August 13

Are Online Improv Classes Worth It?

COVID-19 has impacted the entertainment and performing art industries as hard as any, if not more so. And that’s been evident since the beginning here in Las Vegas, where live entertainment is a major part of our everyday life and business.

It’s hit smaller theatres even harder since they don’t have the resources to comply with the guidelines currently in place. In fact, it’s such a big problem that several local Las Vegas creative organizations have come together to form the Producers Alliance of Southern Nevada.

With local theatres and classes shut down or severely limited for the foreseeable future, the move to to bring improv classes online into a virtual setting was obvious. While there have been mixed reactions from people trying to perform or learn the art of improvisation online, it can work, it is still fun, and it can be immensely helpful.

Especially when you have a tech nerd and an improv nerd at the helm who have lived and breathed both of these areas for 20+ years.

Online Improv is Not In-Person Improv

In the early days, when we were all quarantined at home, the novelty of Zoom meetings and being able to see our friends was fun. But, many in the theatre world realized that any improv shows or classes didn’t have the same connectivity or feel to them.

Doing improv online is not the same as doing it in person, whether for a show, for a class, or just for fun. Period.

There’s no way around it, and as improvisers, we should be the first to understand this, accept it, and say “yes, and” to it. But the community has had a hard time doing so at times.

In various reading I’ve done, as well as in my own experience watching people try different things online, we are stuck in our old ways. I’ve seen the same games, the same forms, the same tag outs, and the same sweep edits as always, many of which simply don’t work with the inherent lag and bugs the internet introduces.

Space work and object work have less context and meaning. Heck, you can’t even hear the other person at random times. The worst part? Our eye contact (and thus, much of our connection) is gone.

And look, if you’ve found a place doing this and enjoy it, by all means, continue doing so. While it may be a drag for me, I realize it may be the one thing someone else looks forward to during the week.

But we realized right away that improv as we knew it would not work the same online. In March and April, 2020, we took the time to figure out what would work, and what didn’t. Like with anything in improv, you have to lean into the uncomfortable and use it as a catalyst to propel you to places you would have never thought of otherwise.

So, that’s what we did. We forgot everything we knew about improv, and we improvised improv for a virtual environment. We aren’t alone in this. We even spoke with Special Guest App for their piece on how entertainers are dealing with COVID-19.

How an Online Improv Class Can Help You

As I’m the computer nerd at our company, the technology part didn’t scare me. In fact, it brings in its own unique set of opportunities to play with. If mistakes are gifts, this whole pandemic was one huge birthday party, with tears and hurt feelings included. But also, gifts.

It also happens that we’ve spent a lot of our improv lives working with companies, teams, groups, professionals, and individuals on how improv can help in real life. Whether it’s at work and in the business world, or at home with our partners and kids, improv teaches us a ton about how to be a better version of ourselves, even when done online.

And so we’ve mixed, matched, and made up brand new exercises, games, and things to try as we embrace our current scene, say yes to it, and lean into what feels weird since that’s exactly what we’ve been telling everyone else to do in improv for years. And we love where this has taken us. Need more convincing?

10 Benefits You Can Expect From an Online Improv Class

● Connect with other people

● Improve your self confidence

● Try something new!

● Exercise your mental muscles

● Work on your communication skills

● Also, specifically work on your listening skills

● We have dance parties (where even this computer nerd joins in)

● Dedicated time to play as an adult (which has many benefits)

● For some, improv feels as good as a therapy session

● Laughing helps you live longer

While we personally won’t be teaching or playing any long form improv online anytime soon, it’s only because we feel we can offer something more unique and beneficial right now, and we are excited to see where that path takes us.

In the past few weeks, just in our drop-in classes alone, the topics for our classes have included dealing with “failure,” story telling (which we all do in all areas of life), play, heightening, exploring, when it’s time to just listen, points of view (paradigms), and more.

And that only scratches the surface of where an improv class will take you. While improv is commonly thought of as a tool for actors, or a performance art, it can be used for so much more than that. In fact, we’ve started a whole line of events and courses around this premise, and over the years, they’ve turned into our Functional Improv™ events.

Speed dating, book clubs, and job preparation are just a few of the things we’ve done in this realm. And we’re generalizing it more to our current world and situation in our current online improv class offerings.

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