Spotlight on Grand Rapids

It’s been a little while since we were able to do Festival Spotights during the International changeover. But I had the chance to talk to the folks from The Grand Rapids Improv Festival. It sounds like it’s going to be a great time.

GRIF is coming back for another year. What’s new this year?

We are going to have a lot of new local troupes, many who have formed in just the last year. We are fortunate to have so much talent right in Grand Rapids. We will also be bringing back some favorites like the Downtown Improv Crawl ( a combination bar crawl and improv show) but will be tweaking it to make it even better than last year!

Submissions are open for a few more weeks. What kind of shows are you hoping to attract to Grand Rapids?

We love all kinds of improv! Short Form, long form, one man shows – you name it, we want it. We would also love to see some great workshops to help people sharpen their skills and learn some some techniques.

What’s the local scene like. What kind of improv is coming out of Western Michigan now?

The improv scene in Grand Rapids has exploded in the last year. We have new troupes forming all the time, and established troupes getting better and trying new things. The improv scene is West Michigan is a mix of everything, from polished to experimental!

You’re going to have some commedia dell’arte this year. It’s one of the oldest forms of improv in the world. For those that don’t know about it, what can they expect?

This kind of comedy is the grandparent of modern sitcoms and uses half-masks, farce and satire to create relatable comedy. It’s a very fun, different way to watch improv.

What’s the venue like?

Most of the performances will be at Dog Story Theater in downtown GR. It’s an intimate setting to see all of the great improv we have lined up!

What can visiting performers expect to see in Grand Rapids when the festival isn’t going on?

Well we are Beer City USA so you can expect a lot of great breweries and bars! There are also plenty of museums, coffee shops, book shops and historical areas for after you visit a brewery or two.

What would you like visitors who come this year to say about the festival when all is said and done?

This will be the third year of the GRIF and we hope that people say it was the best year yet! If everyone leaves having laughed then our job will be complete


There’s still plenty of time to submit here.


Currently Bill is an instructor at The Torch Theatre and producer for the Phoenix Improv Festival.

Spotlight on Improv Fest Oklahoma

The Improv Festival Oklahoma is celebrating its 8th year. I was able to interview them about what their festival is all about.

You’re celebrating your 8th Improv Festival Oklahoma this year. Tell us a little about the history of your festival.

Red Dirt Improv created Improv Festival Oklahoma in the summer of 2009. A handful of improv troupes were active in the Oklahoma City area, and we all decided to put on a coordinated weekend of shows with great improvisors visiting from out of town. We really wanted to raise awareness of improv in Oklahoma as well as meet other cool improvisers.

Over the course of eight years, Improv Festival Oklahoma has grown. Last year, OKC Improv began co-producing the festival with Red Dirt Improv. This partnership has infused a lot of passion and momentum into Improv Festival Oklahoma.

What do you look for in submissions?

Quality improv is number one. Everything about an improv act doesn’t translate perfectly into submission forms and videos, but that may be all we have to review! Ideally, troupe submission forms and videos will give us a good idea of what would be performed at IFO. Usually, a complete submission will give us what we need to decide.

We are also looking to showcase improv that is new to OKC audiences. Short form, long form, musical, duos, solos, ensemble groups, we like to see it all!

What will a team get if accepted?

Each accepted group will get 25 minutes of stage time and a week of early access to sign up for workshops. If seats are available, performers will be able to watch performances for free.

Improv Festival Oklahoma will host an after party each night of the festival. These after parties will be very close to the venue. These will be a great opportunity to eat, drink, and socialize. We love to show visiting improvisors a great time.

Tell us about what it’s like to visit Oklahoma City. What are some great highlights from the city?

Oklahoma City has a lot of great restaurants in Bricktown (very close to the venue), a nice zoo, casinos, and a variety of museums. We’d love to set up some early arrival / late departure group outings to some cool spots.

Will you be doing workshops at this festival and if so who can improvisors look forward to taking?

This year we have a number of great improv instructors including Rob Belushi and Jon Barinholtz.

Tell us about the venue that IFO has

IFO workshops and performances and will be held at the Paramount Theatre in Oklahoma City. This is a nice 50-seat theater near downtown OKC, so there is plenty to do before and after shows. OKC Improv has had great success hosting its recent shows in the venue and has been developing regular improv crowds.

For someone who has never heard or seen the OK improv scene. Tell us what you’re all about

The improv scene around Oklahoma City is full of fun, friendly, and passionate improvisors. On IFO weekend, that is amplified. It’s always fun seeing IFO’s regular return visitors and new faces. With IFO’s single venue and workshop space, we are certain participants will make lifelong improv friends over the course of the weekend.

Submissions are open until July 31st. Instantly submit HERE today!


Nick is Camp Director and Founder of Improv Utopia an improv retreat for adults in California and Pennsylvania. He is also one of the founding members of the National Improv Network and performer and teacher at iO West as well as a teacher an alum of The Sunday Company at The Groundlings. He has also taught many workshops around the country.

“Don’t Think Twice” Puts Improv in the Spotlight

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Improvisation has definitely hit the zeitgeist in the last few years. An entire episode of “The Simpsons” was dedicated to it just this year. One one hand that’s great. It’s a lot of fun to see what we love being mentioned more frequently. But on the other hand, that’s all that’s being done, mentions. A stray mention of Del or The Groundlings might work its way into the text to show that the media behind the reference “gets it”. But those jokes are only for us. Awareness of this thing called improv is rising all the time, but the perceptions of what it is and can be haven’t changed for the general public in 20 years. Improv continues to grow and mature, and the references on our television screens – while fun – tend to reflect the same world of improv that existed in 1994.

Don’t Think Twice is a film which doesn’t treat improv as a joke, or even as a lampshade to hang a story on. The film plays with the ideas and realities of improv theatre, both on and offstage from a place that is not only informed, but inviting. It welcomes audiences into the artform with a love and respect that never gets in the way of new audiences discovering it. They even got Liz Allen to coach the fictional improv troupe in the film, which goes a long way towards bringing their performances an authenticity.

Because of all of these things, Don’t Think Twice stands among a very small number of peers. But this is not a movie review. This is an invitation to all of us to use this film’s release as a chance to start dialogues in our communities; dialogues between the members of your theatres, between the different organizations in your city and between performers and the general public. This film offers, for perhaps the first time in a while, a new starting point to engage in conversations on what the artform is, and where it is going.

The film has been touring lately with advance screenings, View this site to learn how to process your visa. Many of you have likely seen it already. I was very fortunate to be able to speak with stars Chris Gethard and Mike Birbiglia (who also directed) about the film and it’s potential effect on improvisation.

You definitely have two audiences for this film, improvisors and the general public, and you’re also going around doing workshops. This has the potential to enhance, for smaller cities especially, the improv scene. How are you hoping it will help them develop or enhance their own voice?

Chris: Well, I really feel like smaller cities are really and truly important right now, as far as the history of improv, because improv in the last ten years has become more and more of a pipeline to success. You look at Saturday Night Live and it’s full of improvisors. You look at sitcoms. You look at Parks & Rec, The Office, I mean everywhere. Everywhere you look it’s people coming up from the improv world. And I think the theatre I came up at, The Upright Citizen’s Brigade, had a lot to do with that, really lead the charge on that. And it’s a beautiful thing. It’s really cool. I take a step back, I look at it and it’s like, “Oh right. This art form is a valid thing. Talented people can really shine in this thing.”

But I do think it’s really hard for innovation to happen under the microscope that that brings with it. The potential success is a thing that people now show up for at places like UCB, at iO, Second City, Groundlings. People are showing up because they want to be successful and they see it as a platform to springboard, not universally, but more and more. And I think smaller cities, it’s really important and I really love that such an effort being made in this movie to show encouragement and fan the flames and invite specifically improvisors to test screenings and previews, because I think that smaller cities that aren’t under this magnifying glass, that don’t have this expectation or this potential for megastardom. I think that’s where the art form itself can still grow. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the best improvisors and some of the best improv shows in the next five to ten years aren’t happening in New York, Chicago and L.A. Because I bet that the freedom to fail doesn’t exist there as much anymore. You know I’ve been to great theatres in Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Bellingham, Washington; Phoenix, Arizona; St. Louis. Cities that aren’t necessarily the places where you go to chase the Broadway dream or the Hollywood dream, and I think those are the places where the artistic dream can really shine and build.

Mike: There’s this great quote in the book that’s in the movie called “Something Wonderful Right Away.” It’s an oral history written by Jeffrey Sweet. There’s a quote in that book – I think it was Paul Sills who said – “On any given night, an improv show can be the greatest play, the most inspired, most topical, best performed play in the world on that night.” That can be in this room in front of 30 people, and that’s a profound possibility. So, it’s exciting to relish that opportunity.


So the art form’s only been around for about sixty years. There’s still not a huge public awareness of it. The entry points for a lot of people are pretty limited. When you add one new entry point, that’s significant. Certainly this is one of the few entry points for the public that addresses longform. For a lot of people this is going to be their first exposure to it, having not gone to shows. How do you think that’s going to influence general awareness of the artform as a whole and longform specifically?

Mike: There’s two things right now. There’s a great documentary called “Thank You Del.” Todd Bieber directed it. It was at South by Southwest, and there’s our film and both of them deal with the history of longform improv and I think that we have a real shot at helping explain the art form to people a little bit and what’s special about it. I feel like when you say ‘improv’, most people just think “Whose Line is it Anyway?”, improv games, freeze tag, that kind of thing. But actually, in a lot of ways, I like to think of it as these are improvised plays, happening in the moment and there’s something really special about that. As Sam (Gillian Jacobs) says in the movie, “Improv is an artform unto itself.”

Chris: I remember when I started in 2000, I signed up for classes at UCB and I’d never seen longform, and I lived in Northern New Jersey. I was as close as you could get. And it’s really spread. Now I feel like most colleges have one, if not more, longform improv troupes and it still feels like a relatively underground thing. So I do think it will be an entry point where a lot of people can find it, and a lot of people, I think, will kind of know what it looks and feels like for the first time. I also think there’s probably a lot of kids who will show their parents this movie.

Mike: This is what we do.

Chis: Yeah, this is what we’re doing.

Mike: I’ve had a lot of people say that to me at screenings. “Finally, I can explain this to my parents.”

Chris: It’s a really impactful thing. I remember my parents had what can only be described as real concern when I was like, “I want to go and do improv in New York City,” while I was living in their basement in New Jersey. It didn’t necessarily seem like a path towards anything stable. I think this movie will prove that it’s not, but also prove that, like any other type of art, it has some validity that’s worth taking a risk on.


These are great and wonderful words from very smart people. We owe great respect and love to San Francisco and Chicago in the ’60s and ’70s and to New York and L.A. in the ’80s and ’90s. But we also owe love and respect to the cities and times we live in now. We learn from the past so we can continue to build this in the future. Thank you to Mike and Chris and to all the people who made this film.


Currently Bill is an instructor at The Torch Theatre and producer for the Phoenix Improv Festival.

Special thanks to Arturo Ruiz who helped with the editing of this piece.

ASIF – Review of The Alaska State Improv Festival

The Del Close Marathon. The Chicago Improv Festival. The Los Angeles Improv Comedy Festival. The New York Improv Festival. The Boston Comedy Arts Festival.
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Chances are very likely that you’ve heard of these festivals, and probably attended at least two of them. I’m sure that you were exposed to an insane amount of improv troupes from around North America, and possibly Europe, and were blown away by the level of talent and variety featured at each of these festivals. I mean, how could you not be? There’s so much to see and experience. But here’s the thing about some of these mega-festivals: they’re so big and so intense that it becomes difficult to establish any sense of community amongst the improvisers that the typical performer’s e
xperience is to simply show up, get your performer’s pass, see a few shows, perform in your assigned time slot, and maybe see/do something in that city before it’s time to go home the next day.
Plus, one of the evils perpetuated in these types of mega-festivals is the illusion of status. Sure, some people/teams have achieved various levels of recognition be it through television, film, writing, talk shows, magazines, YouTube, or what-have-you, but there’s no opportunity to humanize them in any real way that matters because of the sheer amount of people attending these festivals. Sure, you might be able to go back to North Carolina and tell all of your friends that you got to tal13187866_10157629804150206_1747861823_nk with Jack McBrayer for five minutes, or that Amy Pohler accidentally spilled a drink on you in the Green Room. But where’s the humanity in that? Where’s the real life connection with another human being that matters? The answer is a simple one: The Alaska State Improv Festival!
Here’s one of the things that I love most about ASIF: Eric Caldwell, the festival producer, has been to so many festivals over the years that he knows exactly what to offer in terms of organization, variety, and community. Let me break it down for you.
Organization:
Once accepted to perform in the festival, Eric automatically adds you to the ASIF Facebook group where you receive updates and alerts in real time. I can’t stress enough how fantastic this is because it accomplishes a few things right off the bat: the ability to connect with other performers (both past and present), immediate and direct contact with the festival producer (what other festival can you say that about???), and pertinent information regarding the festival itself as questions arise.
Before the festival has even started, accommodations, rides to and from the airport, workshops, sight seeing tours, after parties, discounted performer “eats and drinks” hotspots, and other individual points of interest have all been worked out well in advance that you genuinely feel taken care of. This isn’t one of those festivals where you hope you are able to find a place to stay within budget that is within an Über ride of the venue. Nope. It’s all been taken care of for you!
13187872_10157629804100206_776965086_nAND on the back of your performer’s pass there is a schedule of all of the shows for the weekend so you can plan accordingly. Quite thoughtful.
And AND…for anyone performing in the festival, Eric has provided a webpage on the ASIF site specifically for improvisers providing information about all sorts of local grocery stores, restaurants, points of interest, workshop schedules, performance schedules, directions, phone numbers, maps, etc. It’s an amazing resource!
Variety:
There is so much about ASIF that I find outstanding that it becomes challenging where to start first. Let’s begin with the fact that you’re in Alaska’s capital performing improvised comedy! The landscapes are breathtaking, and are some of the most beautiful vistas I’ve ever seen (and I literally travel the world for a living)!
Then there’s the incredible talent that Eric is able to bring in from all over: Susan Messing, Amber Nash, Parallelogramophonograph, Pinque Pony, Scared Scriptless, Ranger Danger and the Danger Ranger, Nick Armstrong & Bill Binder, Pawn Takes Queen, and 1 Deep just to name a few off the top of my head. (There’s so many more that are going unmentioned that have absolutely blown me away! Seriously, everyone is just so, so talented!)
And that’s what is so great about this festival: A) the range of performances that you’d rarely get the opportunity to see again, and B) that you actually get to know the people behind the ensemble. What a rare blessing it is to actually have time to sit down to lunch with Susan Messing and talk about life! Which leads me into my last point about ASIF…
Community:
We, as improvisers, know the importance of community. It’s what strengthens us and brings us together both on stage and off. It’s what allows us to brainstorm new ideas and collaborate on projects. If it weren’t for these basic ideals there wouldn’t even be improvised comedy as we know it. We’d be fighting against each other constantly in the latest version of “The ME Show.” So why do we naturally gravitate towards perpetuating this idea that “my way is better”, or “I was taught the real way of improvising”? It’s silly and its destructive. But thankfully ASIF breaks those barriers down by creating a lot of community-building activities in which we get to really spend time together and appreciate other’s way of operation.
Exhibit A: The Whale Watching Boat Tour
When are you ever going to get this opportunity again in your life?! It’s incredible, it’s amazing, and it’s 100% worth it! I mean, come on?! It’s a boat full of rowdy improvisers! How could you not?! So much fun!
Exhibit B: The Mixer Jams
You know what’s even more fun than performing with your team? Performing with a group of extremely talented improvisers from all over everywhere in a completely bonkers show where literally anything can happen! So much fun!
Exhibit C: The Afterparties
Each night after the last run of shows, Eric has made arrangements for everyone to gather together at some of the local bars, restaurants, and local Juneau hotspots just for the sake of hanging out and getting to know each other better. Seriously, what mega-festival does that? Ok, ok…the Del Close Marathon does that. But it’s not open to all performers, AND it’s not an environment conducive to connecting with performers that you’ve never met before. ASIF is the very definition of bringing people together to celebrate this most amazing art form that we all love more than life. So much fun!
Exhibit D: Workshops
I’ve had the pleasure of learning from some of the improv “greats” in my time, and the workshops offered during ASIF are no exception. These master artists (and I refer to them as such) have taught me more about improv, the love of the art form, the creative nature of performing, and small technical approaches that I can apply in my own way than any other workshop I’ve ever taken in the past.
Plus, you’re learning/honing your craft amongst a mixed group of your peers, of whom you may never get the opportunity to perform with ever again. I’ve made so many special bonds with many of Juneau’s local improvisers that will stay with me forever! And I’m genuine in saying that I love these people. I love the connection that we created together. I love the pure joy of discovering things together while being directed and steered towards positivity, emotion, story, and humanity. These are some of my most cherished memories only available to me through ASIF’s magical ability to bring people together.
Special shout outs to Susan Messing, Parallelogramophonograph, and Rich Baker. So much fun!
The long and the short of it is that attending ASIF is like summer camp for adults. You make new friends, you experience new highs, you get to see some of the best performers in the world at the height of their game, and you get to experience Juneau, Alaska in a way that you truly will never be able to experience outside of the festival. It’s magical. It’s personal. It’s beautiful.
The Alaska State Improv Festival – the best festival I’ve ever attended! There, I said it.
Mike Brown
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Review of the Improvamonium in Rochester, NY

We reached out to our community to get some feedback on festivals. Here is a review of Improvamonium in Rochester, NY by attendee Ron Williams:

This festival was awesome! First, it was free to register. All you had to do was find a way to get to RIT. They put you on the poster for the event, so it makes your team feel super official. After arriving and finding the building (it started to snow on the way up), we were very happy to get 26 minutes to perform a set. A lot of the talent was local, and we were the only team from NYC. The college crowds are very receptive, and it was easily one of the best shows we’ve ever done.

Where to Stay: There is a hotel right next to RIT.

Where to eat: Plenty of bars right next to campus with burgers.

Overall, I’d do it again if the rest of my team wanted to. It was well run and the auditorium was huge (had to be over 200 seats).

 

Site Update: Instructor Submissions Now Available

Having the instant submission tool for improv troupes has been great. I’ve been coding away to make that same functionality available to instructors. And it’s finally online!

Starting today, any festival that uses the instant submission tool on our site can also elect to take submissions for instructors as well.

How it works

A more detailed walkthrough will come soon, but the quick answer is this:

  • If you’re a festival producer. You are offered a checkbox when creating a new event to accept instructor submissions.
  • If you’re an instructor (and you have an instructor profile on the site), you’ll see a button like the picture below. Just click it. That’s it.
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    How it looks

    Festival producers will already be familiar with the visual layout of the submission review page. It’s modeled after the troupe submission review page. In fact, you don’t even have to go anywhere new. It’s added as a tab to your review page.

    You will actually be presented with two lists. The first looks like this.
    Capture

    This is a list of instructors who have submitted to teach at your festival. Although instructors are not required to submit a troupe if they are submitting as an instructor, it is useful information for producers. So any troupes the instructors perform in which have submitted to the festival are listed below their names. Clicking on their names will take you directly to their teaching profile and workshop lists.

    The second list is a passive list. This is a list of instructors who have not specifically submitted to your festival, but are members of troupes who have submitted to perform. Having this information can be very helpful to producers when knowing who might be coming to the festival anyway.

    Capture

    What does it cost?

    Nothing. Producers can use this tool at their leisure and instructors can submit to any festival using the tool for free.

    What doesn’t it do?

    A few things. There aren’t as many options as the troupe submission tool, because it’s not really clear which of those features will be useful. Right now, it’s pretty much just a list. I’m very open to new features being added to this as time goes one.

    Loading quickly. It doesn’t do that. I know. More than any other page on the site right now, it’s a bit of a memory hog. It will load slowly the first time you load it. I’m working on that.

    Notify producers. Right now, producers won’t get notified every time an instructor submits. This is a relatively minor thing to be added, but I’m going to wait a few weeks to work out any potential bugs people may find. I don’t want producers to get flooded with bogus messages due to a bug somewhere. Messaging will be here before March.

    Why is it only for festivals?

    Don’t worry. There is another tool coming soon which will help facilitate getting instructors and theatre companies talking. In the mean time, I hope people keep reaching out to each other through their respective teacher and theatre profile pages.

    What should I know to use this tool responsibly?

    As a producer. If you have a general model for how instructors will be paid, it’s helpful to put that info up front. It’s not binding at this stage of course, but it helps instructors know which festivals they can submit to in a sustainable way. You can also check their booking information on their own instructor page to get a feel for their expectations. It’s best to have both parties familiar with the expectations of the other so there are no surprises down the road.

    As an instructor, look for festivals which accept instructors. But if they elected not to, they probably have a reason. You probably don’t want to email them to try to get them to change their minds.

    And that’s about it for now. There will be changes to this tool as with all tools. But it’s up now. Hopefully this will get some awesome workshops at festivals.


    Currently Bill is an instructor at The Torch Theatre and producer for the Phoenix Improv Festival.

    Consider Teacher Workshops at Your Theater or Festivals

    NIN’s year of the teacher was amazing. We created the Teacher Tool which will allow you to submit yourself, for free, as a teacher to a festival and let theaters know when you’re in town so they can hire you if you in the neighborhood…NEATO!  With that said, I’d like to chat with our readers about hiring veteran teachers to come to your festival and/or theater to do teaching or coaching workshops. There is huge value in this. I think we have a responsibility as theaters and festivals to start training the next generation of improvisors to become great teachers and have the tools and knowledge they need to succeed.

    A lot of theaters, festivals and communities are still young. I’d say about 80 percent of the theaters and festivals I go to  fit in this category. For theaters, a lot of communities are growing pretty fast and we are basically making teachers out of students or recent alums. I get it, the demand is there from incoming students and you want your business to push forward, but what about the teachers? Teaching is a different art all together. Especially teaching something like improv. Just like improvisors who need training, so do teachers. Sure, you may have to shell out a few dollars to get a master teacher to come out, but your return on investment is going to be huge. The better the teacher, the better the business, and the more chance to have returning students. The better the student, the better the performer, the better your audiences will get because of the quality of work – Trickle-down Improv-nomics. You may not see the money right away, but invest in your theater it will be worth it in the long run. I know some theaters are doing this already and to you guys! YAY! You’re ahead of the game and I’d be interested to hear about the experience. You have to think big picture. I know it’s hard to think that as we try to figure out how to pay our rent for next month or buy more paper towels for the bathroom, but the long game is where it is at and it’s worth it.

    For festivals, what a great opportunity to offer this course to your community and improvisors coming into town. We are so focused on the teaching of improv skills and forms, we are forgetting that a lot of these improvisors are going to become coaches or teachers eventually. If you’re inviting a master teacher to come to your festival, have them do an improv workshop, but also have them add an instructor workshop. Why not? You have them there. Again, may cost more, but I feel this is something that would do really well. After all these people are the best in the business and have years of experience in teaching. They know what works with students and what doesn’t.

    I want to take a second to thank all the teachers and coaches out there for doing the work and committing to our art form. You’re paving the way for the future of improv. Right now we may not get paid as much as we deserve but I do see a day where that will change and it’s all because of the blood, sweat and tears coming from your passion. So, thank you!

    Nick Armstrong

    Nick is Camp Director and Founder of Improv Utopia an improv retreat for adults in California, Yosemite and Pennsylvania. He is also one of the founding members of the National Improv Network and performer and teacher at iO West and The Groundlings. He has also taught many workshops at theaters and festivals around the world.

    Guest Blog: Improv is My Therapy Part 1

    There is a fair amount of anecdotal evidence on how improvisation helps people. Many of us have firsthand experience on how improvisation has changed our lives and have probably heard similar stories from others in the community. Improvisation is also used in corporate workshops and in drama therapy as a way of teaching skills that are useful for increasing workplace effectiveness or dealing with mental illness. As an individual who teaches psychology and does improv, sometimes I wonder why improvisation seems such an effective tool for improving the lives of individuals. In what I hope to be the beginning of a series of articles (note my optimistic “Part I” in the title), I will begin by discussing why “Yes, And” is therapeutic by drawing comparisons with similar psychotherapeutic concepts.

    For many, the rule of “Yes, And” is the first tenet of improvisation that they learn. This phrase reminds us to first say yes, to agree with what the other person in the scene has said, and then show that we are agreeing by adding to that. While the temptation is often to go “No, But”, we learn over time that by saying yes and building something together, we create a much more enjoyable experience for ourselves and the audience.

    Our desire to say “No, But” is usually related to control. Studies in social psychology tell us, we are fearful of things that we perceive to be foreign to us (such as the thoughts in someone else’s head), and trusting of the things that we perceive to be from us or similar to us (such as the thoughts in our own head). Improvisation is a frightening experience (as we often forget) in that we are coming to the stage with nothing prepared; this activates our fight-or-flight response and causes us to want to default to our primal settings. Our simple, anxious minds want to stick to what we tend to perceive as good, which is anything that we can control (i.e. the thoughts in our own head). Instead of trying to trust another person, we try to save ourselves. Improvisation teaches us to embrace and acknowledge our fear, but not to be controlled by it.

    In psychology, we often refer to people’s perceptions of the amount of control they exert over their lives as their locus of control. Individuals with an internal locus of control believe that they have control over their life, while those with an external locus of control believe that their lives are controlled by external forces. To be healthy, an individual should be somewhere in the middle; it is important to be comfortable with not always controlling everything, but also to be aware of what one can control. Individuals with an internal locus of control benefit from Yes-Anding because they learn to accept what they can’t control (by saying “yes”); individuals with an external locus of control benefit because they learn that they have some control over their environment (by saying “and”).

    Agreement is not a one-way street; not only are we agreeing with what our partner is saying, but they are agreeing with what we are saying. Carl Rogers, an influential American psychologist, developed the idea of unconditional positive regard. According to Rogers, a therapist should show unconditional positive regard to a patient, that is to say, no matter what a patient shares with their therapist, the therapist should show acceptance without negative judgment of the basic worth of the individual. On stage, we are asked to show unconditional positive regard to our teammates, and that can be very therapeutic. We base our self-esteem partially on how we are viewed by others, and when our thoughts and ideas are supported and elevated to the level of comedy gold, we feel great about ourselves; we learn to trust our ideas. Being yes-anded reminds us that we are valuable, worthy, and wanted. Yes, And teaches us how to relinquish some of our need to control the world around us, to thrive even when we are fearful and uncertain, and to remember that we are individuals of worth and brilliance.

    Guest Blogger and NIN Member Jeff Thompson

    Jeff has been an improviser since 2002 and has studied at iO West, ComedySportz LA, Second City Hollywood, The Groundlings, Nerdist, and UCB LA.  He is also one of the producers of the Hollywood Improv Festival.

    When not on-stage, he can be found teaching psychology, coaching teams, consulting for businesses, or playing video games.