Improv ideas in stressful situations


You are stuck in the airplane for hours with little information, you are waiting for traffic piled up in front of you, or a false alarm fire bell empties your building to the parking lot. These are times when big changes happen to everyone's routine and people get stressed out.

Right now I'm in the first case. I the middle of my flight to Munich we diverted to Boston because the main cabin lost all power. Sleepy travelers, who have not been given much information find various ways to cope or find some control.

This is a time when I hope that everyone on the airplane has taken an improv class.

Accepting offers you are given: often they can't be changed so accept them and move forward with what has been given.

  • we are diverting to Boston
  • we are sitting on the tarmac

Making your partner look good: makings things better or easier for others make you both feel better.

  • the flight crew can't change things, taking it out on them doesn't help
  • helping other unhappy passengers get bags, move past, eases tensions

Serve the story: what can you do to make the situation the best for everyone instead of focusing just for yourself.

  • Don't be the loud person who has to get off right away
  • The story changed so focus on what comes next to tell the story as it is now, what is the next flight I need now.

The principles of improv are great for life every day, and really come into clear relief when the pressure goes up.

What are situations where you have used these ideas yourself, or what have you seen where you wish others had taken an improv class?

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?