Are you ready to tap into an unending stream of creativity for your business, blog, or third thing that also begins with a ‘B’? The same skills improv comedians use onstage can help.
Unlike stand-up comedy that’s written, rehearsed and performed by a solo comedian – improv comedy is created by an ensemble, entirely on the spot, right in front of the audience. You may not have your own ensemble (or the same massive need for strangers’ approval that I do), but here are three improv performance techniques you can use on your own to squeeze out more creative juice.
1. SAY ‘YES!’ TO YOURSELF!
Agreement is king in improvisation. Multiple actors = Multiple ideas driven by multiple egos. Even if the characters argue, the actors must agree. Are we brothers in a coffee shop? Fancy ladies in a park? The audience doesn’t want to watch actors negotiate – they just want us to be Fancy Ladies!
How many of your ideas never flourish because they don’t make it out of your head? That voice inside that says “NO”, “HARD”, or “DUMB” – that is your internal editor. Turn them off. Better yet, slit their throat and silence them forever. (Too graphic? Apologies. My internal editor’s been dead a long time.) With that nagging voice shut down, now you can get to work.
Write out all of your ideas. Not just the reasonable ideas – ALL of them. Even the dumb ones. No, ESPECIALLY THE DUMB ONES! There’s a reason you’re an entrepreneur and not wasting your genius in a boardroom. Dream up a thing or two that’s too unwieldy to implement. We aren’t making decisions yet – we’re creating. SAY ‘YES’ TO YOUR OWN IDEAS!
2. TAKE IT FURTHER!
In improvisation, the companion to ‘Yes!’ is always ‘And…’. ‘Yes!’ gets us on the same page, but ‘And…’ gets us to the end of the chapter. When I bring my dumb idea to the stage, I rely on my performance partners to agree (Yes!) and then add something (And…) to make me seem brilliant.
To harness this for yourself, simply look at all of the ideas to which you have already said Yes in Step 1, and then make them work. (I know, “is that all?” Stick with me…) There are a million reasons why they won’t work. So? Focus on a million (I will settle for one) ways in which they can work. Say “What if…?” a lot. Be open to new avenues and different arenas. Velcro, Superglue and even pacemakers were all invented by frustrated scientists who were trying to create something else entirely. This essay began as a recipe for Chicken ala King. Your idea is often merely a starting point.
“Just because something doesn’t do what you planned it to do doesn’t mean it’s useless.” – Thomas Alva Edison
3. KEEP IT SIMPLE.
Improv comedians strive for an honest emotional core in our comedy – characters and ideas that resonate and draw the audience in. I don’t have to travel to Mars in a unicorn-drawn carriage to entertain someone. The audience will not care about my comedy if they cannot relate in some way.
Who cares if your idea has been done before? I’ll pay cash money for your take on it. Chickens were around a long time before Colonel Sanders gave us his delicious version. Keep it simple and tell your truth. Especially if that truth is Original Recipe™ with a side of slaw…Yum!
“The merit of originality is not novelty; it is sincerity.” – Thomas Carlyle
Improv innovator Del Close admonished improv comedians to exalt each other and their choices on stage. Start doing the same for yourself. Don’t think you’re creative? You are. Start thinking that you are. Then know that you are. Then just…BE.
“If we treat each other as if we are geniuses, poets, and artists, we have a better chance of becoming that onstage.” – Del Close
You won’t implement most ideas. Ideas you do implement won’t always succeed. (Be thankful it isn’t happening in front of a demanding, semi-drunk audience.) But ideas you dismiss before they wriggle out of your brain have no chance whatsoever. Don’t say ‘NO’ until you’ve said ‘YES’. Further your own ideas. Keep it simple.