On Being a Good Improv Citizen

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If you’re getting started, you’re going to get taught a lot of different ways to perform on stage. And you should go out and sponge up everything you can! What you might not know immediately is how to be a responsible teammate and performer. Here’s a list of some tips I hope will help you.

Don’t give notes to your teammates, unless they ask for them

Sometimes you may notices something about one of your teammate’s work that you think they should know about. This is not your place.  If you feel it is so important that you just have to do it, ask if you can give the note first. And if they say no, let it drop.  That said…

Let your teammate know if they’re being offensive or behaving improperly, or tell your coach

On the other hand if a teammate is being offensive in shows, practices or when hanging out you definitely should let them know they’re behaving in a bad way.  If this isn’t possible, or you don’t feel comfortable with that confrontation, let your coach know

Hang out with your team

Hopefully this comes naturally! Sometimes teams get put together by theaters and you might not make time to hang out as a group outside of shows and rehearsals. Make time. Go have fun in a non-improv setting. Bond over non-improv things! The best teams are ones that have fun with each other off-stage too.

Be on time

To rehearsals, to shows, to team meetings. Most improvisers I know are chronically late (… I know I am). But it’s BS. Make the time to get there when the team’s there. Especially if you’re paying for a teacher or coach’s time, you’re wasting the group’s money. Many coaches will start on time no matter who’s there and you risk missing instruction and forcing the rehearsal to double-back.

Honor your commitments

Give a proper heads up when you can’t be where you say you’ll be. Don’t text ten minutes before a show or rehearsal that you’re not making it.

Have your dues ready

If your team has dues, or if you all chip in to pay for coaches or promotions, pay it promptly. Team Treasurer is a very hard position. If you don’t use something like Venmo, bring that cash money.

Don’t argue with your coach

Take the note. Even if you disagree with it, take the note. During a rehearsal or a show review is not the time to justify your choices. Find the lesson being taught and digest it. Arguing the validity of a coach’s note is a waste of time and it reflects poorly on you.

If your coach isn’t working out for you, or you have other issues with their coaching, bring it up in a team meeting.

Be respectful of your theaters/venues

Don’t trash the green room. Don’t mess up the bar. Oh my gosh, don’t bad-mouth the venue or crowd from the stage. That sounds crazy but I’ve seen it. Be respectful of the places that let you go up.

Don’t drink all of the free beer if it’s provided

Come on! And pitch in if there’s a donation jar.

Don’t get sloppy drunk or high before a show

Not fun to play with. Not fun to watch. It’s a bad thing to do to your team. Know your limits.

Be respectful of the other teams/shows

Go watch the other teams on the bill!  If you really want to hang out in the green room or back of the room don’t be disruptive during other sets. Hearing people talking during a set sucks as it is, when it’s your colleagues it’s even worse. And by watching other teams maybe you’ll be inspired to work with new people, try new formats, or find a new tools you can use yourself.

Give the audience a chance to participate

When a team is asking for a suggestion, give the civilians in the audience a chance to yell out.  It might take a few seconds, but it’s important to get people involved. If you have a great suggestion locked and loaded and shout it immediately you’re not letting a paying customer get in on the fun.

Quit the team

Here’s your permission. If you’re on a team that isn’t working for you anymore and you’ve given it time to see if it’ll come back around and it doesn’t, quit. If you’re not getting what you need out of it as an artist, quit. If your relationships with people have soured or gone distant and you’re not connecting on stage anymore, quit. If you’re finding yourself missing every other rehearsal and most shows (without reason), quit.

If you can bring your problems up in a team meeting and work through it, great! But you always have the option of walking away.

Be humble, be hungry

Never think you’ve got it figured out. If you’ve been playing for a while still introduce yourself to newcomers, offer to help. Keep looking for new approaches, new tools, new teachers, new coaches.

Go see shows. Help your community. Be the player you’d want to be playing with.