Today's guest blogger is Garrett Bank. Garrett is a Sacramento improviser and main-stage performer at Blacktop Comedy. His past performances include KAPOW, Teen Slasher, and F@#$%! Up Relationship.
In my short time studying improv there is always the inevitable conversation, “Hey why did you sit on the side the whole show?” And this always leads to an inevitable answer, “I felt like I was hopping out too much. I wanted someone else to have a turn.” While this might not always be the answer, at one point or another someone you are on a team with is going to say something along the lines of, “I was just making sure everyone gets a turn.” This is where the epidemic of politeness in improv spawns.
Now making sure everyone gets to play and have fun during a show is a noble effort but has a lot of flawed logic. Say you come up with a scene start idea while on the sidelines and you are about to run on and start the greatest improv scene of your career. When suddenly you remember you were in the last three scenes and the person next to you hasn’t been in any. So you put that idea aside and what for your fellow improviser to hop in. My advice to the reader who has ever had this thought while on stage; GET OFF THE SIDELINES AND START THAT SCENE! If you do, not only do you create a scene that people (who possibly haven’t hopped out yet) can join in on but you have put aside self judgment and acted on instinct. I understand you want to be nice to your fellow improvisers but not participating because someone else is not participating just creates two people not participating. Also, when did improv become a game where we kept score? Do we go backstage and count up how many scenes we were in and flaunt in front of everyone? Let me give you the quick answer: No. We get out on stage a lot because we want to play or we want to support what our other improvisers are trying to create. Improv is truly one of the only team based sports that is not about competition.
Now if you are still concerned about the person on the sideline who still won’t hop into a scene, when you get that next scene start invite them out with you. Everybody wins! You no longer have to feel bad about playing a lot (but you shouldn’t anyway). In summary, the intention of being polite is a great idea but ultimately can be self-destructive to you and your fellow team mates. Play and join scenes as much as you want and have a great time.