Goodbye world! Hello Improv!

Welcome one and all to my blog of sorts.  This is a blog about improv, but not purely improv comedy. My name is Spencer DeVine, I’m 22 years old and I was raised in the Monterey Bay of California in a city called Seaside. It may be just that I wasn’t looking hard enough but the area never really fulfilled my needs as far as outlets for comedy. Sure there is the occasional open mic that stand up comedians can attend but it’s hardly the comedy capital of the world. But even more so, finding an outlet for improv is especially tough.  I did a little bit of improv when I was in high school, even started an improv club during lunch time but that fell through because there wasn’t enough dedication or interest.

When I came to San Francisco there was a whole brand new world of entertainment that Monterey and Seaside never had. In San Francisco there is an open mic for every night of the week and really no matter what you’re interested in there’s something for you. So I of course wouldn’t be surprised when Improv found me.  I’d acted for a long time but my experience in improv was relatively little as I had never had the place to do it or group to do it with.  But then I joined Improv Nation, SF State’s Improv team and most enthusiastic group on campus (yes even more so than the Gator cheer team, sorry guys).  There I got a big dose of improv and I’ve stuck with both Improv Nation and improv acting ever since. I found a group in the city called Sylvan Productions that used to run a free open-improv workshop out of their backyard but now they have a venue in the mission at the Darkroom Theatre.  One of the only free improv open mics I’ve found in the city that allows everyone and anyone to learn and do improv for free.

But some people get a misconception that Improv has to be funny, or even be acting, and this is not true.  The way I look at improv is that it is the ability to think on the spot and come up with alternative solutions, and that is something useful both on the stage but also in life.  Have you ever needed to impress someone but you didn’t know what to say to them? Had to come up with at topic for an essay you just couldn’t comprehend? Had to come up with a damn good excuse why you don’t have your homework? Improv can help all this.

Improv as this kind of tool is pretty underrepresented as far as other blogs out there go. Improv everywhere is a really cool group all over the United States and even internationally that does funny improvisational public demonstrations, but as a website and blog they are mainly about covering their own events, because as far as their structure goes their isn’t much to teach. I think though that any tips and teaching before participating with a group like that would just make the experience even more fun, let’s be honest as much as doing untrained improv is, the better you get the more fun it will be.

One of the closest blogs I could find to what I want this blog to portray was a blog talking about teaching improv to children titled Improv Education. In this blog the author really tries to get across what the essence of improv is: what are the lessons inherent in improv that can translate beyond. She enforces with kids that some of the lessons like always listen, make each other look good, and that failing is ok as long as you can recover from it and adapt.

There are blogs that do talk about the specifics of improv. This article is talking about the rule of three that is often used in stand up comedy routines and sometimes in improv comedy. It says that when things are done three times each time they get funnier, but this article states that rather than focusing on jokes one should pay attention to the scene. This is true in improv and is a helpful hint but it doesn’t bridge the gap and go beyond the stage, as it is purely talking about on-stage mechanics. The rule of threes is not only present in comedy but also is an effective social tool and helpful in activities like social occasions and speech writing. There are not a lot of consistent blogs that look at improv as both a stage tool and a life tool.

One article I found recently that really speaks to this translation was an article about 25 rules that will make anyone better in business. This is pretty spot on as far as what I want to communicate. Not only is improv good for scene-work and acting, but also even the stuffiest businessman has something to learn from being creative and thinking outside of the box. Learning more about how you work in a creative environment can help almost anyone.

But if you’re not interested in using improv in real life, it’s still there to be what it is in its purest: a comedic tool.  Frankly said, improv is fun. That’s really what it comes down to in the end. I do improv because it’s fun, not because I want to be some big successful businessman, but I’d be lying if I said that improv didn’t prepare me for really crucial aspects in business as well as my social life.

Come in for the fun, come in to learn, come in and eat all of my pop tarts (although I’ll be forced to kick you in the butt). Make yourself at home, I have.

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