No, you don’t have to get on stage. But the basics of what an improv class can teach you will help any father’s ability to communicate with his kids.
Improv (at least a version of it) is one of those things that comes second nature to me. Years of morning radio honed the skill of immersing myself in random “created realities” and to this day I’m more than ready, probably to a fault, to jump into those spaces and play around. Quick-witted conversations are my comfy place.
So when I talk to my four-year old daughter, it’s like my own personal Disneyland. She doesn’t feel the need to be bound by logic or order when it comes to her conversations. I love that.
So first things first, know your audience. And be ready to flip the script on your “material” at a moment’s notice.
Here are three other rules of improv comedy that you should follow:
I know it sounds easy but if you don’t hear what she is saying you can’t be part of the conversation. And please, when your girl says something that doesn’t make sense, run with it. Don’t correct her. If she’s really trying to communicate something but struggling with what words to use, this will help her get from here to there without her getting frustrated by you . Just play around with what she is actually saying. If she’s just being silly, all the better.
Here’s an example of denial.
“Hi, my name is Jim. Welcome to my zoo.”
“This isn’t a zoo, it’s an airplane. And you’re not Jim, you’re a go-go dancer.”
See? Not fun.
Grace has told me about wolves that serve ice cream to which I replied “What flavor?” She also said that she uploads her thoughts to the rainbow clouds hanging above her bed to which I ask “Is the pink one full yet?” You get it. Don’t deny the reality being created. You’ll be amazed at what you can learn about what she’s really thinking when you let her create the world in which to speak.
NO FUNNY BUSINESS
The hidden riddle of improv is that the harder you try to be funny the unfunnier it gets. The same goes with your girls. Try and be funny and you’ll just fall flat. Your goal? Keep things interesting. Keep adding to the “scene” you and your daughter are creating. When that happens, the funny usually comes out all by itself. The best ways to go are to stick to your character, stick to the story that is being told, and to stay within the reality she has made.
Improvisation isn’t for everyone but I believe every father should at least give it a shot. Fatherhood, like improv comedy, is unscripted and can be difficult but working without that net makes for the biggest laughs and memories.