Q&A: Improv is Not Funny

As much as improv is a hobby, and this book is a passion project, I wouldn’t pursue it if I didn’t think it had value to a broader audience. With that in mind, I want to know what YOU want to know about improvisation.

I posed the following question to twitter:

Conveniently, Mike Gorgone, a fellow UX professional and improviser was the first to respond.

Mike isn’t wrong. The association that improv is funny, or people who do improv are funny is a common one. But let me dispel this now:

MOST IMPROVISERS ARE NOT INHERENTLY FUNNY. And while some improvisers strive for comedy, many more are interested in world building. The root of improvisation is active listening. It’s being present in the moment.

Mean Girls, 2004, Adapting the quote “Stop trying to make fetch happen”

Often, what the audience finds funny is a performer picking up on a small detail and exploiting it. Standup and sketch comedy are all about building to a punchline or gimmick. Improv is built organically, on the spot. So while punchlines (or the button in improv) are common, they are the product of the journey, and not the initial goal.

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What does this mean for collaboration?

Designers are often told when assigned a project “great, go be creative”. But creativity is not a goal or deliverable. It is the byproduct of a process. It is the result of carefully listening to what stakeholders and customers say and do. It’s picking up on small details and exploiting them. Delightful moments and disruptive products don’t emerge out of thin air. They grow over time.

When collaborating, I urge you to work together and to seek out the unusual. To identify opportunities. Collaborative Improv strives to offer tools, lenses, and a vocabulary for this exploration.

I hope you find it useful.

What do you want to know?

What do you want to know about Improv for Collaboration?

Leave a comment below, or respond to the original tweet (above too).

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