Where Great Lines Come From

Electric-BrainA lot of improvisers get this question:

“How do you come up with all those funny lines so fast?”

Brace yourself.  I’m going to reveal a MAJOR secret of improv…

We don’t.

To be fair, I suppose there are some that do – a few mental geniuses who could have been calculating the metric density of plutons in a collapsing black hole, but dedicated themselves to spontaneously creating fart jokes instead.

But the moments in improv that REALLY catch you by surprise, the ones that create raucous unstoppable, authentic laughter don’t come from improviser’s brains.

They come from a combination of observing, being willing to make mistakes, and being SO focused on what’s happening around them that someone feels safe enough to just open their mouths and see what comes out.  Improvisers trust that, no matter what they say, their colleagues will back them up and support their calls. They’re not afraid of screwing up, because they know the audience will love it, the cast will make it right, and everything will go on.

Just remember – be obvious (one person’s obvious is another person’s brilliant) and mistakes are gifts.  And when you’re on stage with talented people who have your back, you don’t have to be a comedic Einstein – you just have to be  willing to be completely selfless and open your mouth.

The best “lines” are the ones that surprise the person who just spoke them.