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7 Things You Need to Master Improv

This week’s guest blog post is from Ryan Karels (New York City’s Upright Citizens Brigade) who taught Level 2 and 3 improv at LMA (Sydney), Term 2, 2017.

While teaching improv at LMA, I’ll note in the scene, “This is more of a spiritual note…” So LMA asked me to write up all the good stuff in one place.

1) Be cool with each other: To play is an attitude. Assume the best of your scene partner and extend that to your characters. See the positive in your scene partner’s choices. Make the person who seems wrong be right. The best way to show how funny you are is how you support others.

2) Have fun: You can choose to have fun anytime, anywhere with anybody. On stage, you the improviser are the ideal version of yourself: confident, composed and aware; the master of your own reality protected by the power of your choices.

3) Go out on a limb: An improvised reality is the safest space to take risks. You’ll never surprise yourself if you don’t take risks. Make bold moves.

4) Make it real: The constraint of reality is not a limitation on your imagination. It is the canvas for your creativity. Your job is to show people being people experiencing ideas.

5) Take a bird’s eye view: Mistakes are happy accidents. Confusion is an opportunity to support. Remove self-interest and notice what is really happening in the scene.

6) Work with the audience: The show happens between you and them. Laughter isn’t your reward; it’s a signal you found something fun because we are all eyes of the universe looking at each other and seeing ourselves.

7) To fear is your only failure: Fear makes us hesitate and procrastinate. It makes us invent problems to give ourselves something to do and get stuck in needless conflicts. There are few things as frustrating as watching two make-believe characters fighting over make-believe crap nobody should bother with in real life.

Ryan Karels has been at New York City’s Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB) Theatre since 2001. He has trained with Armando Diaz, Matt Besser, Ian Roberts, Owen Burke, Becky Drysdale, Jackie Clarke, Jordan Klepper and many others.

He has performed on several house teams on Harold Night and more recently, Characters Welcome. Ryan is an original member of Grandma’s Ashes, whose show ‘We Won’t Tell’ just celebrated its 5 year anniversary playing every Saturday night at the UCB New York mainstage theatre.

Ryan has been teaching improv and sketch comedy since 2007. In 2011, the Huffington Post named him the representative comedian for the state of North Dakota.