Today marks the official start of Christmas week, which means you can finally say goodbye to 2015 and hello to long road trips, days off with nothing to do, and a cavalcade of “best of” lists!
In the spirit of holiday giving, I’ve tried to make the season a bit easier on you. Below, you’ll find my five picks for the best improv blog posts, podcast episodes, and books of the past year, which make for great reads when you’ve had enough of your family and great listens on the long drive to your in-laws.
PS: They’re in no particular order.
“You just watch [wrestling] in such a different way once you start training. I like talking to trainees or new guys getting into wrestling and telling them, “You can’t just watch as a fan anymore. You have to watch it saying oh I see how he did that, why he did that, now I can implement it.”
I don’t know anything about professional wrestling, but my best guess is that it’s like an improv show (everything’s made up and the points don’t matter) except you also get your ass kicked. And yet, this episode still stands out as the year’s best.
Colt talks about the unique way he applies improv to wrestling, and he’s ballsy enough to perform a scene with Jimmy. It’s a great reminder about the many non-comedy applications of our art form and how anyone can improvise if they stay in the moment and focus on making their partner look good.
As a moth is drawn to a flame, the improvisor is drawn to stage time. Some believe that a performer needs to get on stage, as many reps, perform as much as they can. There’s validity to that. In my experience, what will help you even more is getting those reps in with one group.
Although it’s a newcomer to the improv blog scene, Jay Sukow’s Today Improv is already full of great information, drawn from his 30 years of experience in Chicago. This post, in particular, stands out because Sukow doesn’t shy away from some much needed tough love: if you want to be great, don’t join five teams. Don’t miss practice unless you’re dying. Be on time. Put the ensemble above yourself. Give one team your all.
“I just trust that some meaning will come out of this process and that something I want to say is gonna be harder to conceal when I get my ego out of the way…”
I’ve never heard a clearer or more enlightened understanding of what we do as improvisers than in this interview with Jeff Tweedy, the frontman of the band Wilco. His songwriting process is highly improvisational, and everything he says in this short podcast should be stolen for out-of-context improv quotes.
The problem is we are in a hurry to get better. Unfortunately, we don’t have control over when we get better. In fact, in my experience, it rarely happens on my time table. Actually, it works just the opposite: If you don’t care if you are getting better, you get better faster.
Of all the improv advice I’ve given and received in 2015, this is the most important and the hardest to apply. You can spend your life memorizing tips and tricks. You can worry about character and object work. Or, you could turn off your brain, get your ego out of the way, and just have fun. Because when you’re busy making “improv moves,” you’re not in the moment and you’re not listening. In trying to be great at improv, you end up doing something that’s ironically, not improv.
Many people need idea therapy. Not so that they can come up with great ideas right this second (although maybe you will) but so that people can come up with ideas when they need them.
My girlfriend makes fun of me because I’ll believe anything James Altucher says. And if you don’t know who he is, then start here. This is the blog post converted me to lifetime fanboy.
It doesn’t directly touch improv, but in it, James presents a spin on the 7 Things warm up to help anyone come up with 10 new ideas every day (I even wrote a blog post on it, which you can check out here). But why write down 10 new ideas every day? Because your brain is a muscle, and like any muscle, it needs exercise. How can you expect to come up with great ideas on stage if you aren’t stretching your mind on your non-show nights?
The truth is that anything you say is the right thing, because in improv, there are no right answers.
What started as a two part blog post last spring is now a full length book! I am incredibly grateful to everyone who helped make my first book a success this past year, and I am so thankful for everyone who’s read it and shared positive feedback, like this:
“Sir Noble, I really enjoyed your book. I have gone to it multiple times for reference. It’s especially helpful because I really get wrapped up in stage fright and I forget all the wonderful things that are improv. Bravo!” – Libbie Higgins
So if you haven’t already, be sure to check it out! Both the digital and physical versions are on Amazon.
As you go off to your Christmas celebrations or your Chinese food, I hope you have some time to check out these links. But I’d also love to hear from you. What was your favorite improv content from the past year? Be sure to share this post and give your favorites a shoutout in the comments!