Do Improv, Win Friends, Influence People

The UCB’s Will Hines, on why everyone should do improv:

Improv can make you funnier, will likely make you a better actor, and could maybe even get you work. But one thing it will definitely do is make you better at having conversations.

You listen better, you speak to the heart of the matter more, you lie less, you speak more concisely.

But also, you will be better because most of the human race is so unbelievably bad at conversations. After years in improv, I can barely stand speaking to anyone who either isn’t an improviser or is someone who would just naturally be good at it.

Most people, in conversation, speak solely about themselves, and in a way that matters only to themselves, with no ability to sympathize for the other conversational party may think or feel. They listen to other people only for opportunities to speak about things they want to and once they get going cannot be dissuaded. They speak inefficiently and amazingly redundantly. They rarely laugh at what’s funny and instead only at what makes them nervous or at recognizable references to famous things.

Improvisers do all these things too but less often and they know enough to feel badly about it.

There is lots more here. Other posts are good, too – like this one.

(Oh, and confidential to the dude in Will’s story: Learning To Eat Soup With A Knife.)

Amanda Taub


  1. Now let us ponder the way in which being barely able to stand having a conversation with someone who isn't into improv qualifies as getting better at conversation.

  2. RobertB, roundsquare – I don't think he actually meant that he can't stand non-improv people. I know Will, and he actually likes talking to people in general. (I don't do improv at all, and he and I have very nice conversations in which he didn't seem to hate me a bit.)

    "People who would be good at improv," as defined in this piece, I think means "non-annoying people." Which is who most of us like to talk to.

    Regardless, his advice about listening to people is really solid, I think, and it is indeed something that improvisers learn.

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