In Life as in Improv: Lessons from 8 Weeks of Classes at Magnet Theater

I talked for a long time about taking improv classes before I bit the bullet this spring (evidence here). FIRST, I waited for a friend to join me (please, peeps - you'll wait forever), THEN I tried time and time again to book at The Upright Citizens Brigade (a staple of New York improv culture), but few classes were amenable to my schedule and those that were booked up lightning fast. FINALLY, an otherwise uneventful OKCupid date led me to Magnet Theater (he had taken 5 levels of classes there and was accordingly, quite funny).

I tested Magnet's waters first with Intro to Improv - a free and decidently low pressure two-hour class. I left the session feeling, welp, terribly uptight, awfully unfunny, but also oddly intrigued. After all, discomfort can be a GOOD thing - it means you're getting outside of your box, and that's where the cool stuff happens, right? RIGHT. 

After pondering for a week or two, I registered for a full Level 1 series at Magnet - 8 three-hour classes, one per week - led by professional improver Rick Andrews. The series culminated in my class show this past weekend (where the snap above was taken!) and while I'm still digesting, here's what I took away:

  • Even if you know nothing about improv, you're likely familiar with one of its core pillars: Yes and...meaning, instead of identifying why an idea is a BAD idea, try focusing on what makes every idea a GREAT idea. Think about THAT in your next conversation or meeting - it's a wild challenge for me.
  • Try being a little less concerned with looking cool and a little more concerned with supporting other people - improv is all about teamwork and collaboration. You build scenes together - no one performer is intended to be the star of the show. As a Leo, this is often hard for me to remember.
  • In life as in improv, declarative statements move the scene forward while questions take us in circles. Try being more definitive and see where it take you.
  • Glaring honesty is (at minimum) always relatable and (often) very funny.
  • Have patience and don't be afraid of silence! Momentum builds - over time, and piece by piece, we make discoveries about ourselves, our partner, our environment, etc.
  • Trust intuition over cognizant decision making - getting out of our own heads can help spark creativity.
  • Honestly, why not just say how you feel? THAT will drive the scene (see also: a relationship, the meeting, your life) forward more efficiently than anything else.
  • Lastly, our behavior will always be more trusted above our words - act accordingly.

The Magnet Theater Training Center is located in Chelsea, just a block away from the Magnet Theater, which hosts improv shows seven (seven!) nights a week. To book a free Intro to Improv Class or to view the show shedule, click here.