This year I finally took the plunge into the wacky, wonderful world of improv.
I can hold my own on stage, but I still don’t know what I’m doing. I’m not good. And I want to work hard on my own (in between practices and performances) to try to get good.
But here’s the thing: I don’t know how to do that. I don’t know if there’s such a thing as “work hard on your own to get good at improv.”
Solo artistic endeavors, like solo sports, generally have clear paths to go from having potential to being good. A marathoner can create specific training programs and follow the right diet. A painter can study and practice different techniques. Stand-up comedians and other comedy writers can write and watch and write and listen and write.
In a team sport or art, individuals obviously have to practice and perform with the team to reach their full potential. But a basketball player can get good in the meantime by studying the playbook, shooting 200 free throws a day, and working out. A violinist can get good between concerts by memorizing the score, playing for four hours a day, and doing violin-specific strengthening exercises.
What can improvisers do to get good on their own?
But will that only go so far toward becoming a better improviser? When it comes to improving as a troupe — when we’re all trying to figure it out at the same time — it seems hard to make the kind of progress that comes in other team activities when everyone is also improving on their own.
Hopefully I’m just being impatient. With enough time — enough practices and performances — I hope I’ll reach the equivalent experience of a quarterback who sees the game slow down, as Mikael Johnson puts it.
In the meantime — help me out, improvisers: Are there things I can do outside of a group context to get there faster?