I like spontaneous improv. I value spontaneity in improv above everything else. I don’t care so much about the structure of a show, or format, or how clean or messy it is. I just like seeing people being spontaneous on stage and surprising themselves. I feel like any audience, no matter how new to improv, can see the difference between spontaneous and careful improv.
I was talking to a student about this recently who was struggling with spontaneity on stage, and thought the following conversation might be helpful for other people new to improv.
For anonymity I’ll call the people A and B. I am B, but keep that a secret.
A: “I’m stuck in my head”
B: “How does that feel?”
A: “I just want to be better but I’m not”
B: “How do you personally define better?”
A: “I just want to have fun”
B: “How could you have fun?”
A: “I want to try and let go?”
A: “Ha! Yes. ”
B: “Well done, you have been trying.”
A: “Ok not trying. I have to let go. ”
B: “You don’t have to let go. You don’t have to do any of this. ”
A: “Ok. I want to try to let go.”
A: “I want…”
B: “Do you?”
A: (Bursts out laughing) “I want to let go!”
A seemed much more relaxed in workshops after that.
It reminds me of learning to ski. When booking the holiday at home we have a dream of sliding down the glorious mountains of the Alps. However when we come to our first skiing lesson at the top of the slopes we find that it’s actually pretty frightening, and spend most of the time trying not to slide. In fact the first bunch of lessons are all about learning to stop and slow down.
Eventually though we have to decide that we actually want to slide down the mountain. We want to slide, we want to go fast. Our muscles then relax instead of stress, and our body let’s us flow down the mountain at speed. That’s when skiing becomes really fun and free.
To let go in improv you have to actually want to do that. Weirdly that’s all you have to do.