Yesterday I completed an eight-week short-form improv course at Comedy Sportz. A friend of mine sent me a Groupon and I decided to give it a try. I've always been a fan of former Second City people (Dan Aykroyd, Chris Farley, Tina Fey, Bill Murray, Gilda Radner, Martin Short to name a few) and thought it would be fun to get a glimpse into the improv world.
The class met every Monday for two hours. We started out with about 20 people, which dwindled down to a group of around 10 regulars. The first few classes started out slowly - warm-up games, pretending to be things (using sound and motion), team building exercises - then progressed to starting scenes (establish who, where and the the conflict). We worked on doing one-minute, two-minute and three-minute scenes. For a one-minute scene, two people got on stage and were given a topic like shoes. "Go!" So you'd just start talking and bouncing things off of each other. The two and three-minute scenes were for three people [two on stage, one in the wings ready to come on when called for ("We need a doctor!") or if they thought the scene needed another character].
I always thought it was harder than it looked and I found out how much harder it really is. A few times I was on stage, given a topic, and my teammate and I looked at each other and might have actually said, "I got nothing!" So we'd laugh and start over. After last week's class I told everyone I stunk at improv. I feel better after last night's class. We played more games, I felt better about my performances, and the teacher told us that improv is a learned skill, not necessarily a talent.
I highly recommend anyone going to a ComedySportz match. I've been to two performances in the past month. The "actletes" rotate and the games differ so you get a new performance every time. It's also family friendly so it's fun for all ages.