Ant colony

“Improv actors should behave like ants in a colony. Every player is an agent of the group mind.” — Bart Van Loon, 3rd May 2015, Würzburg (DE)

How can an ant colony be so effectively managed? How do most distributed systems in computer science work? The key is that every part is doing its best, without having all the information or taking all responsibility. There’s no question even on who is in charge. Nobody is ever. Yet everybody is all the time.


“You are not responsible for the scene; the group is. You are responsible your partners on stage.” — Rod Ben Zeev, 15th November 2014, Utrecht (NL)

Pretty self explanatory, isn’t it? The concept of group responsibility is really core to improv. No individual can or may make all of the big decisions.

Mind that you’re not even responsible for yourself. The others are! You are only responsible to take care of your partners.

Tennis or golf

“See improv like a game of tennis, not golf.” — Patti Stiles, 18th October 2013, Würzburg (DE)

In both tennis and golf players each get a turn to hit the ball. In golf you’re doing your own thing in your own world and only try to do better than your opponent. In tennis however, everything you do is in direct response to what your opponent just did. You cannot play tennis without paying very close attention to your opponent all the time.

Perhaps a more accurate comparison would be ‘a friendly game of tennis’, just to leave out the competitive element altogether.

Act like a sports team

“Act like a sports team.” — Tim Orr, 18th May 2013, Antwerp (BE)

Tim Orr was explaining how to get create the stage magic our audiences are deserving. I’m sure he’s getting this from his background as a basketball coach.

During the workshop, he would regularly have us do simple ball games and ask us to hit a person on the butt if they did something great. It enforces the team spirit and connection to one another.

Improv is the ultimate team sports after all, isn’t it?