We Didn’t Get Into Improv to Play It Safe!

bunny_slope_hidI’ve been coaching for around 10 years now. iO teams, indie teams and workshops across the country and I find one of the hardest things to try and teach improvisers is the importance of taking a risk. Jumping and hoping someone will catch you.


This, I feel, is one of the most important things in improv. Why we get into improv. When I first started skiing, way back when, my instructor told me, “Hey if you don’t fall down you’re not trying.” It seemed silly. I didn’t want to get all wet and nasty. I’ll just take it easy and hit the bunny slopes so I don’t get messy. Well that was no fun and I eventually stopped skiing because that’s all I ever did. I never tried to fall and get messy and therefore lost interest and never got better at it and always stuck to the bunny slopes. I feel this is the same in improv. The biggest thing students and some performers have a fear of is being afraid to fail, to fall flat on their faces in front of an audience or an instructor. Why? What will happen? You won’t land that huge sitcom? You won’t get that agent? That girl or guy you’ve been eyeing will get up and leave? You’ll embarrass yourself? We didn’t get into improv to play it safe. Live dangerously onstage and great things will come to you!

You should be doing improv to make yourself a better performer, a better artist and better ensemble member. Stretching, evolving and pushing the boundaries of everything you’ve been taught and then breaking through that. The wonderful and awesome teachers and coaches have given you a great foundation now it’s time to put your stamp on it. What do you think about the world? Tell us in your characters.

I can guarantee you that your favorite improvisers have fallen on their faces a thousand times over. I bet the reason those improvisers are your favorite is probably, not just because they’re funny, but the fact that they are doing something extraordinary and taking a huge risk and a huge leap off of a cliff knowing that their fellow ensemble will catch them. And even if they don’t get caught they know how to land on their feet.

Do yourself a favor don’t just stay on the bunny slopes, every time you go to rehearsal or do a show make sure you hit the black diamonds! You’ll have more fun and surprise yourself.

Nick Armstrong

Nick is an Actor, Improvisor and Writer living in Los Angeles, CA. On TV Nick is currently on AMC’s Story Notes and has been on the Emmy-Award winning shows The Office and Grey’s Anatomy. He has also made appearances on Jimmy Kimmel Live and Parks and Recreation. Recently, Nick received a development deal for a TV Show he created for A&E.

Onstage Nick has trained at The Groundlings and iO West. You can catch him performing regularly at the world-famous iO West in Hollywood, CA on the famed genre-based group Kind Strangers and LA’s Longest and Critically Acclaimed Harold Team King Ten. Nick is also the Camp Director and Founder of Improv Utopia. And if that wasn’t enough, he is also one of the founding members of the National Improv Network. We are always looking for better ways to serve the community.

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