#161 Improv Comedy Classes an Avenue to More Playfulness, Creativity, and Better Communication.

Welcome back all! Today I am going to be exploring more into my new found passion of Improv comedy classes and why I am here to tell all of you, to try one out in your own hometown.

On episode 158 I delved into some deep content about facing your fears and sitting with discomfort. I directly referenced Phil and I pushing past our awkwardness and joining Improv classes. It turns out I wasn’t quite done with the subject, and in fact will probably record another podcast about how to make meaningful relationships as you age, which Improv will be involved in that discussion as well. What can I say… When I am into something… I am INTO it. 🙂

Aside from being a fun activity to participate in, Improv has helped me personally communicate better with others, and myself.

My brain feels sharper than it has in years, and Phil and I’s communication has improved A LOT. We always considered ourselves great at talking, but have realized over the years that you can be great at talking, but NOT at communicating.

We talk over one another. We blame and judge. We get defensive. We assume and project. I am sure we are not the only ones. When you are with someone for a long period of time you develop habits, and patterns. These habits became apparent to me when we started taking Improv together and began working through some practices and games. We weren’t listening outside of class as well as we could have been.

Improv helped us pause and instead of waiting for our turn to speak, to really listen to what the other was saying. It also revealed long standing patterns of blame. If we were in a scene together, we instantly fell into “Well, you didn’t do this.” or “Why are you blaming me? You weren’t there either!.” Sort of scenario. Those negative emotions were easy to access as we built our pretend world for a scene. For example- A married couple at a furniture store that can’t agree on a couch. Normal, right?

Let me be clear here in saying that Improv comedy classes didn’t entirely solve our problems. I am not saying it is therapy or a replacement for therapy. It just offered a lovely way of actually PRACTICING how to communicate better. You learn from therapy and discover how to better communicate. You may notice your own patterns or you might read concepts from books on how to shift the way you communicate. You read it, but to actually put these good habits into practice in a fun way allows you to shine light on where they pop up and strengthen better communication muscles so that you deeply know it.

It was shortly after our Phil and I’s first few classes that we began to unfold. The blame game disappeared. We were listening to one another AND then most beautiful thing happened naturally…

We were playing again. Truly playing. This past year with the death of my sister Nina has been a rough one, and I have actively been rediscovering how to play and find joy. Life is hard. It is dark, and it can sometimes be easy to stay dark. It is hard to be playful after tragedy, but man is it needed. We began being lighter and not just in class. The affects lingered on throughout the week and seeped into our days and evenings, and we could not wait until the following week to play again with our new found friends!

At least for us Improv classes are pure childlike joy. It is like camp for adults!

Wanna try it? Let’s chat with a veteran on the show! I am excited to announce that I have a guest for today’s show, something I haven’t had in over a year and a half! Feels good to speak to another human on MOTM.

On today’s episode I bring on Justin Borak. Justin is an Improv teacher and actor, and has worked in Chicago for several years performing in shows at Second City, iO, and the Annoyance. Some popular and prestigious Improv hot spots around the country.

I am so excited to chat with him about how he thinks Improv spurs creativity and playfulness, how he thinks Dungeons and Dragons blends so well with Improv Comedy, and how inclusive it is in different cities. We also discuss how diverse of a crew you get when you join a class. Age, race, all walks of life join in these classes and it is a delightful way to expand your perspective and friend group. We also walk you into your first improv class and tells you what to expect, so you don’t have to be nervous.

This is me trying to break down what happens in a typical class for all those who are curious but are really scared to walk into something crazy. It is harder to write, so listen to the episode to get a better idea.

A Typical First Improv Class-

You sit in the chairs waiting for everyone to arrive. Maybe you say hi to someone, maybe you don’t. The instructor introduces him/herself and they have everyone then stand in a circle and play some games.

Most of these games are typical icebreaker games. Remembering people’s names, passing the red ball around, Zip, Zap, Zop. They are games that are played and learned very quickly and intended to warm you up, to allow you to get comfortable so that you soon realize you are just having fun like you used to do when you were a kid. No pressure or expectation, only fun.

After that they may explain how Improv works, you might do some quick short practices with others. One of my most favorite practices the instructor lead early on – It was myself and another classmate on stage. The instructions were that we were making a bed together, and we couldn’t talk until the instructor tells us to. We start and just begin to act out making a bed. Folding sheets, fluffing pillows, etc.

The real subject of this scene isn’t the bed though it is the relationship between the characters and what is going on. What is their relationship to each other. Is the body language angry, happy, sad?

I liked the exercise because when you begin Improv it is hard to find words. Silence is easier and it relaxed me. It allowed me to use my body to express how I was feeling.

On your first class you may also start to delve into something called Monologue Deconstruction. I like to think of this as basically storytelling time. The audience throws out a word. Say “Beach.” and one person comes forward to tell a story that relates somehow to a beach. Trying to add in as much detail as possible. Then from this story and the details, the classmates start to create scenes.

That is about it, folks. Sound scary? It shouldn’t. I have honestly found the most easy going people to be in my Improv classes. Everyone there is showing up to have a good time and learn some fun and funky new skill.

Creativity sparks because everyone is showing up for one another to build the best scene possible. It is the ultimate co-op game where everyone wins.

You ready to try it? YOU SHOULD! Better yet, bring your partner, friend or family member along with you and watch your communication start to evolve and your playfulness ignite!

Yoga Sailing Retreats for 2023 Registration is OPEN!!!

Thailand– April 8th to the 15th

Croatia August 26th to the 2nd

Sardinia and Corsica- Sept 2nd to the 9th. – 2 spots left!

Don’t miss out on your chance to sail with me next year because I am not sure if I will be hosting sailing retreats in 2024 or 2025.

ALSO if you can’t roll with me overseas this year, stay local! My friend Elizabeth Craig and I are hosting a women only Transformation Retreat near Pittsburgh. Sept 8-11th. Registration is now open and Early
Birds Registration ends on June 30th. This retreat is for the awakening woman, and we want you with us. Choose from a 2 or 3 day retreat for your busy schedule.

This episode is sponsored by Steel City Improv.

“Steel City Improv Theater teaches and performs Long-Form improv comedy. In long-form improvisation, a group of improvisers take one suggestion from the audience and perform an entirely made-up show, complete with multiple scenes, characters, and ridiculous spectacles, bound only by its creators’ imaginations.

Steel City Improv Theater (a.k.a. the SCIT), teaches Applied Improvisation. The SCIT knows that improv classes make you more than just funny.  By applying the principles of improv to your life,  you can become a better parent, mentor, entrepreneur, employee and friend.  Improv teaches you to deal with the unexpected in life. You become a better listener, more positive person, and improve your ability to truly live in the moment.

Steel City Improv Theater’s philosophy is best summed up in three words: “Listen. Commit. Play.” The SCIT combined the best practices from improv training found at New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles improv theaters into the SCIT Philosophy. Listening can be a hard skill to master, but, by staying in the moment can open up a world of possibilities. Accepting others’ ideas is difficult, but committing to our own ideas can be an even bigger challenge. With improv training, we learn to break through the inner critic that normally stops us. With a sense of play, we find an endless sense of possibility and inspiration. When our teammates have that same sense of imagination, it makes the word “failure” seem less scary and more exciting.

For a safe space to step out of your comfort zone, come listen, commit, and play at Steel City Improv Theater!”

Justin Borak on his first show at Steel City Improv.
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