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Life Lessons I’ve Learned Since Joining Improv

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I was not funny in high school. This is not self-deprecation, as I am often wont to do, it’s just true. Part of it was my lack of self-esteem and feeling like an outsider. My stories fell flat, I tended not to speak up, and tripped up when I tried to tell jokes. I labeled myself the “outskirts friend” who was always near the group, but not quite in it. Ah, the good ol’ days, right? But when I started college I wanted to change that image of myself. So, despite my nerves and doubt, my first semester at SFA I decided to try out for the campus improv troupe, “Improv Strikes Back.” By some miracle, I got in and it’s the best thing that has ever happened to me. Here are some improv lessons that I’ve learned that not only apply to the art, but to life as well.

1. Say Yes And

One of the key rules of improv is to not only not say no, but to say yes and. Now, this does not apply to a stranger offering you candy or making fun of someone. This means to not only accept someone’s idea, but to contribute to the conversation. This is important to do in your own life. Listen to people with an open mind and contribute to the world. This could be voting, protesting, encouraging your friend to get that dress AND the matching shoes, listening to a band someone recommended and suggesting something they might like in return. Basically, work with people to grow. It’s pretty great.

2.Treat Your Partner Like Gold.

Not like a King Midas thing. That would be murder I think. This is basically a take on the golden rule. Treat others as you want to be treated. Don’t shut the people in your life down, lift them up. Make the people on your team feel important because they are. Be kind because you never know the journey that a person is on, and they may need your support.

3. You Can be a Ball-hog or a Tugboat

Being a ball-hog in a scene basically means you’re the protagonist and you’re bringing in the ideas, while being a tugboat means you play a supportive role. Both are okay in doses, but you need to know which one is called for in certain circumstances. For instance, I am a white woman, so I should not be the center of attention when it comes to civil rights and racism. I should be a tugboat and support racial and ethnic minorities who deserve to have their voices at the forefront. However, when it comes to my rights as a woman, I can be a ball-hog and hope that men will be tugboats and support me and my sisters. You learn when to short and when to support.

For lessons like these and more, and for a great time check out Improv Strikes Back on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/improvstrikesback/

You can come see our shows, and if you want to change your life for the better, audition in the fall!


Mickey May is a third year Creative Writing Major at SFASU. She loves dogs, improv, and board games (not necessarily in that order.)
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