Dare to Suck Big: A Life Lesson From Improv Comedy

In the world of improv comedy, anything can happen. When anything can happen, you need to choose what will happen. Otherwise, there is no show.

The “Yes, And”

Photo Credit: ecetouring.com

Photo Credit: ecetouring.com

The first and foremost principle you learn in improv is the “yes, and.” There have been recent articles and books on how this concept can apply to business and life itself because it’s the root of improvisation – embracing whatever suggestion or reality is given to you.

If an audience member suggests you are tap dancing with asparagus, then you are doing a musical number with a giant vegetable. If your partner acts like there’s a force field around you, then you can’t move anywhere without being bounced back. If you make a spur-of-the-moment choice to be a monkey cowboy, then you keep jumping around and shooting bugs off your enemies until the scene is over.

Essentially, you say “yes” to whatever is thrown at you “and” add to it. This is what propels the scene and the group’s collective creativity forward, instead of denying what is given to you. That’s the beauty of improv – you just roll with it.

Dare to Suck Big

Photo Credit: galleryhip.com

Photo Credit: galleryhip.com

However, there is another important principle to improv that goes in tandem with the “yes, and.” It’s making bold choices, or as I’ve learned doing improv myself: Dare to suck big. Improv requires you to be quick on your feet, which means you don’t have much time to think about what choices you’re going to make in a scene. So if you get the suggestion of “eating pizza” and the first thing that comes to your mind is being a tourist in Italy, then make that choice very clear. Run with it and stay in character all the way to the end.

This is easier said than done. It takes a certain amount of humility and fearlessness to put yourself out there like that. Most beginner improvers get caught up in thinking their idea is boring or inaccurate. And to an extent, they put limitations on their creative thinking by thinking this way.

Even if you’re logically wrong, like saying leprechauns are notorious in Germany instead of Ireland, as long as you go all out in the choice you’ve made, most of the time your performing partners and the audience will accept the reality you’ve given them. They’ll “yes, and” it, too. And most of the time, it adds to the humor of the scene you’re creating. Perhaps your group will “yes, and” you by being leprechauns with German accents and the audience will find it hysterical… who knows?

Just Commit

Photo Credit: Chicago Tribune

Photo Credit: Chicago Tribune

But this only happens when you make a bold choice and give it all you’ve got, not half-assing it and acting like you’re unsure the whole time. From music to dance to art, this goes for all types of performances. If you make a mistake or forget a line, just run with it and make it part of the performance. In fact, people most likely won’t even notice and the show could still be a great turnout. And just like the “yes, and,” daring to suck big goes for anything else in life.

Don’t be scared to be wrong. Sometimes it’s mostly your own thoughts that are holding you back. It’s all about making the commitment to do it and following through with it. Whatever you choose to do, do it wholeheartedly from start to finish.

About Ronnell Morris

Ronnell is the Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of NWYT. She is a copywriter by day, a performer by night, and a triathlete by weekend. She loves Disney, musicals, eating, YouTube videos, list-making, and the colors pink and gray too much for her own good. See All of Ronnell’s Posts

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