We have an amazing community of improvisers at Blacktop. Nate, asked me, and I’m paraphrasing, “how can I get out of my head and let things flow.“ Oh flow state! That elusive place that feels amazing when you’re there, but is sure easy to slip in and out.
What can you do to stay there?
Well, here are the three things I use to get out of my head, be present with my scene partner, and just flow.
I’m using the acronym ELF, because I think acronyms are helpful when you’re onstage, and under the lights, and thinking, “what should I do?“
The first letter, E is for eye contact. Make more eye contact. When you’re trapped in your head, you’re disconnected from the scene. You feel like control is floating away. You might begin thinking, “I’m an improv comedian, but I can’t make the audience laugh? I should have taken more improv classes before attempting a show! Maybe I’m no good. Maybe an improv class wouldn’t help! Maybe I should give up.”
Get out of your brain! It can be poisonous. Look how quickly I just spiraled into doubt and anxiety. That’s an actual bit of spiraling I did years ago. None of it is helpful. None of it helps you explore an improv scene and discover comedy. How do you escape it? Eye contact. It’ll connect you to your scene partner, It’ll remind you, “oh yeah. There’s someone else here. I’m with someone else. I’m not alone on this stage.” That’s a powerful reminder.
The second part of Elf is Listen. And, really listen. Here the other person onstage. What are they saying with words, body language and tone. Over 70% of communciation is nonverbal. It’s body language. You need to pay attention. If you noticed it, the audience did too. React to it. Stanislavski said, “all acting is reacting.“ (Look at me, quoting Konstantin. Ol’ Kons as I knew him. We were close. OK. Maybe not.)
If all acting is reacting, it begins with listening. We are actors onstage. Yeah, true. We’re improvisers, but that’s just a way of saying actors who are living in the moment. We’re improv actors, and we’re here to explore characters and events.
Finally, F. We made it! We’re at the third step. “Find a way to help.“ I realize that’s not the most elegant. Probably H for “Help“ would be more logcail, but then I' would be spelling ELH. Is that memorable? Could you see yourself onstage remembering a mae up word like ELH? Me either! That’s why I opted for F.
Find a way to help your scene partner. Improv teachers preach, “yes, and.“ If there was one cornerstone of improv it’s “yes, and your scene partner.“ That’s a fancy way of saying, “go help!“ Your scene partner just made an offer…..go help! Your scene partner wants to know if you’d like breakfast….go help! And, you can help by saying “yes, I would like breakfast, and I’ll help you make pancakes.”
When you’re helping, you’re discovering the story without planning the story. You’re not inside your mind crafting a funny scene, or hilarious anecdote. You’re responding to the moment, living in the moment, and “yes, anding“ your partner. You don’t have time to be in your head, because you’re busy creating something awesome onstage
That’s it! That’s the three step process to getting out of your head! I hope it helps. Remember, ELF
E: Eye Contact
F: Find a Way to Help
This is my secret weapon when I walk onstage, into the office, or a new group of people. I hope it helps you too.
What do you do to get out of your head? Let me know in the comments below!