The very interesting Improv Questions podcast (which annoyingly doesn’t have a proper podcast feed) has a new episode up all about coaching. I did a good bit of reflection while listening to this one. Stream it at Bandcamp.
All great improv is done in the moment. Like anyone else starting a scene, I either make the first offer, or respond to the first offer, and go from there. I don’t go in expecting anything, and find if I go in trying to do anything I either won’t succeed at it or I won’t succeed in having a good scene.
If I go into a scene with, say, TJ, thinking any variation of “OMG OMG OMG”… I’m in my head from moment one and I’m fucked. Likewise, if I’m with a rookie thinking, oh, this person isn’t good, I’ve got to dumb it down… I’m probably limiting both of us.
There’s a saying in college basketball, “Don’t play the name on the jersey.” If a small school is preparing for an NCAA Tournament game with, say, vaunted Duke University, it’s too easy to psyche themselves out on the name DUKE and their history plus high caliber of talent, and completely get the small school out of their game. Conversely, if a big school looks down at a lesser opponent and doesn’t do much to prepare for them, they increase the chances of suffering the upset loss. If you focus on the actual players and team, and matching up with them in the moment, you will have a better chance of exploiting opportunities, playing to your strengths, and beating them.
Being self-critical is one thing, but being self-punishing is something else. Being self-flagellant isn’t productive. And ultimately, that’s what the job is, is to produce, right?
So I think there’s something to be said for, just, be gentle. Do better next time. And never stop moving.