Improv Technique: Courage
Alright, so we're gonna stay in our two-person groups, okay? We're gonna keep you seated even though technically, you'd be standing for this actual scene. Yes?
We are okay to have them stand right in place.
Really, that's awesome, okay.
Yep, cause we know it'll be a little--
Put those, yeah, that'd be fantastic. Put those paper, put that paper down and we're gonna stand up. Okay? This is just called open scene. I'm gonna give you a scene, you guys are gonna be in your pairs, okay, same pairs you were before. I'm gonna give you a scene to play out. I just want you guys to play it out as you naturally would, okay? Here's the scene, you guys are siblings and you're washing dishes after dinner, okay? So just have a conversation as you normally would. Siblings washing dishes after dinner. Ready? Go.
You get to dry, I don't want to dry. You get in the way.
Where's the soap.
Get the towel!
It's right here. I got the soap.
So you're washing?
I'm rinsing. You're gonna soap, ...
I'll hand you the soap. And I'll rinse.
I don't know man, that's just so less efficient. How 'bout you soap and suds, and I'll rinse, and then we'll put it into the drying rack.
Okay, you're going to rinse and then you're going to be putting it into the drying rack.
Okay, hold on, hold on, I don't like this, because I'm doing too much work now. Why don't we roshambo for who gets to soap.
No, we don't do that here.
What do you mean we don't do that here? We did that last week. I had to mow the lawn--
Those go in the dishwasher, you don't have to dry those!
Honey, I know what I'm doing.
He just called me honey. I'm done. (laughing)
Alright, I'm going to give you a new rule. I want you guys to keep going, I want you guys to keep going where you're at, wherever you're at in your conversation. Nobody can ask a question. It'll only be statements, nobody can ask a question. Keep going, ready, go.
I'm going to dry. (humming) (laughing off camera)
Oh, question. No questions.
Let me do the dishes, you take out the garbage.
After this, I kinda want to play a game.
Well, what do you want to play?
I don't know, maybe... We could do charades again.
Uh, that's boring.
That's way more fun, yeah. Let's do that, let's do that.
You just got that Switch.
I did, I did. And I got Breath of the Wild.
Oooooh, what are we doing dishes for?
Zelda, here I come! (laughing) Well we do have to finish these, or else we'll never get it done.
Well here, I'll load fast.
Yeah, just get it over with.
She won't even notice. Put it on the sanitize rinse.
Oh my God. Let's just...
Let's do the pan. Let's do the pan. I'll just scrub it really quick. (hands scrubbing together)
I'll, I'll go do the table. (washing sounds)
Alright, time. Okay, let's have you guys sit down. Alright, so let me ask you a question. Which one of those two was harder. Where you could ask a question or couldn't ask a question? Where you couldn't ask a question.
Because I was thinking about it the whole time.
Cause you were thinking about the fact that you couldn't ask a question the whole time?
Right, right, right. It was a while to get going.
You couldn't process that when you can't ask a question. It also keeps you from punting, doesn't it? There were some things that I noticed at the beginning of this, when you didn't know what to say, but you knew you wanted to talk that you would ask a question. That you would go, "Which one should I do? "So you're going to rinse and I'm going to dry?" What you're doing is you're punting, you're like "I don't have something to offer, "so I'm going to punt it to your side "and hopefully you give me something to hook on to." And what's interesting is listening to these when there was a definable hook, how much both of you grabbed on to it. You guys started talking about playing video games. And you were like "Ding, okay, this is going to be "at least a couple of back and forths "with on the video game thing, right?" You're looking and just searching for hooks, something you can do. It's in our nature to react to what we're doing, to describe what we're doing. And in the context of improv, what you'll do as you grow through it, inside of the training, they're gonna teach you to move away from describing what you're doing. Cause that's our human nature is to say "I don't know what to say here, "so I'm gonna talk about the action that "I'm doing right now." And they're gonna teach you that's the easiest thing to go to is simply to describe the action as you're doing it, and they're gonna get into let's talk about the relationships that we have, because relationships are more interesting than just the descriptions of actions. They're gonna say, talk about who you are as a brother and sister, talk about the fights that you have, talk about mom and dad, talk about what you were doing right before this, and what you're going to do right after this, those are far more interesting topics than the act of washing dishes, which is a fairly mundane topic. But in the nature of improv, as we interact with one another, we focus on just the immediacy of what's right in front of us, and we do that in the context of our ideation as well. We focus on the thing that's right in front of us, that small picture object, that little thing that we need to solve. So for instance, many of us as professional creatives, as designers will be designing brochures or logos or websites or ads, and we focus on making an ad, and we've lost sight of the purpose of the ad. We've lost sight of why the ad exists or why I'm making this logo or the bigger picture that exists within the context of the thing that I'm making. And we focus on the little thing, because that's the easiest thing for us to focus on, just the thing that's in front of us, not the reason why that thing exists. What questions do in the context of improv is it gives us an out. It gives us a way to say "I'm just gonna make you do it. "Here's the punt. "I'm gonna make you do it," right? And there's a certain level of the alleviation of fear that I can have. It's my turn to talk, and I don't know what to say, so if I ask you a question I can always ask you a question, then I get my easy out. As soon as I removed that, you guys had to think about the context of the rule, right? I mean, that's the natural part of it, you had to constantly think, "I'm not supposed to ask a question." And you know when you did, like you went "Doh! "I wasn't supposed to ask a question." But the question that you asked actually wasn't the purpose of me removing it. The question you asked was a very natural conversational question, it wasn't you punting. It was you offering something, you just did it in the form of a question. And those are okay. See, legendary improviser Tina Fey, if you ever watch any of Tina Fey, she's fantastic, right? She says, "Don't ask questions all the time. "If we're in a scene, and I say Who are you? "Where are you? "What are we doing here? "What's in the box? "I'm putting pressure on you to come up "with all the answers. "Statements are about confidence. "Asking nothing but questions is draining. "It's excluding yourself from being part of the solution. "It's building obstacles instead of bridges." In the context of ideation, it's the exact same thing. When we are generating ideas together, it's natural for us to go, "Well, what if we did something like this?" And what we're basically saying is, "Don't think this sucks." Let me offer the germ of something that I haven't fully thought out. It takes a certain level of courage to offer statements. Ideas or statements, they're lines the sand. They're stakes. They're saying, "I have this idea, what do you think?" It doesn't mean the stake has to be fully formed, but it does mean that it has to be definitive. I'm thinking we do something like this. I have no idea where this is going, but what if we offered this. And that's something that improv teaches us, is the idea of courage. It gives us courage. Most of us, in the sake of ideation, because we're so worried about judgment, we don't have the courage to offer up the potential ideas that are in our heads, the ideas that aren't fully formed. But in the way that we would offer them up is in the context of questions. And we basically would say, "Do you think this is any good?" That's really what the couching of any question is, in the context of ideation, "Do you think this is any good?" If we stop worrying about whether or not it's any good, what you're gonna find is you're gonna find yourself in a much stronger position to generate ideas. See, we're so concerned about the judgment of others, that we stop offering those up. Part of that is because we're so focused on the thing, on the thing that we make. In my experience as a creative director, the greatest joys I've ever had aren't in the things that I make, it's when I fell in love with the process of making them. Improv is about a process of getting there. In the end, almost every skit that's ever created it's gonna be very good, because there's way funnier things and way better things that you could plan for if you were gonna plan out an interaction. Improv is gonna teach you to love the process, to love the act of the interaction. If you wanna get better creatively, fall in love with the process of creation, not the result of that creation. So much of what we do for our clients and other people, are for other people. We don't control it. We don't get to say the final outcome. We're doing this for somebody else. And in that way, if we fall in love with the thing that we make, we're gonna be disappointed our entire lives, because we don't control it. But if we fall in love with the act of making, then generating ideas over and over again should be the best part of what we do. You know, often times I'll hear creatives that are lamenting about having to go back to the drawing board, like "I've gotta go, "I had an idea that worked, and we made it, "and the client hates it. "Now I've gotta start all over again." You have to start all over again? That should be the best part of what you do. Falling in love with this process, right, of generating ideas and making things should be the best part of what you do. You get to start all over. You don't have to, you get to. Somebody's gonna pay you to do it again, isn't that fantastic, right? That's the courage that improve teaches us, it teaches us to offer up ideas in a very creative way, in this exercise you had to. Your little bits and pieces of conversation you were having with your sibling, some of you latched on to the sibling thing. You guys latched on to the sibling thing early. You made it contentious right off the bat, because you were siblings and that's what siblings are, right? And you created that conflict right off the bat, which is awesome, which is great, right? You guys had a much more, we have to get this done, this is something that we have to do, what are you doing, what am I doing, so we can get this done, right? You guys had that relationship from a sibling standpoint. You had the courage to be able to offer that up immediately, and in doing so there was a certain confidence that you guys could have in your setting that you may not have had otherwise. If somebody doesn't offer that up confidently, offer up that conflict confidently, from a courage standpoint, this is something that improv can teach us, it can teach us how to generate ideas confidently and courageously, and be able to offer them, and if it doesn't work, who cares, I get to go back and do it again, and again, and again, and again. Cause you need to offer up 20, 30, 40, 50 ideas before you find that one, so you might as well get started offering up those ideas, and letting other people take them and make them better.