The Most Interesting Person in the World

Archive for September 2010

Improv is a great way to get members of a group to leave behind their conflict mindset. That is because improv forces one into a mindset of support, of making your scene partner(s) right, and making it your job to justify how what they’re saying makes sense. Start by playing a scene where each line begins with “Yes, and.” This teaches a group about accepting each other’s ideas and building on them. Applying these skills to a real-life conflict, that means at the very least treating someone with respect, acknowledging the possibility that they might be right, and, at the most, supporting and adding to what they say. Try turning every “but” that comes out of your mouth into an “and.”

Other exercises that build on this skill are games in justification. For example, two players act out a scene, and every other line must be pulled from a hat. Now you must justify why what you or your partner just said makes sense! It’s hard to fight with a person when your mind is saying, “No matter how crazy this is, I have to be on your side in order to make this work.”

Many people (myself included) find it hard to take a compliment. That’s why it often takes people a long time to get into the “Compliments” exercise. One person initiates a scene with a compliment to the other player–could be something they’re wearing, something they did/do, their posture, or even the amazing way their nose sits on their face. The second player will then own the compliment. Not deflect it, not immediately return it, not give an insulting, “What, this old thing?” But a full-on, enthusiastic, “That’s right–I weaved this sweater myself!” You will notice an incredible energy and acceptance level for the rest of the scene.

Often this exercise is paired with one called “Insults.” Now the pair begins a scene with an insult. The second actor responds in the same way–don’t get defensive, don’t start a fight, don’t take it personally, but own it! “Yeah, I love this hump! I scare kids with it all the time! Moms love me!” Get creative. Come up with a reason the negative trait or action serves you well. Now both characters are in agreement, and the scene takes a very interesting turn from there.

I have found this technique very useful in life–so long as I can keep my temper when being attacked (especially when I know it’s coming.) You think that artists don’t contribute to society, and will never make money? Bring it–I love being poor! Beans beat steak any day of the week! I would rather liven up the soup kitchen with improv games than play alone in a gated mansion! (Off-stage Improviser: “Let’s see that!”…)

Come to this 4-week improv session. Maybe you’ll improve your social skills; maybe you’ll get assertiveness training; maybe you’ll become more dateable. Either way, you’ll have fun!
“My goal is not just to improve your improv skills, it’s to improve your life.”

When: Thursdays September 30, October 7, 14, and 21 at 7-9 pm
Where: 918 Bathurst, two blocks north of Bloor
How Much: $95* + HST

*I would like to offer a special discount to loyal followers of my blog. If you register by Friday, September 24, with an answer to the following skill-testing question, the price is only $80, no tax!

To take advantage of this, e-mail, and in the subject line, answer the following question: What does Laurentina make in her “Science in the Kitchen” vimeo experiment?

*Further discounts are available for students and starving artists, including group discounts. Please contact me for more information.

Free Improv Sampler Before the Course!

The weekend of September 25 and 26 there will be a Canada-wide culture-fest known as Culture Days. Come to 918 Bathurst, where Laurentina will be serving up an hour of free improv exercises from 4-5 pm each day. This is your chance to try Laurentina’s Improv Club before the upcoming session!

Not Just Fun & Games: Improv as a Tool for Development and Integration

That’s what attendees of Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s LINC Childminders Conference are going to learn about this October 28 and 29. It’s all part of my mission to bring the lessons of improvisation to everybody, everywhere.

Workshop Description:

Improvisation can be a useful tool for educating newcomers and creating a positive environment, because improv games provide a creative space where there are no mistakes. Gibberish and clowning, for example, are playful ways for students to communicate with each other, no matter what their current language level. This presentation, with interactive examples of improv in action, will teach participants how to use this fun and positive approach to help children express emotions, improve language skills, problem-solve, develop imagination, build friendships, and increase their self-esteem.

To find out more about the conference and the organization behind it, click here and/or here.

To book an improv workshop for your next convention, e-mail Lauren at

If you don’t think you can use improv skills to diffuse otherwise difficult situations, then, man, you haven’t been living. Take for example the game “Hitch-Hiker” (or “Taxi Cab”, for children with fearful parents.) In this exercise, the driver takes on the characteristics of the hitch-hiker. Every question is answered in the positive – “Yes, I’m going to the mall,” or, “Yes, my back hurts too.” Their obsession becomes your obsession. Their problems become your problems.

Not that the lesson here is to take on the characteristic of anybody who is bothering you – far from it. But next time you feel brought down by a friend or foe’s catty, judgmental, harsh, bossy, condescending, or otherwise negative attitude, don’t let it push your buttons. Stick up for yourself, and deflect their attitude back to them.

Try the “Us Against The World” approach:

Her: You didn’t staple your report right! Do it again!!
New Response: You’re right. Some people get staplers all wrong. I want to staple well, just like you.

Or the “I’m Not Intimidated, I Can Have That Attitude” approach:

Him: Those people are so lowly. I saw them at a thrift store the other day!
New Response: I know what you mean. What thrift store were you at?

The goal isn’t to change a person–although, it might make them aware of how they appear, and prolonged exposure to your new attitude could have an effect. But the more noticeable impact is in how you relate to the person. Respond proactively, not reactively.

The good news is, I have TONS of experience hosting live, radio, and on-camera events, interviews, and oddities. The bad news is, come the day I need access to video footage… I have none. My fabulous speech and wonderful MC’ing talents from my sister’s wedding are captured on a disk I travelled beyond the city to obtain… yet can’t get off the disk to edit. My interview footage for TACtv I haven’t had access to, and none of my interviews for Contact have video. All the videos I shot for *Hotshot are waiting for the website to be launched before I can go near them again. So, despite the hours and hours of me looking and sounding awesome… we had to start from scratch.

Now that that’s out of the way… Aren’t you excited to see my new demo reel?

This text is the link. That means, click it.

To be a good improviser, you must support what your partner creates in the scene, and add to it. Not only is this a good practice for the stage or in the workshop, but taking on this outlook in life is good for conflict resolution, trying new things, and improved quality of life.

Try this exercise today: Have a conversation with someone where the first two words of each of your sentences (after the opening sentence) are “Yes, and…” If you see the other person’s point of view and add to it, you will get a lot further than if you “block” or reject another person’s ideas, or even if you accept without asking the question, “If this is true, then what else is true?”

Don’t you think I would make a good tv host? Me too. The problem is, I haven’t hosted any tv shows yet. And in order to start, you pretty much already need experience. The solution–and I never thought I would say this, given my phobia of it–is the Internet. I can host as many segments as I want, thanks to my trusty Graphic Designer/Marketing Manager/Confidante Janet Cordahi and her camera and editing suite. She threw me in the kitchen and told me to create a science experiment. Now, if you’ve met me, you probably think I know everything. But that’s just because I have improv training, and can talk about just about anything with confidence. The truth is, despite my vast wealth of knowledge, there are at least two things I know nothing about: science and cooking. If I were smart, I would have reasoned with her, and said, “Janet, we should film me doing something that I know about, so I’ll look good.” But I’m not like that.

The results of the experiment are the exact opposite of my hypothesis. Despite all my efforts, I ended up creating something edible. And despite all my research… well, why don’t you tell me what you think about my science?

Science in the Kitchen

Too often we’re tempted to tell a story from the past, or riddle a fight scene with, “Six months ago…” If you find your energy drained in the middle of a scene, this might be why. Focus on what is happening now. If you want to establish a relationship, planning for the future is stronger than discussing the past. For example, “John, I can’t believe you yelled at my friend last week.” We can find out that backstory AND create possibilities for a game of the scene by stating, “Okay, John, I’ll introduce you to my friend, but please don’t yell at her this time.” Now I can’t wait to see what happens next…

You cannot be a selfish person and be a good improviser. The more you practice improv, the more you hone your listening skills and skills that will improve your relationships as well as your outlook on life. It would be impossible to convey all the benefits of improv in a blurb in a blog, but I would like to dispense a bite-sized chunk where I can.

Make Active and Positive Choices

Improvisation is guided by a philosophy of “Yes, and”. This means that when creating a scene, we a) listen to our partner, b) support their statements and actions, and c) build on what they created. Your statements and actions should be positive, support the reality of the scene, and give us something interesting to watch–not in the next scene or in a fictional tomorrow, but RIGHT NOW!

Don’t know what I mean? Would you like to work on this? Ask me in the next workshop, and I’ll show you how to break out of a habit of negativity.

Do you know others who could benefit from this perspective? Bring me in to your office, home, or favourite hangout, and set up a workshop with them.