I was reading an improv related article the other day and it said in it as a bold bullet point to have non-improv friends too. Whilst the improv community is super supportive and friendly, I think that it is really important thing to discuss. So why should you try and have a mix of both?
Firstly, no it is not just so you can invite people to shows… (improvisers go to other peoples shows too) but I think it is really important to have a balance and I have personal experience of both ways. So this article isn’t to lecture but to just sort of see the differences. These are both my experiences so here you go.
Improv with no non-improv friends
In 2016, I moved away from all my friends and family to Newcastle for a job. Whilst I was there I needed to find an activity or a hobby to do away from work to meet new people – that is how I came across improv. All my friends whilst I lived in Newcastle were through improv, I didn’t have anyone away from this.
Whilst they were a great bunch of people that I enjoyed their company, looking back at it now I also realise and can admit to myself it was also personally for me very difficult. Sometimes away from improv it was very hard to organise non-improv related activities because everyone had their own lives to go back to. Whilst it worked quite a few times it was always hard because improv lessons, shows or rehearsal you always book time for in your busy week.
Whilst it is great to hang out with improv friends because lets admit they are a pretty great bunch, it can at times be hard not to talk about improv. It is like when you go out with work mates – that is always at some point the topic at hand.
Whilst I love the friends I made in Newcastle I do wish in some ways I had friends away from the scene as well. This is no reflection on the awesome people I met they are some of the greatest people I have done improv with and had a laugh, it is just how I felt at times. One of the people I became friends with ended up giving up on learning improv and I became friends away from the lessons and I liked it because we never really spoke about the comedy form. Instead we went on day trips around the North East and had a lot of fun!
Improv with non-improv friends
When I moved back to London I started to experience Improv in a completely different way – I was back around non-improv friends too. It took a while to work myself out and focus on the balance as it was something I was not used to but I was able to adapt between spending time between Improv and other friends.
Even though I enjoyed having improv only friends I started to realise how nice it was to have the best of both worlds. It was lovely to be able to talk about improv away from improv, have people come to shows and do things that didn’t end up with a conversation or relevance to the form. It was a really good balance I didn’t realise I desperately needed.
The examples above are not to lecture but to talk about my own personal experiences just so you can see a difference. Everyone does improv for different reasons and sometimes people prefer to have only improv friends which is great too! At the beginning of this article I said I discovered this on an improv website and finding that I have experienced both situations I agree with it.
Josh Ramsay from the band Marianas Trench made a good point about music when I interviewed him last year. He stated:
“If you are only writing singles it’s like if you are only eating donuts – it’s too sweet.”
I feel this quote is very similar to improv and having a whole life that is constantly surrounded only by improv – I personally feel I need variety otherwise it becomes the same and I like to keep things mixed up