Why Study Improv?

Improv Durham

by Grace Ueng, consultant | coach with Savvy Growth and now aspiring comic!

A decade ago, I was approached to serve on adjunct faculty at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School. Randy Myer, the professor extending the invitation, shared that when he first started out, he took improv as preparation. I tucked this interesting tidbit into the back of my mind.

A few years ago, I took my son to the Bay Area on vacation.  I reached out to my classmate, Jeff Applebaum, who studied electrical engineering at MIT, and is now a comedian.  He kindly invited us to his stand up comedy show.  He is a riot! His humor and generous warmth struck me from the first day I met him.

In my more recent positive psychology work, putting oneself into situations creating laughter thereby breeding creativity was reintroduced.  And on my VIA survey, humor came up as 24th of my 24 strengths.  Much room to improve!

Earlier this month, I told Randy that I, too, was going to study improv. I remembered his sharing,  a decade earlier, that he had benefited from doing so. And as an empty nester, my time had finally come. My friend, Alan Young, put me in touch with his improv instructor, Anoo Tree Brod, and within 24 hours, I found myself in a full day improv workshop!

Top lessons learned from taking improv:

  1. Commit quickly; avoid excessive rumination.
  2. “Yes, and”  instead of  “Yes, but” or “No”: less ego, more openness, more possibility in every single moment.
  3. Improv  forces focus, to be completely in the moment – to LISTEN – a good thing.
  4. You can find humor in even the worst of situations – those get the most laughs!