Just 15 years ago Whose Line is it Anyway? aired in the states, bringing improv comedy to the masses. Now, improv comedians, like Tina Fey and Stephen Colbert, are household names- recognized for their humor and success. Well…I want to go to there.
I walked in the comedy club, ready to make the hundreds five other people laugh at my wit. Fast forward to five minutes later, I was silenced from fear of not being funny. The ten-minute warm up was the longest ten minutes of that week. Then, the instructor told me “Just relax. Don’t try to be funny, it will just happen.” What a relief. I had permission to not be funny! That’s all I needed! I felt free.
It’s time to break down some lessons from the comedy classroom, and apply them to the everyday public relations lifestyle. Prepare to be freed.
Say “yes, and…”- This is the first rule of improv- to agree with your partner and add something, not to challenge. If we are in a scene and I say, “Watch out! There’s a group of wee, angry leprechauns behind you!” and you reply, “No, there’s not,” the scene has ended. What fun did that interaction bring? But, if you were to reply with “Damn, I left the lucky charms box open again!” you have agreed, and we have begun a scene.
In public relations we group-brainstorm strategies. So, a “yes” environment that encourages all ideas is beneficial. Hey, a great idea has to start somewhere, even if it starts from a “bad” one.
Don’t take yourself so seriously
My improv instructor told me, if it’s the worst scene you ever did, it will be over in 5 minutes. Don’t dwell on a bad scene, or a bad phone call. While Stephen Colbert won’t be able to relate- everyone else can. Shake it off and move on.
Throw out the script
It’s freedom in a theater for an actor, and an adventure for the audience. No forgetting lines or structured play, just freedom.
In public relations, an unscripted phone call has potential to cause anxiety, but magic can happen when you forgo the premeditated conversation and just have an authentic conversation.
There is so much to be learned and enjoyed from improv- I highly recommend finding a local class and jumping in. Just wonder, what’s the best thing that could happen?