You probably already knew Chicago is a mecca for comedy. Our city is home to some of the top comedy institutions in the world, and people travel from all over to take classes and perform here. But improvisation isn’t just for comedians. Anyone can take a class and apply what's learned to everyday life.
But first, it’s important to understand there are different types of both improv and theaters. The sheer number and variety of shows are what make coming to this city for performing arts so appealing. I’ve graduated from Second City, iO and the Annoyance Theatre, and have performed at almost every type of improv venue (theaters, bars, garages, attics) in town. I also once did 31 shows in a row for a month, and I learned the importance of repetition and how to apply what you’ve learned. Each training center offers different tools to add to your comedic toolbox. With that, here are nine reasons you should sign up for a Chicago improv class today.
You’ll learn the importance of acceptance through the foundation of "Yes, and"
Improv is built upon the principle of "yes, and." It’s pretty much an unwritten law that you can’t write about improv without mentioning this, so it’s obvious why it’s first on this list. "Yes, and" means you accept what's been offered, whether it's a line from your partner or a physical action, and build upon it by adding more information. Saying no stops everything in its tracks. Too often, Chicagoans can be negative naysayers. Improv teaches you to break down the barriers of denial and focus on agreement. It teaches respect and acceptance, and how extending your hand to accept a gift is much more beneficial than slapping it away.
You’ll get to escape reality for the world of make-believe
Chicago's comedy theaters are where local doctors, police officers and Groupon customer service reps escape to become pirates, astronauts and time travelers. Taking a class paves the way for you to journey into the magical world of make-believe and "play" as an adult. It’s cathartic to act like a kid again.
You’ll learn how important trust really is
Trust is one of the core foundations of improv. When you walk into a scene, you don’t know how or where it’s going to go. There is no script or person telling you what to do. Instead, you and your scene partner decide. If you don’t trust your partner or vice versa, the scene will go straight to hell (sometimes literally). Neither of you knows how it will end up, but you’ve decided to take the creative journey together to figure it out along the way.
You’ll meet some funny people and like-minded individuals
Taking an improv class will get you out of the house and away from binge-watching Bates Motel. You'll meet new people with common interests and realize the world really is a small place and we’re all more connected than you might think. You’ll also get to perform some make-believe with strangers who are there for the same reason you are: to have fun.
You’ll learn to think on your feet
Improv is all about being in the moment. You have to think and react quickly to what’s going on around you. This helps you understand how to get a conversation rolling or quickly fill in the blanks in conversations. It's a skill that will come in handy when you’re giving a presentation and your laptop dies, or when you have to quickly think of a lie because your boss asks why you’re late again.
You’ll improve your listening skills
Improv is all about listening. A lot of people spend too much time talking and thinking about what they're going to say next. With improv, you learn that listening to your partner is what matters. If you're standing around thinking about what you're going to say, you’re missing valuable information that could make or break a show. Performing will teach you to be more attentive and responsive in conversation, especially when your significant other asks, “What did I just say?”
You’ll improve your confidence
If you're shy or have trouble talking to people, improv can definitely help. A lack of confidence lies in the fear of being judged. In improv, there is no judgment. Everything you and your classmates do is accepted. You’re encouraged to be silly and artistically free. If you want to run into a scene as a wild turkey, you're free to do so.
You’ll find out what it means to be funny
Being funny isn’t just telling jokes. In fact, improv has nothing to do with jokes. You’re making everything up on the spot, and it will (hopefully) be funny based on the situation, relationship, characters and stakes you’ve created as an ensemble. You’ll find that the things you think will get a laugh can sometimes explode in your face. And you’ll discover just how mathematical comedy is in terms of timing.
You’ll learn to be a better communicator
In improv, it’s important to use your words wisely and get to the point. One of the games you may play in class is a "three-line scene," in which you quickly emphasize who you are, where you are and what’s going on in only three lines. Off-stage, you’ll start to see this bleed into your everyday life. In conversation, if you're the one who tends to talk too much and notice people’s eyes wandering, you can use this trick to keep it short and sweet.