Thursday 14th , 2016
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I make things up. I drink out of fake glasses and open imaginary cupboards. I can be a talking cow shopping at Costco or a soccer player that has a fear of black and white objects. I am an improv enthusiast. Have you ever seen Who’s Line Is It Anyway? That’s the exciting, wacky world of Improv comedy. I believe all ages, young and old or in between, can benefit from the wonders of improv because it teaches so many wonderful lessons. Many improv enthusiasts rave about its educational value. Not only does it hone communication and public speaking skills, it also stimulates fast thinking and engagement with ideas. On a deeper level, improv chips away at mental barriers that block creative thinking and rewards spontaneous, intuitive responses. Children are constantly improvising and are often the best at it because they have not developed the weird, self-conscious ‘I can’t be silly’ issue many of us grow into as adults.


I, the class clown, became interested in comedy at the tender age of 11 due to my middle school’s drama program. I learned to be bold, confident, and work with other types of personalities along with many other benefits. I caught the bug and desperately wanted to learn more. I continued through high school and college. In fact, my entire college thesis was on- you guessed it- improv comedy! Today, I still continue on my comedy journey, once a week in Los Angeles. Although improv seems like the players are just making things up, willy- nilly, this is simply not true. There are rules every improviser should follow to better their scene. Even if you are not an improviser, these rules can be applied to our everyday lives. This can be applied to adult lives, and I encourage you to pass these ideals onto your children. Following these ideals will help humans, big or small, laugh more, play more, commit and be present in the moment. 

  1. Listen! Remember that adorable viral video of the little boy saying, “Linda, honey, listen. Listen.” Improv is like that. I don’t mean cupping your ear and leaning forward while chewing a piece of hay. A big component of improv is actively listening. This means, instead of half listening and formulating what you are going to say next in your head, you are listening with every part of your body with the utmost attention. It means you are reacting to what the other person is saying. It means you are being present in the now. Teaching children this skill early on, either through improv or other means, is a very important skill in every part of our lives. Are you listening, Linda?
  2. 2536 Say yes! “Yes and…” is another untouchable, golden rule of comedy. Improvisers always support each others ideas by saying ‘YES’ to every idea offered! So, if your scene partner says, “Hey, there is our old neighbor, Blind Albert”, you are now an old blind man. This is where the ‘and’ part comes in! It’s great to agree and say yes, but it is even better when you add something to the idea. Ol’ Blind Albert might reply with, “Yes, it is me, Ol’ Blind Albert, and I am making pancakes!” This furthers along the scene and shows your partner you are actively listening to what they said previously. One of the queens of the comedy world Tina Fey, expands on this idea. “The second rule of improvisation is not only to say yes, but YES, AND. You are supposed to agree and then add something of your own. If I start a scene with 'I can't believe it's so hot in here,' and you just say, 'Yeah...' we're kind of at a stand-still. But if I say, 'I can't believe it's so hot in here,' and you say, 'Yes, this can't be good for the wax figures.' Or if I say, 'I can't believe it's so hot in here,' and you say, 'I told you we shouldn't have crawled into this dog's mouth,' now we're getting somewhere.” Encourage your children to use the phrase, ‘yes and’ in their lives. Encourage saying yes to other children’s dramatic play and inspire them to add their own suggestions. This also can be a great imagination stimulation. Picture all of the fun concepts kids create just by inspiring them to keep going with their idea! Plus, when you tell your kids to clean their room, they now have to say, “Yes! AND, I will also clean the bathroom”, which we all know will happen. 
  3. Make sure you play with people who have your back! No one likes that ”Debbie Downer” friend in the group that doesn’t support anyone’s idea. Make sure you are associating with people who make you (or your child) feel good and supported. I have played with stage hogs that don’t have anyone else’s back but their own. It is really terrible to improvise with someone like that because they often will reject your ideas and force you to use theirs. We all teach our kids about how important sharing and caring is and this is exactly what this rule is all about. We want to be around people who are kind and supportive!
  4. Make big choices early and often! Many improvisers might stand around and do a scene about getting ready to jump off of an airplane. This can be quite anti-climactic for an audience to watch. Do the scene having already jumped. Improv teaches us to make bold choices without being fearful of what others may think about us. Learn this skill when you are young as well, because as we age, we become more fearful and less flexible. I also mean this literally. Sorry adults, but you know this is the truth. 
  5. If you’re scared, look into your partner’s eyes! You will feel better. I was doing an improv show in a giant banana suit. My scene partner was in a terrifying gorilla costume. I looked into their primate eyes to instantly felt better. Because they looked more miserable and wackier than me. I felt better, see how that works? Looking into people’s eyes makes us feel more connected and allows us to understand how the other person is feeling at that moment. Faces tell us so many things like when someone is angry, sick or asleep. Not only that, but improv gives kids the opportunity to put down the phone and give their mind a much needed break from the screen time.
  6. Learn how to fail! I cannot begin to tell you how many scenes I have been in that have completely flopped. And that is okay! Mistakes are owned and encouraged which help the improviser not only feel less scared, but confident in their choices. You slowly start to forget the fear of failing, because you’re used to moving on. You start taking more chances in life because who cares if you fail? If it didn’t work out, try again, and if it still doesn’t – on to the next thing! As we grow older, failure increasingly intimidates us. We grow apprehensive to trying new things and putting ourselves on the spot. However, teaching this to children at a young age will help them better cope with failure and rejection. 


I know, I know. It sounds awesome and totally inspirational! There are many improv classes in Los Angeles for both adults and children, which I highly recommend. Improvisers are beginning to be hired by huge business corporations to teach their employees how to be silly, work on a team, grow their public speaking skills, and to think more quickly on their feet. It’s a valuable skill for every profession, not just performers. You don’t have to take a class, but I do recommend trying to apply these concepts to your life. Every moment of every day of your life is improv.

I enjoy incorporating dramatic play and theatrical exercises here at Kidspace! If you observe children, you will notice that they have an easier time letting go of inhibitions. They don’t censor themselves. They don’t worry about being judged for their off-the-wall ideas or imaginary friends. They truly have fun in the moment. I hope to continue encouraging guests here to utilize that same imagination and silliness! If you see me around the museum, give me a high five, say ‘yes and’ and please, make stuff up!


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Jacquie Waldman, Arts Specialist, has been with Kidspace since 2013. Previously a Museum Educator, she is a graduate of Whittier College with a degree in theatre performance and studio art with an emphasis in photography.