Tips to Being a Better Improv Teammate
Updated: Jul 1, 2020
Improv theaters (or theatres if you're nasty) have teams, and teams have teammates. Like any team, success does not come down to any one person, but rather every person working together.
If you are on an improv team and want to know how your team can be successful then you should know that being a good teammate on and off stage is arguably more impactful than how funny you are on stage.
5 Things That Will Make You a Better Teammate:
Be Trustworthy Teams are built on trust. If you are the teammate who never shows up to practice or skips out on shows without telling anyone then people won't be able to trust you or rely on you when needed. The great teams of all-time were able to trust that their teammates were there and accountable. Those are fruitful teams.
Respect Others Be respectful of other people in every way you can. Respect their boundaries. Don't belittle them. Listening to them without prejudice. Basically, treating your teammates like they are an equal. Their views are just as valid to express as yours. Their approach to improv is just as valid as yours. They are a whole person and they have all the feelings you have. Respect them as a fellow human being.
Be Considerate I once heard that Jack Nicholson would brush his teeth before going to set to be polite to his fellow actors. He said it was considerate to his costars. Fresh breath and eliminating body odor, those are good characteristics for being in the close quarters you're in on stage. Actually, that's just a good tip in general. This means taking showers, brushing teeth, washing your dirty old clothes. You don't have to smell as wonderful as we all suspect Beyonce' does, but let's just make it easier to be near. Every theater has the stinky guy and everyone is too nice to say anything about it. Even the Peanuts gang didn't tell Pigpen to take a bath, those little passive-aggressive punks just named the poor kid Pigpen. Considering how you might affect others is incredibly considerate and goes beyond fresh breath. Think about how you interact with others, too. Do you cut people off? do you shout a lot? Do you take advantage of their generosity? There are many ways to be more considerate of your teammates.
Work Hard I know, that sounds like work. It sounds like hard work and improv is supposed to be fun. Listen, I get it. Some people who do improv push themselves as hard as Kobe Bryant does because it's what they are passionate about while others are only doing improv to have a little fun in their life. Both are totally fine levels of interest! Both require some level of being responsible. You can only get out of any activity what you put into it. It's like going to the gym to have a bodybuilder's physique versus going to lose a few pounds. One is way more intense than the other, but the other still requires you to sweat it out. To be a better improv teammate you gotta work up a sweat...and then take a shower. (#3 double bounce!) Your team can get stronger when you work hard in practice to get better. In the end you all will have more fun when you're taking it to the limit.
Be Kind Be nice to people. It's that simple. Be friendly, show some love, show some understanding, be a helping hand. These are all things you can do to be kind. Some improv schools push the importance of supporting your fellow players. We're encouraged to support each other in every way. We shouldn't leave a fellow player hanging out in the middle of the stage doing something silly all alone. We should make their suggestions and ideas seem like the best ideas ever made. We should cherish them and their heart. All of those sound like incredibly nice thing to do. And it's helpful in other ways, too, like when you need to have a tough conversation with your team, which happens on occasion. Being kind keeps problems from happening that become issues that have to be addressed, and if we do have to address an issue, being kind helps us do it in a way that's helpful.
All of us who do improv do it to have fun and being difficult to work with takes the fun out of the activity. It will also take the fun out of it for you.
When people on a team can trust each other, rely on each other, and find it easy to open up around each other then they have the potential to accomplish great things together and get more out of improv. That kind of openness and togetherness are crucial aspects of art.
When you're open, art can affect you enough to stimulate change and personal growth. Let's make personal growth fun!