How Improv Changed Our Lives

How Improv Changed Their Life – Ian, Nerd Salad

Every week we like to talk to members of the Improv community about why they got into improv and how it changed their life. Today we speak to Ian of Nerd Salad who has A Dave Grohl with broken bones to thank for the life changing moment improv re-entered his life…


How Improv Changed My Life

I have more fun and less money.

Wait, what was the word count on this? Oh, you need more. Fine…

Like most people, my introduction to improv was through Whose Line Is It Anyway? I have my sister to thank for that. I have to thank her for a lot of my comedy education actually, so I’m hoping that naming her here is better than any financial remuneration. So thank you Tanya.

I was about 10 when I thought games like Party Quirks, Next Lines and Foreign Film Dub were some of the funniest things I’d seen (I think I still do). But then it laid dormant till 2015, when I was meant to see the Foo Fighters at Wembley Stadium over two days on my birthday. But Dave Grohl broke his leg, and the gigs were cancelled. To compensate, my best friend took me on a treasure hunt and we got drunk at a game of cricket, and my (now) flatmate took me to brunch, and the matinee showing of the live Whose Line Is It Anyway? We were sat at the back, no chance of being able shout suggestions, but being able to see those wonderful games again made me realise what I had missed since I was 10…

With all my trademark speed and decisiveness, it took a mere 6 months to finally Google ‘improv London classes’, and sign-up for a one-day taster course. From there it was a question of which beginners course I would do. I’m glad I picked the one I did, as from there I met Kat & Bernard (and a couple of others), whom I would go on to form Nerd Salad with.

But how has improv changed me? Well, I’m having to be quicker now. Courses, drop-ins and workshops with teachers both local and global tend to sell out within days, so there’s no waiting to pick a course. There’s planning involved. When I am doing the musical course? Should I do narrative next? And then there are the shows. There are so many great groups right now in London, it’s rare to find a Friday or Saturday night without some form of quality improv (to be fair, there’s live improv every day of the week, from North to South of London). Weekends are often planned around which acts are playing where, and hoping there’s no clash somewhere else.

But I suppose the biggest change has been thinking in terms of ‘We’ instead of ‘I’. Whether it’s a jam, a rehearsal, or a show, it’s about making the group look good, not just me. It’s part of the reason why I flirted around the edges of stand-up comedy, but never pulled the trigger. The laughs you get as a group are so much more rewarding than anything individual. I can remember when we’ve had good or bad shows, as a team, but I can barely remember when I think I’ve had a bad show (I have to put that caveat in, as I’m usually horribly insular, even I may not have done that badly). I’m incredibly lucky to play* with a very talented group of people. Being able to bestow an accent on someone and knowing they will absolutely nail it. Being able to walk out and say nothing for 30 seconds without fear or panic setting in. Being able to pitch ideas and people be 100% committed to it. Or better yet, when they improve on the idea by coming at it from a completely different angle. Seeing something come together that a group of us have created is just a wonderful feeling. So yes, I have less money & time, but I’ve gained some wonderful friends, teammates & experiences. It’s pretty sweet when you think about it.

*I was originally going to write ‘work’ at this point, but I was immediately reminded of a quote from the great Stan Lee, which fits where I am perfectly:

‘When you work with people you respect and admire, it doesn’t feel like work. It’s like you’re playing’

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