Improv isn’t about being funny - it’s about feeling good

Posted on 23 August, 2022 by Chris Read

At Dogface, the main challenge we face is getting people to come along and give improv a go. I can certainly understand this - it took me at least six months to pluck up the courage to go to my first session!

It’s hard to do something new, particularly when you think you'll be expected to be funny. We know from experience that once most people get ten minutes into their first session, they relax as they realise that improv isn’t about trying to be funny.

It’s about connecting and collaborating with the people around you to create something in the moment. That something can be dramatic, funny, exciting or even dull - it’s all good. Although there are principles of this wonderful art form to learn, whatever you actually do is great - you can’t do improv wrong!

I’ve been attending improv workshops and classes for over 10 years and never once have I heard anyone say “That wasn’t funny enough!” - because that is not the point, at least that’s not how we look at it (other opinions are available). The irony, of course, is that the less you try to be funny, the more the laughs will come - but more organically, not in a forced way - and be all the more enjoyable for that authenticity.

Improv for Wellbeing

So if the point of improv isn’t to be funny, then what is it? Well for me, it’s a bit like therapy. I’ve always struggled with my mental health & I spent the first 30 years of my life feeling like I was creative, but not really knowing how to express it. When I found improv, and when I plucked up the courage to attend a workshop, I was hooked straight away. Not only did I get to get up and play characters and do scenes, I also met a group of lovely people.

As someone who was living in a new city (I'd just moved to Brighton) and not finding it easy to get out and meet new people, this was such a valuable thing. Improv has had a huge positive impact on my life. It helped me to be more confident, to take myself less seriously, and I have no doubt that improv helped me a great deal in overcoming my, at the time, fairly debilitating state of mental health.

Everyone is different of course, and I think a lot of what I’m describing here is true for any creative pursuit. For me it was improv, for others they find their outlet by playing music or painting. But I know from six years of running workshops and classes with Dogface that improv has a positive effect on people's lives. I see it every time we run a beginners course, and I hear it every time a student tells me how much improv has helped their wellbeing.

Performance is an option with improv - and this can be everything from a small friends and family show to a run at the Edinburgh fringe - but it's also perfectly fine to not want to get on stage in front of an audience, and instead just enjoy getting together and playing with your group on a regular basis. I was in a band once that never played gigs, but boy did we have a great time meeting up and playing together every week!

So if you like the idea of improv, but are anxious about coming, I’m here to tell you that it won’t be nearly as scary as you think it is. You wont find a room full or egos, or people trying to beat each other at “being funny” - instead you’ll find a group of kind people from all walks of life, ready to welcome, support and encourage you to just have a go.

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