Why Is Improv So Scary? Part Four: "I'm not outgoing"

cincinnati improv classes

Click here to read the Introduction, Part 1, Part 2 or Part 3. 

Fill in the blanks:

I always end up laughing when I’m with ________.
I love talking about ________.
I’m different from many people in that _________.
One unique thing I bring to a team is _________.
I enjoy spending time with people who are ________.
When choosing friends, I value ________.

Thanks. Now hold onto your answers. We’ll come back to them in a minute.

This week, we’re continuing our discussion of improv-related fears and looking at the next belief that keeps us from saying yes: “I’m not outgoing.”

First off, let’s define an outgoing person so we know what we’re dealing with. Here’s my best attempt: An outgoing person is someone who speaks up frequently, who enjoys socializing and who doesn’t mind being the center of attention.  

In an improv setting, maybe an outgoing person is starting a lot of scenes, entering a lot of scenes and offering a lot of ideas within scenes.

That’s awesome. There’s room for about one person like that on an improv team.

Improv is a team sport. Like other team sports, it requires a special sort of chemistry that allows its members to function as a unit and, in our case, tell stories and plays games without devolving into chaos.

Outgoing people have a place in an improv team. But so do people who are thinkers, observers and listeners. Imagine a football team where every player is Brett Favre. Imagine a band where every member is Kanye West. (On second thought, I’d actually want to see both of those. But you get my drift.)

It should come as no surprise that diversity in personality, experience and perspective will create a better improv team. (Same goes for gender and ethnic diversity.) To enjoy improv, there’s no need to overcome shyness or sensitivity. There is room for your shyness in improv. In fact, there’s a fantastic spot for it right next to that guy doing his loud Gollum/Smeagol impression for the fifth time this hour.

Improv does not require any special type of personality. Improv works best when you lean into the personality you already have.

Now let’s go back your fill-in-the-blanks. I hope your answers show you that even if you don’t fit your own definition of “outgoing,” you still have people you love goofing around with and subjects you can’t shut up about. You have qualities that are unique to you, and they strengthen the teams you join.

Take a look at your last two answers. Did you mention honesty, positivity, open-mindedness, courage, supportiveness or sincerity? If so, improv will help you find people who are trying to foster those qualities in themselves, because all those qualities become our focus when we improvise. (We’re all works in progress. Isn’t that great?)

Okay, one last fill-in-the-blanks. But this time, a madlib.

1. celebrity who is sexy and wonderful: ____________
2. noun that can breathe: ____________
3. body part that matters: ____________
4. adjective you’d use to describe traffic: ____________
5. type of biome: ____________
6. intangible noun: ____________
7. verb: ____________
8. invertebrate: ____________
9. adjective you’d use to describe your drunk mom: ____________
10. adverb: ____________
11. song that my teenage neighbor likes: ____________

I went to my first improv class last night. Me and this guy who kind of reminded me of [celebrity] did a scene about a [noun] with crippling self-doubt because he has a weird [body part]. He goes on a [adjective] journey through the [type of biome] to recover his sense of [intangible noun]. He [verb]s for days before he meets a magical [invertebrate] who tells him that in order to be happy, he must stand up in front of a [adjective] crowd and sing [adverb], just like that one scene from Elf. He goes and finds a crowd and sings [song title], and he is cured of his self-doubt forever.

~ ~ ~

See? You’re gonna be just fine, you handsome and creative devil.