Educate Yo’self: Tips For Becoming a Better Improviser

A guest post by Kate Harlow

My name is Kate Harlow. I'm 25 years old, and I am an improviser. I've been improvising for about 7 years. I've been improvising well for 3 of those years. I began in Buffalo, New York - and have since migrated south to Carrboro, North Carolina.  My home theater is The DSI Comedy Theater. It is with the teachings of DSI, and the variety of instructors I’ve had access to through DSI that I have been able to compile some suggestions to help you become the best improviser you can be.

When I first began performing improv, I learned a lot of bad habits. There are many things and peoples I could place blame on, but I think it better to accept things that have happened and choose to move forward. That mindset is a very fundamental improv skill - accepting the past and moving forward in a positive direction. The following are some recommendations that I have found to ring true, time and time again.

Firstly I suggest that you consume as much theater as possible. Not just improv, not just comedy- all genres and styles. At some point you may be asked to call on these tropes- and the second best way to emulate something is to be able to recall it. The best way, of course, is to have experienced it first hand. See concerts, see stand up comics, chat up bartenders. People watching is one of the best tools at your own disposal.

Next of importance is to take classes, get into as many classes as you can. Experience them over again- just because you’ve finished your 101 class doesn’t mean you’re done learning all the skills from 101. Sign up for other kinds of classes, the more things you are able to learn, the more knowledge you have in your personal arsenal. Learn from different people, allow a wealth of people to contribute to all the things you learn. Read books, blogs, newspapers, any- and all material you can find. Consider material written by people you disagree with, this way you can learn how those other people think.

The most important thing, the one thing that, in my opinion, is essential: Have joy. Be a joyful, happy person. Surround yourself with happy people, people who love what they do. Love what you do! If you reach a point in time where you are not enjoying what you are doing- take a break! It's ok to take a step back and breathe. Look back at what made you want to start to begin with. When you do go back with fresh eyes: have even more fun. Remember that you do something totally unique, something special, something that only a certain number of people in the world do well. Love what you do.

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Kate Harlow was born on Long Island, raised in Buffalo- and moved out of New York State to North Carolina in 2011. Being on stage has been a part of Kate's life since she was young. Years of training in ballet gave way to acting and eventually improvising. Kate currently devotes her time to the DSI Comedy Theater and watching Doctor Who. For more information about Kate and DSI please visit the official site.

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