“If you’re willing to listen, willing to change, willing to learn, you can do this.” — The Tao of Improv
His name is Joe. Everyone who knows him and reads this will know who I mean. Everyone else doesn’t need to know.
When Joe embarked on his improv career a few years ago, he was not a natural. He was too old to be jumping into something like this. He was too buttoned-down and quiet. Nothing in his life until this point would have led him to be good at it. In fact, many in his life would have discouraged him.
I was fortunate enough to have him as a student for a number of different improv classes. And he was fortunate enough to have had a few other improv teachers who were skilled and dedicated. Teachers were willing to push him hard because they could see that their efforts weren’t being wasted.
Long story short. He’s now an improviser. Not merely an improviser, but a damn good one. He’s a mainstay in his improv theater. He’s versatile. He has boundless curiosity and a drive to keep improving. And, having begun so humbly, he is humble.
How did he do it?
He worked at it. He bought into the notion that improv is learnable, and that there are techniques and methods that work all the time. He was willing to put in the perspiration until inspiration struck. Again and again. He’s one of the first to volunteer to tech improv shows, both from a desire to support and a realization that running tech for good improvisers helps improve one’s own sense of comedic timing. He takes classes and attends workshops. He’s read books (including mine —thank you very much, Joe). And he performs.
He’s not simply good “considering.” He’s good. Period. And he will never stop improving. He’s even jumped feet-first into the standup comedy world, to much acclaim. And his sketch-writing skills have skyrocketed.
Those who knew him before are thrilled by his rise and inspired by his work ethic. Those who meet him now just see him as an improviser, plain and simple. A natural.
For all I know, the majority of good improvisers have followed unlikely paths to success. It stands to reason. And yes, having taught so many students, I have had the thrill of seeing many of them blossom into great performers.
But there’s something about Joe. He proves that this stuff is doable. The method is easy: Work hard.