First, the lecture part....

Respect for authority is not really the first virtue someone thinks of when they picture the stereotypical improviser. I had a boss who, knowing I coached improv, took me aside and told me a story. In hushed tones, she recounted a tale of some improv-pals her niece brought over for Thanksgiving. She described their behavior as nightmarish - not paying attention, rude, unfocused... you know the type. She was concerned for my well being, knowing you (the ubiquitous you) are the company you keep.

Between you and me and the fencepost, we know that type of improviser is probably not a good one. Seriously, a good improviser learns pretty quick that in order to succeed for extended periods of time, they have to "behave." Now, behaving means a lot of things to a lot of people, but let's put in in simple terms: behaving means following codes of conduct without being reminded of them.

I think the type of improviser described by my ex-boss is the unfortunate kind that gravitate towards improv because they think they can be "true to themselves." Unfortunately, "true to themselves" in this case means the opposite of "behave." It's an age-old problem and I'm not going to solve it for you.
Read a bible. Hey, I struggle with it too, on a minute-by-minute basis, actually.

Improvisers' brains tend to rebel against order and authority. Granted, it's not so much rebelling as it is poking holes in the rules to see the Funny on the other side. So this is important. We need to discipline ourselves or we will never get better at what we love doing.

  • A teacher, coach, team captain or captain’s delegate is responsible for the format of rehearsals. If it is left “up to the group” then valuable time gets eaten by discussion. Just trust the leader and it will go smoother.
  •  The leader should have a rehearsal format prepared beforehand.
  • Players should ABSOLUTELY resist the temptation to give notes to each other, whether inside or outside rehearsal. It does not matter if the players are best friends, dating, married, etc.
  • However, players are allowed to give each other alphas (compliments) as often as possible.
  • Only the coach, teacher, or captain should give notes other than alphas.
  • Leaders need to recognize when bonding needs to happen and when work needs to be done. It's too easy for improvisers to start "riffing" off each other. Suddenly, 10 precious minutes are gone. However, there's nothing better than a team that likes to hang out and shoot the breeze. Rule of thumb - no more than 10 total minutes of goofing off for every hour of rehearsal. Break the rule as you see fit.
  • The team needs to trust when the leader decides to move on to the next thing, even if that means goof-off time is over.