Watching people who are good at improv, like on the TV show Whose Line Is It Anyway?, seems so easy. They jump on stage, make up things on the spot with no script, and make people laugh.

You might think, “There is no way I can do that!” Don’t worry, you can! At our Summer Drama Camps near Overland Park, we play improv games daily. We know that improv is a skill anyone can learn, and it will help you grow as a person and performer. Here are the four ways improvisation builds self-confidence.

*Always say “yes and…”

The cornerstone of improv is always to say yes. Listen to your partner, accept what they give you, say “yes and…” then add your bit to the story. If your partner says, “I ate a cake,” you could say, “yes, and I drank a pie too.” In our acting classes for kids, we work on this skill to always say “yes and.” This will keep the improv flowing with just about no effort.

When you think about it, our lives are improvised. We are always having conversations where we don’t know what to say, yet we keep saying things. You are already improvising every day. If you say “yes and” you can improvise on stage with a partner and never run out of ideas.

This skill will give you confidence that you are in charge of a scene. You will always have another idea because you and your partner are sharing ideas, building a story together one idea at a time. Trust in “yes and” and you will be making people laugh in no time.

*It is not about you

Improv teaches you to be true, not to be funny. You should always stay true to a scene and not always look for a funny thing to say. Many improvisers get nervous thinking all the things they say must be hilarious. Telling jokes, one after another, is stand-up comedy. Creating stories with a partner on the spot is improvisation.  

In an improv scene, it is not about you. You are one part of a storytelling machine. You just need to add one bit to the story, then trust your partner will add the next. It is not about you being funny all the time. Instead, it is about you being truthful.

The audience will always enjoy following an improvised story that is true. Trust that you will find the funny as the story goes along. But never feel pressured to tell joke after joke. When you realize this, you will be confident that the story is not about you. You are a storyteller that just needs to add one little piece at a time.  

At our Summer Drama Camps near Overland Park, we begin each improvisation lesson this way. We work together to create improvisation scenes one line at a time, one truth at a time. You will grow in your confidence to improvise when you know you can tackle one idea at a time.

*Just be your obvious self

When we are on stage, we often feel the pressure to be original and interesting all the time. This would make anyone anxious! In improv, we focus on just being obvious. In any scene, we just say who we are and what we want in the most obvious way we can.

If we are given the suggestion that we are a mouse, we can say, “I am a mouse, and I want cheese .” For our next bit, we can say, “Where is the cheese? I want to find the cheese!”. If we can’t find the cheese, we can lament, “I am starving for cheese! MUST HAVE CHEESE”.

Keep it simple. Keep it obvious. Stay true to the basics, and what you say and do on stage in an improv scene will be interesting and original. Once you accept that, your confidence will grow and grow.

*You never want to be perfect.

We often think that when we get onstage, the goal is to be perfect. That does not help us in improv. We don’t expect perfection from other people, and we should never expect it from ourselves.

When you are improvising, you should treat any mistake as a gift. When something goes wrong, ask yourself, “How can I add to this?” Audiences love when something unexpected happens on stage. Our lives are filled with crazy accidents and stumbles all the time. Seeing an improviser stumble, then recover and move on, can be hilarious.

Strive to always be in the moment and to be true. Do not worry about being perfect. Just be perfectly yourself, and the audience will accept and appreciate it.

Follow these four steps, and your confidence to improvise will improve dramatically. When we listen to others in an improv scene and focus our attention on really hearing them, that improves the scene and helps to increase everyone’s sense of confidence.

Join our Summer Drama Camp near Overland Park and jump onstage for some improv games. Every day we see performers creating funny scenes, crazy characters, and wacky stories. Our goal in our drama classes for kids is to see every performer grow in their self-confidence.