How to Be a Star on the Stage of Life

January 1, 2024
A man sits on a chair on stage wearing a Third Space Improv t-shirt.

A new year always reminds me that it’s the season to learn something — or to help others learn something. I love holding space for people who want to experience how improv might touch their lives. And, when someone discovers my improv background, I usually get the following responses:

  1. “Tell me a joke – go ahead, say something funny!”
  2. “Oh I could never do that!”

And guess what? These responses are a great teaching moment because:

  1. Improv isn’t about telling jokes or being funny.
  2. Improv is something everyone is already doing because life is unscripted.

According to Wikipedia, “Improvisational theater, often called improv, is a form of theater where most or all of what is performed is created at the moment it is performed. In its purest form, the dialogue, the action, the story and the characters are created collaboratively by the players as the improvisation unfolds in present time, without use of an already prepared, written script.”

Our unscripted lives unfold in the present time. And, every interaction we have with someone is a scene in our own lives. We just don’t realize we’re improvising because we think of improv as something that only happens on stage.

There’s nothing special about me as an improviser. I bought myself improv classes 20+ years ago as a divorce present. Because of that, I fell in love with the art form. It wasn’t until years later that I realized this art form had been affecting me in ways I didn’t realize because I was focusing on performing. The truth is that what was developing off stage – with my personal and professional development – was way more important.

For all the people who have asked me to “say something funny” over the years, here are the top 10 ways improv can make you a star on life’s stage:

10: You learn how to be the present. Improv is about the moment and doesn’t allow you to dwell in the past or worry about the future. If you’re not present, you’re not getting the most out of the moment.

9: You explore your own creativity. You’re able to tap into parts of yourself that aren’t available in your daily routine. You can actually let your guard down and have fun doing it!

8: You’re inspired to take action. You’re inspired to keep trying new things. You’re inspired to be spontaneous. You’re inspired to have adventures.

7: You develop a community. You become part of a community of life long learners and explorers. And, you want to spend time with this community of people who support you.

6: You have fun breathing. Through improv you breathe to slow down and embrace whatever is happening – now. In doing so, you begin to notice details that otherwise would have been missed.

5: You turn into a “yes” wo/man. Good improvisers say, “yes” to their scene partners. Great improvisers say “yes, and” to their scene partners. Imagine if you say “yes, and” to life!*

4: You experience the art of authenticity. Improv enables you to dig deep and get into your heart. This can be a great tool for your love life.

3: Your “couldas,” “wouldas,” “shouldas” quiet down. Once you make a decision or take action – in life or in improv – it’s done. Why dwell on it? Forward march!

2: You begin to trust – yourself. Slowly you’ll start losing your inhibitions, becoming more confident, and, you may even stop judging yourself. You begin to realize that you have a lot more potential than you realized.

And the number one way improv can make you a star on life’s stage is … up to you! I’m leaving the most important way open for you to fill in your own experience, because every person that improvises has a unique adventure.

So this list wasn’t funny at all. What will be is opening up to an improv adventure where the funny organically unfolds – on stage or off. If you get involved in improv to perform on stage, I applaud you. If you get involved in improv to become a star on the stage of life – staring you – then that’s worth a standing ovation.

-Amy Angelilli, Owner + Ringleader, Third Space Improv