A friend of mine is suffering anxiety about not being quick or funny enough when improvising.
This can be a vicious cycle for performers that gets worse and worse, until they end up doing less and less shows or quitting improv altogether.
What doesn’t help in this situation is “trying”. Trying to be quick or funny can often lead to the opposite happening. When we are trying too hard to be funny no idea seems good enough, as we are measuring ourselves against an impossible benchmark, and before we know it our internal editor blocks all of these ideas which again results in perceived “slowness” and being unfunny. Then the cycle continues, and we again go on stage with the delusion that we are not quick or funny and again try too hard and reject all of our ideas resulting in feeling stuck and stale. So we need to snap out of this cycle. The best way to do this is counter intuitive, and it is weirdly to not try to be funny or quick and instead just be average, normal and even slow.
When we give ourselves permission to be average we can relax and actually react like normal humans in the situation, instead of trying to speed write in our minds at the expense of emotions.
When we give ourselves permission to be average we release what is uniquely us, instead of trying too hard to become an external image of what we regard as ‘good’ or ‘creative’. The only you is you. And the average you is interesting to others, as they are not you but like to see your own take on the world.
The purpose of many improv exercises is to allow you to be your full self on stage without apology, rather than doing an impression of other performers or striving for external perfection.
Being “you” doesn’t stop you playing characters in improv. In fact we are made of many personalities and have come into contact with many people over our life so have a huge character resource to draw upon. We can make the character choice that seems obvious in the moment, and then put part of ourselves into this character to bring it to life.
The aim is still to put on an awesome exciting show for the audience. But it is real humans on stage without fear that gives people this. And it is the Jedi mind trick of “being average” that helps performers to get out of the anxiety loop and live without fear on stage.
We cover this topic in more detail in our Level 1 Beginners Improv Course!