This blog came out of teaching the other week. It was one of the first workshops since the Christmas break, so nobody there had done any impro for a month or so, and also most people didn’t know each other. It was surprisingly awesome, everyone seemed to be really up for it, and it produced some of the most fun impro I’ve seen in ages.
At first everyone seemed to be really at one with each other, but as the night went it seemed some people were being slightly intimidated by what everyone else was doing. The fact that others were having fun and being carefree seemed to make them give that up and become nervous instead, even though they weren’t like that at the start.
This reminded me of the OK-Not OK Matrix, from the book I’m OK, You’re OK by Thomas Anthony Harris, first introduced to me by Resli Costabell in a great workshop of hers.
Within the concept there are four ways people look at themselves and others:
I’m OK, You’re OK
I’m OK, You’re not OK
I’m not OK, You’re OK
I’m not OK, You’re not OK
Regards the improviser’s relationships and inner narrative they have between themselves and the rest of the show cast or impro workshop, here’s some examples:
to be the best in an improv workshop or show is a recipe for
self-destruction. It immediately puts you in a place of competition and
comparison, which will either result in you feeling “I’m OK, you’re Not
OK”, or “I’m Not OK, you’re OK”, both of which will lead to the break up of the team and group mind.
Just because you perceive other people as ‘doing well’ or ‘being good’ in an improv workshop doesn’t mean that you are doing badly. In fact it’s the aim of improv that everyone looks good. They might even be ‘doing well’ because you are supporting them so well. In improv it’s the team that matters, that’s what we’re looking at, not the individuals. Even the concepts of ‘doing well’ or ‘being good’ are kind of irrelevant, all that matters is how well people are supporting each other.
So if you catch yourself falling into “You’re OK, I’m not OK”, get on stage with the other improvisers and love being with them, love how OK that makes you feel too.
“I’m OK You’re OK” is not only possible, it is normal and the most natural state of affairs.
So it goes back to the improv mantra – “Make each other look good”. Support each other without competition, and it is easily possible to be in “I’m OK, you’re OK”. Making each other look good doesn’t mean taking the role of “Not OK” so that others look stronger, it means also being strong, carefree, having fun, as that’s a much happier and proactive (oh shit I wrote the word proactive) place to support from.
I’ve been all those things above at some point.
When I first started teaching and running shows with Hoopla I was fanatically aware and worried about what other improv companies were up to, and if they did well then I automatically felt like shit (falling into “You’re OK, I’m not OK”). Over the years I’ve reaslised that it’s actually possible for everyone to do well and be happy, and the impro scene as a whole gets bigger and better.
Some of my happiest “I’m OK, you’re OK” moments have come at The Osho Leela Festival with The Maydays, where you suddenly find yourself in a world where everything everyone does on stage looks awesome, and you feel it in yourself too.
“I’m OK, you’re OK” also happens to me at the end of big runs of shows like The Edinburgh Fringe. The chaos and competition have died down, and you find yourself with improvisers and you’re still going and it just clicks and you remember why you do this.
You’re OK, I’m OK!