#Improv101 – How the Upright Citizens Brigade improvised a comedy empire

I’ve always wanted to try improv to be more confident during public speaking. And then discovered that Aziz Ansari, Amy Poehler, Ed Helms from “The Office” all came from Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB). Didn’t realise that now studio comedians come from improv background (Melissa McCarthy, Ellie Kemper from “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”) in a post-Jerry Seinfeld build your sitcom era.

It was interesting to read in the article that 8 classes cost a reasonable $400 and that you start wiht Improv 101 and move on to 201, 301 like any other subject. And I really felt for author Emma Allen who goes to her first class and feels like that after the first scene:

“When doing improv, you’re supposed to work from the “top of your intelligence,” which means responding honestly and logically to your scene partner’s prompts, but things had moved so fast that I couldn’t remember having had any thoughts at all.”

But she nails it when she summarises UCB promise as:

“If you follow our rules, you will get laughs without having to tell a single joke. Your personal life will improve, and you will get ahead in business. Just sign here, and here, and hand over your credit card. Like starting a band in the sixties, or joining a cult in the seventies, or enrolling in business school in the eighties, or going to group therapy in the nineties, taking improv classes has become the default activity for today’s postgraduate seekers.

No wonder people make jokes about “yes, and?” if you tell them you’re taking an improv class, as the improv technique that helps prevent your scenes from stalling out is well known (before moving on to “if, then”).

I concur with the improv’s appeal around being a funnier performer, a better person as classes can be immersion therapy, meditation, and “creative cross-training” and/or overcoming shyness, writer’s block, learning how to listen.

No wonder UCB@Work conducts about three professional-development workshops a week now (at $3,000 a workshop).