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


International Talk Like a Pirate Day

Avast me hearties, it be talk like a pirate day. That bein’ the case, I’ll be posting a pirate pun this mornin’ Arrrgh!

It’s not often you see a pirate on the street in Topeka, Kansas. But this morning that’s just what I saw. He was dressed as piratey as he could be, right down to the peg leg and eye patch. The only incongruity was, in place of a hat, he had a paper towel. I also noted that his behavior was a bit strange. He kept looking behind him, and seemed, frankly, to be a bit paranoid. So I asked him what he was afraid of. “Arrrgh,” he said, “I’ve got a Bounty on me head.”

OK, enough of that. This blog is supposed to be about laugh2learn, and how  you can use improv concepts to improve the environment at work and, for that matter, at home. The main concept is “yes…and.” Based on the notion of accepting the offer from another and adding to it. The opposite is “yes…but,” which stifles creativity. When we work with employers, we usually do verbal and physical exercises to demonstrate the power of “yes…and,” but here is a powerful exercise you can do almost anytime anywhere, and you don’t even need to hire me to do it!

Find two or three partners and sit at a table with a single sheet of paper. Your goal is to create a drawing. If you want you can decide what kind of drawing you will create; face, landscape, animal, etc. Then without speaking further, one person makes a single mark on the paper and passes it to the next person who also makes a single mark. Continue passing the paper, each player adding a single mark until one person feels that the drawing is complete. Again without speaking that person writes a single letter on the paper. This is the beginning of the title of the work of art. Each person contributes a letter until the drawing is complete. Katt Koppett’s Training to Imagine has some wondeful examples

I have used this technique with people from sixth grade to adults. The quality and creativity of the resulting artwork never cease to amaze me.

Saturday’s Pun

Big day today, the Senior Class Improv Comedy Company has a gig at Topeka Civic Theatre.

Not much else going on, except for the pun of the day: A novice horse trainer was trying to gain any possible advantage. He reasoned that too much hair was not only adding weight to his horse, it made him less aerodynamic. The solution seemed obvious. Shave the horse. Unfortunately, the horse got a very bad sunburn and couldn’t even stand to wear a saddle. Sadly, the trainer learned a pony shaved is a pony burned.

Success and Responsibility

Just a couple of things on my mind this morning. Let’s take them in chronological order:

First the community building excercise for the incoming MPH students at The University of Kansas Medical Center was an unqualified success! At the end of the session, I heard one student remark, “I have been on campus for three months, and this is the first time I feel like I belong here.” Of course, in addition to accomplishing our goal of creating a sense of community, we all had fun. Yours truly most of all.

Sunday was my son Glenn’s birthday celebration, and as is our custom, the entire family went out to eat at the restaurant of his choosing. Our server was a very pleasant young woman, but when the food arrived, one order was missing. When I called it to her attention, she said, “My fault, I failed to put it in. I will get it in right away.” Wow! “My fault, I failed to put it in!” Not, “The kitchen messed up your order,” or “Someone else must have picked it up.” “My fault.” I was very impressed.

At laugh2learn, we include accepting and celebrating failure as an essential part of being successful. Acknowledging a mistake and taking responsibility for it, goes hand in hand with accepting failure. I was very impressed with our server, and although the service was less than perfect she earned a healthy tip.

Did The Ancient Hebrews Have Improv Training

This morning  at Grace Cathedral the lesson from the Hebrew Scriptures was about Moses and Pharaoh’s Daughter. I have recorded a little video on You Tube in case you would rather listen to than read the story. 

According the the Hebrew Scripture, when the Hebrews in Egypt started to become too powerful, Pharaoh ordered the midwives to kill all of the male children born to the Hebrew women. The midwives wouldn’t do it. When Pharaoh discovered that there were many male children among he Hebrews he called the midwives to ask why. They responded that the Hebrew women were so strong and healthy that by the time a midwife could get to them, the baby was already born.

Still concerned with the proliferation of male Hebrews, Pharaoh ordered that all the male children born to Hebrew women should be thrown into the Nile. When Moses was born, his mother built a little basket of papyrus and put the baby in it and hid it in some reeds in the river. She sent her daughter to watch and see what happened. It just so happened that Pharaoh’s daughter went to bathe at that very spot in the river. (Think Moses’ mother didn’t know that?) When Pharoah’s daughter saw the baby in the basket, she decided to keep it as her own.

Seeing this, Moses’ sister ran to the Egyptian Princess and offered to find a nurse for the baby. When the Princess assented, Moses sister ran and got her mother to be the nurse.

Pretty clever. Now, not only did Moses’ mother save her child’s life, she got to raise him and, got paid to do so.

After service a friend and I were talking about the story and he remarked on how often in the stories in the Hebrew Scripture people seem to be able to think on their feet quickly. In this story the Midwive’s  quick thinking saved them from Pharaoh’s wrath, and Moses’ sisters quick thinking allowd Moses’ mother to raise her own child.

It made me wonder if the Hebrews had some improv training. One of the goals of improv training is to help you learn to think quickly on your feet. If you would like to learn how to react quickly, improv training is available, among other places, at Laugh2Learn. And remember if  you don’t get what you want from a Laugh2Learn training, it’s free.