A while back, I found myself listening to a radio program where the broadcaster was discussing a book that had just come out called Improv Nation. One reviewer had declared that the author, Sam Wasson, shows why improv deserves to be considered the great American art form of the last half century. The book details the beginning of improv and tracks it all the way through today. Improv, or improvisation, is defined as the art of acting out a skit without preparation.
What really grabbed me about this radio segment was not just the history of improv, but more the discussion of what life skills improv teaches its students, and more so what they go on to do in life. The author pointed out that practicing improv hones one’s skills to think on their feet, in a high-pressure situation, with lots of people watching. Think how many jobs for which that ability is useful: business executive, teacher, EMT, really anything and everything. Another skill practiced in improv is becoming a really good and attentive listener. If one’s next move is directly dependent on one’s scene partner’s current move, then you better believe they will be hanging on every word. Think how many jobs for which that ability is useful: pretty much everything including personal relationships!
Recently, I had the opportunity of going to a reunion improv show where alums who did improv in college returned to perform improv again – some of them 30 years later! First, I must say how impressed I was that they were able to flex the improv muscle after not doing an actual improv performance for so many years. But that just illustrates my point -- because in reality they have continued to use their skills throughout their lives. Secondly, I asked some of these alums what they now do for a living. The answers ranged from writer to musician/performer to psychotherapist. The psychotherapist was very quick to say the improv skills were utilized on a daily basis.
This could easily become a much bigger discussion about the incredible value of teaching and learning the arts and their undeniable role in contributing to any chosen profession, but for now I will content myself to point out to you that improv makes you a better you.