A mystical art for goofy people.
Many skills are involved.
- 1 Improv Skills
- 2 Improv Tips & Tricks
- 3 The Philosophy of Improv
- 4 Resources for Improvisors
Improv Tips & Tricks
If you are an improvisor, feel free to give us some of your tips or tricks!
Miscellaneous Tips & Tricks:
- Always come to improv with the highest energy level you can while still being as calm as possible.
- Committing to everything you say or do is approximately 25 times funnier than trying to make jokes.
- Don't just make jokes. Making a joke that doesn't advance the scene is called "gagging" because people focus more on your gags than the scene. It's about as appealing as it sounds. "Gagging".
- Improv is just goofing off with structure. Don't take yourself too seriously.
Saving a Dying Scene
- When your scene is dying, give your partner something to work with.
Any time that you are stumped, you can always look to your scene partners for help; just give them something to work with by adding some information and they will take that and run with it as best they can. From that point you can try and take the scene to a more interesting place by giving each other more to work with.
- Break a pattern.
If you have been stuck doing something for a while, advance the scene by breaking out of that. If you've spent the scene talking while painting a wall, try spilling the paint bucket by accident or taking a breather because the paint fumes are making you dizzy. This is one way to add a new beat, which will make the scene more interesting and help move it along.
Starting a Scene
- Try starting a scene silently.
Try just going in and starting with some sort of physicality. Try waiting for your partner to decide what it is that you are doing, and then make that true. (Even if you were miming frying eggs, if your partner says "stop playing paddle-ball, Joe! This is detention!", you are now Joe, in detention, and playing paddle-ball.) Try letting your physicality inspire the scene in this way.
- Make sure you establish the important information as quickly and efficiently as possible so that the scene can progress.
That is, make sure that, by the time the action begins, the audience knows who you are, where you are, and has some idea of what you are trying to do. Without this, the scene will be more difficult for the audience to get in to. Knowing these things will help keep you and your scene partners on the same page.
- TJ Jagodowski's "7 Hooks for a Scene":
"Go into the scene…
1. Immediately after a huge event has happened, and be in the middle of reacting to this event.
Examples: You just got out of an elevator that has been out of order for 5 hours. You are standing outside a building where someone called in a bomb threat.
2. With a mantra or catchphrase.
Examples: “I’ve been there before.” “I guess that’s what they’re teaching kids these days.”
3. With a secret that directly affects your partner.
Examples: You cheated on a huge test that your partner just failed because it’s graded on a curve. You can’t stand your partner’s apartment because it smells like cat piss. (Please avoid “I’m secretly gay” and “I’m secretly in love with you.”)
4. With a large assumption about your scene partner.
Examples: I know you hate me right now, and… You need me to feel safe and protected.
5. With a physicality that has consumed your character.
Examples: You always point the toe of your right foot to the ground. You take a sip of water after everything you say.
6. In the middle of solving an obstacle.
Examples: “Oh, you just put this into lever A, and you have yourself a model airplane.” “And…there we are, got that splinter right out.”
7. With a hugely specific want from your scene partner.
Example: I want him to think that I really know my French wines. I want her to know that I’m putting in equal time with the kids after work."
More coming soon-ish.
Here are some excellent tips from a site called the Green Light Improv Wiki (which no longer exists, unfortunately):
"Trust your imagination without doubt or question"
This is one of the best tips I have ever heard. When in doubt, always commit to the first thing that you can imagine. As an improvisor, always trust that you are brilliant and don't be afraid to make strong choices based on what is in your head. If you are given something that you don't know how to handle, your job is still to take it and run. Here's a quote: "Ignorance is okay, knowledge is okay, incompetence is okay. As soon as you get scared on stage, the audience gets scared." Even if you have no idea what something is, the audience will love you for taking the first thing that you can imagine it might be and committing to that right away. It will stun them with how quick you are and they will love that you are so willing to jump right in to something you don't even understand just for their entertainment. Fake it until you make it.
"Treat everything your scene partner says as a gift -- especially -- if it's not what you would say"
In improv, not only do you have to remember that you are brilliant but also that your scene partners are brilliant. A good improvisor always makes their scene partner look like a genius. Their ideas are excellent and should be looked at as such; the audience will love you and your scene partners for supporting each other on stage.
"Dare to suck big"
This is not a dick joke. Just put that out of your mind. This quote means that you should chill out and not worry about being "good" all the time. Always be excited to experiment in improv, even (maybe even especially) if it means you might be risking a big mistake. The only really good improvisors are the ones that are not afraid to embarrass themselves. Committing 100% to whatever you say or do is your armor onstage; as long as you are all-in you have already done more than any non-improvisor dares.
The Philosophy of Improv
Also coming soon.
Resources for Improvisors
Never stop reading this over and over: 
This guy has a great improv blog where you can learn a ton: 
Here are some improv podcasts by Matt Besser, who is a professional improvisor, and other guest improvisors. These may not be the best examples of improv (some of their scenes are not very good), but they occasionally end up doing some cool stuff: 
Buy Truth in Comedy and read it. This is considered to be the improv bible.