What does the Columbus improv community have to say about getting started in improv comedy? Here's some of their best advice:
“Talk to people in the community before and after their shows to start networking. They are a great source of opportunities in the community”-Alex Lefeld, TBD: the Improvised Musical, founder Fishbowl
"This is advice/suggestion from a person that originally STARTED improv as a way to gain confidence and not from a performing stand point: Take a class (just go for it) and go see a show(s). You will meet people at these classes and shows. Get to know them. Ask them questions/advice/take notes. Yea, it's scary. But guess what?! Improv community is filled with some of the most supportive, motivating, encouraging peeps ever.
Oh hey, you want to perform, but kinda scared about it? Start your own improv crew with some of those people from your class and start getting together once a week to practice. Then, when you're ready, CBus will be waiting for you and your crew to play with us!
"Say yes to as many invites as you can in the beginning! It takes time to find the right people to prov with and the right venues" -Tyler Davis, Fishbowl veteran, Second City
"The improv community is super positive and supportive. Reach out to people who you love to watch perform and be nice! Tearing people down will get you nowhere!"-Katie Lynn Drown, TBD: the Improvised Musical, ROT
"Take in improv from everywhere. Go to live shows here, look up shows from Chicago, LA and NYC on YouTube and see what you like and what you don't. Bring back what you like to your group. Eventually you'll find your style between everyone else's and have an unique voice."-Erik Sternberger, FFN, eriksternberger.com
"Look for jams and meetups--find ways to play on stage with a broad range of performers and try out different styles and formats. You'll find people you love to perform with, and you'll also become a more versatile performer."-Alex Dodge, TBD: the Improvised Musical, Improv Instructor ACPA
"First and foremost, open your mind. Second, go see a show. Third, take a class. The bonds you will form with first time improvisers last a lifetime. Lastly, open your mind." David Price, host of Dave Night
"1) Go to shows! You’ll meet people and get a good idea of the scene.
2) If you want to dabble, try a meetup or jam. They're usually free!
3) Take a class!
No wrong answers! The more you do improv stuff here, the more you’ll figure out what’s right for you!"-Jeremy Pelzer, co-founder Columbus Improv Comedy Meetup
"Classes, shows, meet ups, talk to people in the community and find out what's going on. They're all helpful and supportive. See shows in other markets as well. The Improv scene here in Columbus has exploded in the past 10 years and it's only getting bigger and better."-Jeff Gage, instructor Improv-Columbus, owner Engage Corporate Improv Team Building, founder Improv Wars
"#1 take multiple classes, #2 do any show that will let you on stage, #3 embrace miserable failure -rinse, wash, repeat."-Matt W., Hashtag Comedy
"1. Think about why you want to do improv. What inspired you to take this step? Is it to meet new people? To perform? To add a new skill set for life/work? Taking a deep dive into why you want to initially take this step will help you find where to best take that step.
2. Google Improv Columbus Ohio. Take a class to learn a skill and perform. Do a meet up and see shows if you want to meet new people. Actually do it all if you are in any way serious.
3. If you want to be a part of the community, then be a part of the community. Go to shows and support your friends. Form a group and book shows. Lots of unused venues in town.
4. Think about what makes you unique as a person. What is interesting about you? This will help key what type of improv you will enjoy doing and what best suits your strengths. If you have passion and it inspires you, that’s where you should go.
5. “Fail”. None of us in the community were at the level we wanted to be when started. The only common denominator for the more experienced of us is that we kept doing it. Don’t be afraid to take chances and go with your inspiration. It will pay off in unexpected ways in the long run."-Scott T. Wheeler, @scotttwheeler
"Improv is for everyone and I encourage people of color and different ethnic backgrounds to take a class. The improv community here is welcoming. If you don’t see people that look like you performing learn the fundamentals and either join or form a group. If you’re not ready to commit to a class you can attend a meet up or stop by an improv jam."-Carolyn Pierre-Louis, ComedySportz, Andy’s Mints, Musical Mixtape
"If you are brand new to improv, I recommend that you find a class and take a class. It doesn't matter where, just take a class. It will teach you the basics of improvisation as well as introduce you to others who are already part of the community (instructors) as well as other people interested in joining the community too.
If you are already an experienced improviser, I would recommend going to shows and hang out and chat after. There are often improvisers in the audience so it is a great place to meet other improvisers and find out what's going on in town and opportunities to get involved."-Joe Teeters, Columbus Improv Veteran, The Joe Teeter's Experience
"I did Standup comedy for 5 years before i finally started doing improv and I'm really glad I did. It made me a better comic, better writer, better podcaster, and a better person."-Kevin Hendrix, Chatimals
"In addition to going to classes, watching shows, and talking to others in the community. My biggest suggestion is to check out improv outside of Columbus, go to a festival or improv camp, Pittsburgh has a great scene and is only 3 hour drive away, take a weekend trip to Chicago or an overnight bus to NYC. Are you in a new city and they have a theater, go check it out. Even watch stage theater, plays, hit up Mad Lab. Can't afford to travel? Youtube has tons of videos of UCB Cagematches, search improv on Vimeo. You'll find really clunky sets, but you'll also find some shows you think are cool or just want to talk about. I love Columbus improv, but the thing that's helped me grow the most is going to workshops or shows outside the city and observing something I'd love to bring back and share." -Dalia Natour, Andy's Mints, GNOBLES, DogPack
"1.) Read: improv is an art form and there's several blogs, articles and even textbooks on the fundamentals and technical aspects of improv.
2.) Attend shows and really WATCH what's happening. The best way to learn good Improv is watching good Improv. Shows are everywhere in this city and styles all vary. Which brings us to...
3.) Find your style/voice. Do you enjoy musical Improv? Start playing around with making up songs. Like more open-ended forms? Look up Longform shows or meetups and take in some rehearsed teams. Different teams perform differently and who knows, your style may be what the scene is missing.
4.) Consider classes. And not just improv classes (though there are many offered around town from several talented professionals). I came into improv with a bachelor's in theatre and a minor in vocal music, and all my Improv flows through that. Mime classes have shaped my object work. Script analysis helps me inform characters. Basic acting classes have helped me build a physical world that the audience can see. This is a performative art form and a facet of acting. Study the basics and a lot of Improv will flow from there.
5.) Find others with the same goals. The Columbus Improv Meetup has two nights a week for people to network, learn and grow as improvisors. Teams also form regularly from graduating members of Improv classes. Find folks you get along with and work with well and build that chemistry.
-Use other people's shows and practices as a vehicle to hand out resumes and business cards (I've had this happen a number of times and it's really just awkward for individuals who are just trying to put on a good show and, typically, aren't looking to expand their ranks.
-Expect any kind of "compensation" for supporting shows and groups. We appreciate you coming out, but if it's just because you hope to get onstage, that motive will typically show and can be off-putting.
-Be derisive or critical of groups as you start learning and doing Improv. At some point those same people may look for a group to guest star in a show and the better your relationship with the community, the more likely it is they'll reach out to you. And if they don't, DO NOT read into it or take it personally.
-Dont over think. This is supposed to be fun. Taking it too seriously and losing the play of it all defeats the purpose of performing. Just have fun!!!" Mark Hale Jr., Founder/Coach The Meowhatten Project, Pocket Lint, Go Long
"(1) Improv is The Best Therapy Ever - if you let it, improv can be extremely therapeutic, but you have to let go of "looking cool" or "trying to be funny" for it to work...
(2) Find your Tribe - As you take classes and visit different shows you will find the improv that fits your style. Short form, long form, experimental, etc. Be patient and when you find the people, the teacher or the style that you connect with, go for it, get lost in it... and
(3) Improv is not about confidence it is about comfortability - The most captivating and hilarious performers are not the ones with the most confidence, they are the ones who are most comfortable looking real, honest and even stupid if the scene needs you to be..."-Jesse Jones, Free Agent Improv Comedian, HashtagMania Team Champion 2013, 2017
A version of this article originally appeared on Columbus Laughs.