ridiculous journey?

The first reason is an old one. A old friend of mine from drama school whom I barely see these days learned improv and became evangelical about it. He still does it now, and for him it gives him a way of coping with his asperger’s. He told me how it changed his life, his perspective, his appreciation and understanding of human interaction. Regardless of whether you have asperger’s or not, I think we could all stand to develop our understanding of each other.

The second reason flowed from that, and is a part of how I battle my depression. I have a need to go out to try new things and learn. One of my biggest problems is how I struggle with mistakes – how they interrupt my flow, stop me in my tracks and make me feel stupid, embarrassed, and undeserving of attention. I either fight them, getting angry and therefore making more of them, or freeze up. Improv, I am discovering, is about learning to run with mistakes – not focus on them, nor run from them.

Another thing I felt this would give me is a willingness to write without the critic’s voice. Writing, I have found, sits on a creative/destructive spectrum, like the one I made below, fully supported by science and superior graphic design skills:


At least I tried with the fonts.

Just as editing is a destructive process, improv feels more like creation than writing, or even performing a song or play to an audience. It feels like there is less structure to it. But perhaps strengthening that muscle is a way to make writing feel more natural.

NOTE: I am not suggesting that flexing your serial killer muscles is a way to become a better editor. I mean, science might say that. Put down the petrol can.

It’s also amazing how vulnerable we feel as improvisational beginners. Of course, we’ve been improvising our whole lives. An overwhelming percentage of our days are spent improvising – so in theory, this is a few skills and new ways of thinking – but from what I’ve heard, shifting your thinking to this open, receptive frame of mind is not always as easy as it sounds.

More incredible is the speed at which we’re forming a group of not just collaborators, but friends. Watching people progress even from week 1 to week 2 was exciting, and I had to catch my breath at times as I watched people who had castigated themselves after a couple of hours to seeing them generate great ideas for scenes.

I look forward to what the next weeks will bring!

Wish me luck,


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