Improv Training

From time to time in this space I have tried to explain how we can use improv to improve performance in many professions. But I have seldom seen it better explained than in this blog by my friend Gina Trimarco Cligrow.

I met Gina last Spring when I attended the Applied Improvisation Network’s conference in Baltimore. Now because she has already said it better than I ever could I’m asking you to read what she has written about the power of improv training. If you have any questions or comments, please contact me!

That blog again


Improv Q & A

I recently received an email from Paul Z Jackson, President of the Applied Improvisation Network. In it he sets out in Q & A format,a succinct description of what improv based training is all about. For your information, I’m reprinting it here:

Paul Z Jackson Interview

I was interviewed by a magazine journalist recently. Here are her questions, along with my (slightly edited) answers.

What’s the one key improv skill which could help anyone perform better at work?

The key improv skill is called ‘yes…and’, which means accepting and building. The accepting part depends on listening carefully so you are clear what’s being offered. Then – assuming you choose to accept (‘Yes’) – you build on that offer (‘And’), so that all the people in the conversation are constructing something useful together.

How does improv help you switch off the feeling of being self-conscious and help you access your creative self? What can you do to make this happen in everyday situations?

Improv helps you access your creativity by removing a lot of the fear of being wrong. You get more confident to have a go, and see your contribution as a low-risk experiment. A good tip for everyday is to listen for what you can agree with in what others are saying, and respond positively by building on those parts of the conversation. Conversation is turn-taking, and you can choose how to play your turns.

How is improv important in neutralising fear/anxiety? What tricks can you use to mimic that in a work situation?

Improv is not really about tricks or even removing feelings of self-consciousness. It’s about applying some of the on-stage skills used so brilliantly by performers in shows like ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway’ to everyday situations in which we interact with other people.

Thank  you Paul!

Work Like A Dog!

At the recent Applied Improvisation Network conference in Baltimore, I had the privilege of meeting Matt Weinstein, and heard him elaborate a bit on his book, Work Like Your Dog. One of the things that impressed me most is that dogs don’t distinguish between work and play. It made me think about a recent visit to Alaska where we watched training Alaskan Huskies. I was amazed by the absolute joy they displayed at the sight of the harness.

Sled Dogs

They were literally leaping for joy! Can you imagine what it would feel like to approach work with that attitude? Can you imagine working with colleagues that had that attitude? If you take another look at Matt’s book, you may find some ways to at least come close.

My Dog, Rufus, Listening

Matt also noted that dogs have many other desirable characteristics. For example, they listen intently, even when they don’t understand a word you say.

At laugh2learn, I have developed a new improv based game to help people learn to listen like a dog. If you’d like more information, let me know.

Finally, I’d like to hear from you. What other canine traits should we humans try to emulate? Do you think we can, or are there some ways dogs will always be superior?

The oldest type of humor: Fart humor

I just returned from the Applied Improvisation Network’s Conference in Baltimore, and I learned so much and had such a good time.While the conference was exciting and educational one of the highlights of the trip was our VIP tour of the American Visual Arts Museum.

Oustide AVAM

Since “laugh” is a part of my name, I was especially interested in the current exhibit which will run through October entitled “What Makes Us Smile?” It may make some smile but it made me laugh out loud more than once.

Among the things I found rewarding was learning that throughout history one of the best sources of humor has been the fart. In fact, the earliest known humourous publications dating from the 12th century include fart humor. I use a fart story as an introduction to most of my presentaions. Because I believe that self depcratory humor is a great way to begin any presentation I like to tell the story of my first granddaughter. For her parents her arrival was one of the great events of human history. They posted her sonogram on the web. (Common now but not so common 12 years ago.) Even before she was born, they needed to know what we grandparents wanted to be called. It would be a shame if she emerged from the womb and used the wrong name for a grandparent. My wife choose “Grandma,” and my daughter-in-law’s mother selected “Granny.” I selected “The Grandfather.” I suppose I may have been joking, but when my son scoffed, I dug in my heels. “I shall be known as ‘The Grandfather.” I said.

Well, the child didn’t actually begin talking for a few weeks, and when she did begin, like most new speakers her diction wasn’t that hot, and I became known as THE GRANDFARTER! When participants in my training want to know if I want to be addressed as “Dr. Stottlemire” I tell them they may call me what the family does. It is quite rewarding when someone raises their hand to ask a question and prefaces it with, “Grandfarter, could you explain what you mean….”

Who me, blog?

For several years I have been operating Laugh2Learn successfully. I have done so with a minimum of advertisement, depending on repeat business and word of mouth advertising. I recently decided I wanted to be more aggressive in marketing, and as a first step hired my friend Shau Marcotte of SLabImaging to help me. Shaun was good; he asked me a lot of questions about how I viewed my business; what made it unique; what niche was I looking for etc. After much thought I told him that people in my business tend to feature either humor or content. My niche is that I use humor to deliver content. Taking that information he developed and I adopted this logo:I would like to have some input on this. What do you think? Does it convey the message?

Shaun’s next suggestion startled me. “Marv,” he said, “The modern way to advertise is through social media. You’ve got to start a blog.”

Well who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. I am writing and soon (I hope) you will be reading my blog. I hope it will direct you to my website,

“Blog?” I said, “What do I put in a blog?”

“Just tell people what you have been doing. When you do a gig, tell about it.”

OK then Shaun, here goes:

Friday, May 20 I taught a six-hour Mediation and Conflict Resolution session to 14 Co-Op directors in the Kansas Infant Toddler network. Last year I had trained six mediators for the program, and my friends in the Infant Toddler program at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment felt that co-op directors could benefit from a deeper understanding of the mediation process. I designed and presented three sections — one each in Wichita, Garden City and Topeka. A fourth is scheduled for June 24 in Salina. The evaluations have been excellent.

Shaun said put in pictures, so here I am leading the discussion in Topeka:

Saturday was a great day: I attended the hooding ceremony for the graduating Masters of Public Health at the University of Kansas School of Medicine. Since I teach a required course, I knew most of the graduates, and was able to meet their families and congratulate the graduates. Some of the families had come from as far away as Arizona, New Mexico, and Costa Rica.
I enjoy my work at KUMC. I love being around intelligent young people and one doesn’t get into graduate school without a measure of intelligence. But teaching public health graduates is even more exciting because of their values. No one goes into public health to get rich. These students are all committed to improving the lot of their fellow human beings and the planet on which we all live.

Tuesday, May 24,  I am going to the University of Kansas Medical Center in Wichita, to conduct a session on Emotional Intelligence. Dr. Suzanne Hawley, the site coordinator for the MPH program on the Wichita campus invited be to present a training on Emotional Intelligence to her team. As a part of the training I have arranged for each team member to take the Bar-On EQ-i assessment. In addition to discussing emotional intelligence concepts I will provide individual feedback to the team on their assessment.

Life is more than teaching; it must, if we are to stay young, involve learning. I am very excited to be attending the Applied Improvisation Network’s ( World Conference in Baltimore June 16 through 19. I attended this conference in Chicago in 2009, and laughed and learned and laughed and learned some more. I can hardly wait!

Well there you have it, my first blog post. I look forward to your feedback.