Keith Johnstone, Author of Impro answers 5 [good] questions

Keith Johnstone Interviewed

Keith Johnstone, author of Impro answers 5 questions. Here are the questions that Keith answers.

  1. Why did you start to improvise?
  2. What do you like about teaching?
  3. What makes a good actor?
  4. Why should improvisers be relaxed?
  5. Why is regular training so important?

Take a look at the video and please share your reactions to his answers below.

For example I related to his answer to the first question.  I started studying theater and acting because I found general social interaction stressful.  And I thought this would be a good way to learn how to survive those situations.

Thanks to our impro colleagues at Quentessenz Impro for posting this video.

Keith Johnstone in 140 characters

inspiration light bulb

Keith Johnstone is teaching in San Francisco now (August 2010) and we are tweeting bits from his workshop. Follow ImprovNotebook (click here).

And follow the hashtag:  #KJBats

Sample Tweets:

  • I think my brain is much more intelligent than I I tend to trust it. ~Keith Johnstone
  • Best side-coaching for improvisers in a scene? "Do it." Some actors don't want to move into the future. ~Keith Johnstone
  • Beginners will almost always shout: "Come in!" when the doorbell rings - they don't want to move... ~ Keith Johnstone
  • Actors are made of eggshells - improvisors shouldn't be... ~Keith Johnstone
  • Good actors are not thinking ahead.  They are listening to what is going on right now.  ~Keith Johnstone
  • I think my brain is much more intelligent than I I tend to trust it. ~Keith Johnstone

What would you ask a stranger? On Stage?


Would you answer these questions on stage?  In front of an audience of strangers?

  • Have you ever cheated on a test?
  • Ever been so drunk you can't remember what happened?
  • Why didn't you marry that  great guy/gal you went out with for so long?
  • When were the best years of your life?
  • What recurring dreams do you  have?

Oh, I forgot to mention, you don't know what questions are coming?  No preparation.

The Life Game is an improv show where talented actors playfully explore an audience members experiences.  It's Reality Improv.

Here is a short video promoting it:


The Life Game is performed occasionally at BATS Improv, Fort Mason, San Francisco, CA

The Life Game was created by Keith Johnstone For more information visit his site.

KJ7 - Enjoy the silence


[INTERIOR: WAITING ROOM] - Lights UP! A man is sitting reading a magazine slowly turning the pages. The sound of each one is all you can hear until the rustle of his pants as he crosses his legs. A woman enters the room and sits right next to him, uncomfortably close. He looks up and back at his magazine trying to ease away from her slightly without being obvious. She exhales with a snort of indignation and stares at him, her face getting closer and closer to his and she says in a low voice....

This summer working with Keith Johnstone we did scenes starting with 20 seconds of silence followed by one character saying something to change the other. Those first 20 seconds were riveting to watch "nothing" happen. However, there was so much that was in that "nothing". Watching as an audience member I created stories about each character and small traits and gestures took on great meaning - it was engrossing.

The audience is not passive, they are searching for the "reason"

- Keith Johnstone Aug 2009

For the players, these scenes with silence gave time to relax and have "nothing" happen. It was 20 seconds just listen for the offers that were there - a shift in position, crossing legs, a slight glance of eye contact. Then a small bit of dialog (5 seconds) and another 20 seconds of silence.

Nothing, nothing, nothing, something!

- Keith Johnstone Aug 2009

This was a shift for me to think about breaking scenes down to smaller slices of very present, in-the-moment focus. For those short periods, listening, connecting, acting, and focusing on what was already there was easier because it wasn't for a whole scene - just this short part of one.

It's so easy to rely on being wordy, but so rewarding to let go, slow down, and enjoy the silence.

KJ6 - Blocking - when does NO mean yes?

Thumbs Down - With clipping Path

Saying "yes, And..." is fundamental to improv, right?  And by some axiom of algebra that I have long since forgotten, that must mean that saying "no" is wrong. I often hear people call it blocking and reserved for bad improvisers. Well, NO.

For years, that was how I thought about blocking. It was how I learned and how I taught. After a while, there is an inevitable conversation about "when it is ok to say the word no?".  This has been a struggle for me to answer as a coach because of the infinite number of cases possible in a scene. Until now.

When IS it ok to say no?

Does saying no give [your parter] what they want? - notes from Keith Johnstone

This has led me to a new perspective of blocking that takes away any debate about dialogue, or word choice. It is as simple as asking yourself why you made a choice. Did you know what your partner wanted? Did you give them that?

Blocking happens between actors/improvisers not characters. Did saying no, or anything else you say, delight your partner?

When you watch from the outside, it's easier to see what the players want, than when you are inside the scene. When you workshop, let the group watching stop the action and ask why players made their choices.

What do you think? (leave your comments below)

What are the common ways that you see people "block"? Does it fit this model of actors blocking?