The first rule of performing improv comedy is to say, “Yes, and.” By saying “yes,” you are accepting your scene partner’s statement. By saying “and,” you are accepting that things can always get worse from here.
Avoid denial. If your partner says, “We’re at the beach,” and you say, “No, we’re in the dimly lit basement of an adult education center,” you are both technically correct, but you’re yet again standing in the way of your own happiness.
Use statements instead of questions. Asking questions leads to answers, and knowledge only leads to disappointment. If you are unclear about what a statement is, remember they are just questions said as if you were a confident person.
Try to pick a scene partner who is funny, and enjoys working with you. After a lifetime’s search, settle for Craig, the person physically closest to you in your beginner’s improv class.
It’s good practice to establish a relationship between your characters early on. The longer you wait to explain who two people are to each other, the more jaded and emotionally damaged they will likely become. This is also true for the characters in your scene.
Don’t forget to pick up on non-verbal cues from your partner. Is he or she acting happy, sad, or angry? Sit down on the floor and think about how comedy is only a brief respite from the ongoing sorrows of our chaotic world.
Since no props are used in improv comedy, you must mime your actions and pretend to interact with all sorts of common objects. The audience isn’t stupid enough not to know the difference, but they are stupid enough to humor you.
Attempt to focus on the present. Getting caught up in the past is boring for the audience, though an inevitable part of the human condition. In fact, this is the main downfall of the protagonist in The Great Gatsby.
Try to avoid conflict in your scene, as it is not very entertaining. It often leads to characters getting frustrated, walking out of class, and refusing to return next week. We are only down to three people in this improv class and this must stop.
Don’t try to be funny. Trying to be funny is one step away from caring about being funny, and if you care, you’re invested. It is widely not recommended to invest in a skill that will never make you money or be respected by your family.
Remember there are no mistakes in improv. This is supposed to encourage you to experiment and take risks, but the harsh reality is that the improv community long ago banned mistakes entirely — everything you do will be taken incredibly seriously. Do not embarrass yourself.
Remember that performing improv comedy is about having fun. If you are having fun, however, you are too advanced for these lessons, but not good enough to do improv in a professional capacity. You are banned to the hallway for the rest of the class to wallow in your mediocrity.