First unusual thing

~ 2 min read | Category: Newsletters

Years ago I was in a student improv comedy troupe called The Improverts.

And after that, I really geeked out on improv for a few years. I read books, I took classes, I did shows.

I even took a weekend workshop with the godfather of improvised theatre, Keith Johnstone.

But after being away from it for more than a decade, I recently got involved with a local improv group here in Bournemouth.

I admitted I was feeling pretty rusty and someone pointed me at an improv manual by the Upright Citizen’s Brigade.

(They’re a long-established Canadian troupe with some famous alumni like Amy Poehler.)

I’ve been listening to the audiobook version on my morning dog walks and I love it. It’s packed full of useful insights and principles about improv.

For instance, there’s a concept called the “first unusual thing”.

It’s where you have an scene that’s progressing normally but then something happens that breaks with convention.

So maybe it’s a scene where a mother is trying to get her son to school, but he’s stalling.

She keeps trying to hurry him out of the door and he keeps finding ways to buy a little more time.

Eventually he admits: “I don’t want to go. I really hate school”.

And she says: “That’s okay son. School’s for losers anyway.”

So that’s the first unusual thing. And the rest of the scene is about a mother who actually wants her son to skip school.

You can see how that could be funny, right?

The improv audiobook, which is really a kind of audio course, focuses on building improv skills.

So there are lots of explanations and examples and exercises.

But for any given topic, you can view that topic through different lenses. And each lens will result in a different course.

For instance, with the topic of improv, instead skill-building, you could look at it through the lens of: how do you create a successful improv theatre company whose shows sell out?

That course would probably have lots of practical action plans and checklists.

Here’s another lens:

How can you use the principles of improv theatre to bring more spontaneity, creativity and playfulness into the workplace?

That course would probably focus on establishing the right creative habits and mindset.

So if you already have a course topic in mind, I recommend looking at it through a few different lenses.

Because depending on the lens, the course you create will be quite different. And the audience will be different too.

See you soon,


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