So you've decided to disappoint your parents more by becoming an improvisor, fantastic. It might seem a little overwhelming at first when you choose to get started, but there are a few simple steps that you can take to make things easier for yourself. The general steps will help any new improvisor, but the specifics (classes, websites, etc.) are all Chicago based. If you're an improvisor from another city and would like to share some info then please leave a comment.
I know you're probably super funny already, but you still need to take classes anyway. Improv classes don't teach you how to be funny, but instead teach you the rules of improv and how to perform. If you live in Chicago then I've reviewed the Second City Conservatory and iO Training Center if you're interested in starting at one of those, but you don't have to take my word for it.
Find out what your local improv message board is and change your browser homepage to it. This will allow you to see any workshop, audition, class, or general news that's being posted. In Chicago we have the Chicago Improv Network. I have my personal homepage set to the classified section of the site so I can quickly see any opportunities in my area. If your city doesn't have a website like this then go on facebook and "friend" as many improvisors in your city as you can. Their constant show invites and blog posts should keep you informed.
If you live in Chicago there are improv shows every night of the week that range from Second City Mainstage to some free show at a bar. It doesn't matter, go watch something. Books and classes will only get you so far and plus it's a great way to meet new people, have fun, and get you out of the house (seriously it's sad how much you stay in).
I've stated this before on this blog, but you can't get better without real stage time and it's up to you to get it. After a few classes you'll find a few people that you love to play with. Invite them to be on a team with you and get a coach. Your coach doesn't have to be some big name or one of your teachers. Actually I would recommend staying away from those coaches for your first team because they're already probably real busy with other teams and performances. Find someone with a lot of experience and you think is a good fit for your team. Chicago Improv Network has a place to find people interested in coaching.
Even if you don't think you have a shot audition anyway. The best way to get better at auditioning is actually doing it. Nothing can mimic that feeling you get in an audition. Worst case scenario you don't get the part/make the team and you're in the same position you started out in.
Following these steps should really help you start becoming an improvisor. Just remember that very few people are immediately awesome at improv and it will take a lot of classes, performing, and studying to become great.
(Special thanks to David Schwartzbaum)
Filed under: Advice