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A Lesson on Improv Technique, with Chris Gethard

American actor, comedian, and writer Chris Gethard discusses the importance of learning improv technique.

Chris is known for The Dictator (2012), Don’t Think Twice (2016) and The Other Guys (2010) and more!

Many of the skills that make for good improvisational comedy also make for successful behaviour in life: slow down, listen, be positive, and have integrity.

Take it from longtime improv coach Chris Gethard. Gethard’s book is “A Bad Idea I’m about to Do”

“I think the key to improv is always listening,” says Gethard. “It’s embracing, it’s positivity. It’s hearing things and not shutting them down.”

“And in the business world I would imagine that’s very invaluable, the idea that it’s very frustrating just to be told no all the time,” continues Gethard. “Improv really revolves around the idea of like, whatever you come at me with I’m going to say yes to it.”

Transcript

I think the key to improv is always listening. It’s embracing. It’s positivity. It’s hearing things and not shutting them down. It’s trying to find ways to make them work. And in the business world I would imagine that’s very invaluable, the idea that it’s very frustrating just to be told no all the time. Improv really revolves around the idea of like whatever you come at me with I’m going to say yes to it. That’s our reality. Let’s get to work. Let’s start there. So just the idea of saying yes to each other and not shutting down ideas, seeing if there’s way to make ideas workable, making that your default setting of like I really want to respect what you’re saying. See if there’s a way to take it somewhere else versus here’s all the things that are wrong with it. I think it’s just a very positive mentality. So I think a lot of people that come across it get very addicted to it because it does feel different, especially the New Yorker. We’re just used to a world where everybody’s kind of grumpy all the time and moving fast. They don’t want to deal with each other. The idea of showing any emotion in public, not good. The idea of slowing down to deal with someone else’s ideas and emotions, not good. Like we’re New Yorkers. We want to get where we’re going. So I think improv really looks at a side of life that’s like well what if we let all that go for a little while and just really work on sort of positively embracing each other’s ideas and really listening hard to what other people have to say. So it’s a pretty beautiful thing when it’s going right. Very often what you’ll see happen in improv class is when people get nervous about how it’s going is they’ll start saying hey when dad gets home he’s going to be really mad. Or they’ll say like hey, when we get to Reno stuff’s really going to hit the fan. And they start saying like hey this thing that’s going to happen or this thing like hey, remember when you did that thing back then? I’m really made about it. I think one of the things about listening is that it’s always at its most powerful when it’s present, when it’s right here, when it’s right now. And that’s a lesson about improv that I think just made me a much more social person. Like it just made me like when I would go have pitch meetings I was just able to have it better even in my personal life. I got – when I started really thinking hard about these improv lessons not to get weird but like my dating like just got so much better because the thing I always stress that I think applies to just any conversation I always ask people to answer these three questions when they’re improvising. Why these people? Why right here? Why right now? I always just drill that. Why these people? Why right here? Why right now? Meaning if you’re in a scene and there’s two people and you’re talking about people who aren’t here like they’re not here. They probably aren’t the most interesting thing for an audience to hear about. If you’re talking about a different location than the one the scene is taking place in then why isn’t the scene unfolding there? It sounds more interesting. Why are you teasing an audience? So and another thing to people will often go like hey, you’ll never believe what’s inside this briefcase. And it’s like well that’s invisible. Let’s just talk to each other – us, things we can find common ground whether that’s positive things, disagreements we might actually have. Why are these people in this location at this time? Why is this the scene we’re choosing to show the audience. So the more we can just make things present between the people right there, the less the audience has to suspend their disbelief and imagine the better the listening is going to be and the harder it’s going to hit. Read The Full Transcript Here: http://goo.gl/xjdtHC.

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