Improv Conspiracy Blog

The latest news, opinions and more!

Conspirator Hayley Tantau runs a blog over at TheTheatricalJournalist.com where she has been posting some great content about her continuing adventures with improv. With her permission, we'll be republishing some of her best posts in their entirety. Today's post: Not Sure If: Improv Notes or Life Advice (part 1)


Performing with my current improv team, Foggy Windows

“When an improviser lets go and trusts his or her fellow performers, it’s a wonderful, liberating experience that stems from group support,”
- Charna Halpern, Del Close, Kim Johnson in Truth In Comedy

The most important thing I have ever learnt about improvising (thus far) is also the most simple: listen and react.

“Well, DUH” – said a chorus of people who still say ‘duh’/are aware that listening and reacting is straight-up common sense and human instinct. To listen to something and then react like a human being is what being a functioning member of society is all about.

Alas, to an up-and-coming improviser this lesson takes a while to show itself. I remember the exact moment I learnt this lesson, it wasn’t on stage and it wasn’t in class…

It was before my last show with my first Harold team, The Reluctant Sergeants (who were indeed as reluctant as our name suggested). Before these shows I would get nervous three hours beforehand (this seems absurd to me now, but hey, that’s personal growth for ya!), sometimes I’d even wake up nervous on show-day. My anxiety came from a place of “what if my brain stops working on stage?” “what if I can’t pump out witty one-liners?” and “what if no one laughs at me?” – none of which are really relevant to good scenework.

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  March 16, 2014

It’s the 16th of March. I have exactly ten nights of good sleep ahead of me, ten chances to cook and eat healthy home-cooked meals, and ten days to act as a normal, functioning member of society. What’s happening in ten days, you ask? No, I’m not dying or facing deportation (sorry to disappoint)… I’m producing, directing and performing in two shows at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival!

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  February 3, 2014

I recently read “The Power Of Now”, by Eckhart Tolle, and I’m all over it like a rash. Eckhart is a cute little Swiss gnome that knows everything, and he says that we should aim to be “mindful”, “present”, and “in the now”. Our thoughts, he says, are mostly unhelpful and even harmful, as they take us out of a very precious thing – the “now”. This “now” idea is associated with many spiritual practices like Buddhism as well as being popular with psychologists and cute little self-help gnomes.

This idea is nothing new to improvisers, who go on a lot about being present and listening, not being in your head. However, in a moment of non-presence, I had a thought: perhaps after the honeymoon stage of improv-love, when we pore over Johnstone and Close and so on, we may forget what being present on stage really means. I want to talk about it here. Though let me be the first to say, who knows if I have ever been truly present on stage?  I don’t have the answers. Nevertheless, for the purposes of discussion, and maybe a free beer, I want to theorise on how the now Tolle talks about, may help us to improvise in a more joyful and rewarding way.

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  January 20, 2014

I started doing group improvised comedy in January 2013, when I signed up for an eight-week beginners course through the Improv Conspiracy. Twelve months later, what started as a whim is now my main extracurricular activity. What with weekly training, regular performances and an upcoming tour to Perth, I see my fellow improvisers more than my friends and family. 

But I do, of course still see my pre-improv friends and, when I tell them I do improvised comedy now, they say the same things and ask the same questions. Usually they’re about how they could never do improv. 

I thought I’d share these because maybe you’re thinking of doing some improv but have yet to bite the bullet. You should! But you have some worries. You shouldn’t. Here are the top five things people say or ask me. 

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  January 17, 2014
  Andy Balloch

Andy Balloch has been improvising for three days. An eager student in our most recent Level 1 Intensive class, he is scheduled to perform in tonight's end-of-term student showcase. He graciously offered these thoughts on his brief yet inspiring experience with improv.

I’m no stranger to live performing, or comedy writing. Last year I ventured further into the stand up scene, showcased my second cabaret, co-wrote/directed/starred in a musical, a musical/comedy fringe festival show, and began writing for an international cabaret performer. I have an ego, I know, but I also know comedy writing and performing is an avenue I wish to go down, because I’m good at it. 

So it was with this mentality that I arrogantly strutted into the Level 1 Intensive course. I was cool. I was confident. I knew comedy, and this, I thought, would be a breeze. 

Boy was I wrong. 

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