Don’t Stop, Don’t Make the Face: Self Confidence & Improv Comedy Performance Trick By Walt Frasier
I was just five years old when I came home from watching Star Wars 1977, headed straight to piano, and figured out the theme plunking one note at a time. (John Williams is the soundtrack of my life)
Next thing you know I was in piano lessons. Soon, I had my first recital. The only thing I remember is this valuable lesson from my teacher.
Don’t Stop and Don’t Make the Face
While on stage playing Old Grey Mare or Hot Cross Buns, my goal was to keep going no matter what happens.
Don’t stop and say, “I messed up.” Just keep playing as if nothing is wrong.
Don’t make the “I MESSED UP” face either. Don’t cringe. Don’t show any sign of a mistake.
If you don’t tell the audience there is a problem, no one will ever know.
Applying Technique to Improv Comedy and Life
These days, when I tell the story, I add the joke, “If you don’t stop and don’t make the face, no one knows you messed up, except your teacher and your mother. Mom always knows. Nothing I can do. Dad has no clue” laughter ensues. Thank you. Goodnight. Here all week. Try the veal….. (Warning: never eat veal at a comedy club)
Piano is a unique instrument. The notes are always in tune, or at least our playing won’t change the tuning in the short term of a single song. Unlike singing, or playing brass, stings and winds, you can get away with a lot.
Further, if playing Jazz or other modern forms, there are no wrong notes. You can justify every perceived mistake. Wrong note? Repeat it and turn that into a lick (Thanks for this lesson, Mark Cook).
Improvisation, whether in music, dance or in the story telling and scene work theatrical/comedic improv I teach there are no mistakes.
So, now, not even your teacher or mom will no if you believe you messed up, because what you are creating is completely knew and original.
There are no mistakes.
To me, the only mistake in Improvisation of any kind is stopping, or making a face, to acknowledge to the world that YOU think you made a mistake.
Remember this important rule of Improv: Mistakes are GIFTS.
We should never stop or make the face in Improv, because there are no mistakes. Your offering NEVER deserves or requires apology, unless it’s outright offensive (racist, sexist, bullying etc)
Almost EVERY corporate workshop I teach has at least one moment where someone says something absolutely perfect, even perhaps a little brilliant, and they follow it with I’M SORRY.
More often than not, this happens in a game as simple as ONE WORD STORY.
Meanwhile they are in AWE of the jerk that got a stupid laugh form saying CHICKEN when it made zero sense.
Most of us manifest insecurity because we fail to realize what confidence truly is.
THE REAL SECRET
We are all a little scared. We are all a little insecure. We all hear that voice of doubt. We all get sick at times worrying.
The loudest, most arrogant among us are over compensating, try to hide their fears from the world. We might see the anger, even violence at times. We might see the perfectionist or control freak. But it’s all a cover, their ill fated attempt to hide the doubt and fear.
A rare few have found balance and are able to calm the beast, and even channel it’s energy into their work.
Most of us have that feeling of self doubt just below the surface, hold us back from achieving our greatest potential.
A few are completely destroyed by their fear, hiding in the shadows of a cruel world, unable to experience it’s beauty to the fullest potential.
Fake It Till You Make It
The underlying concept here is to realize you are much better than you think, right now, even in the first day of your first Improv class.
Surrounded by folks that are faking it, or perhaps even a rare few that have mastered the technique already, you may appear to be the only scared one.
You are not.
On some level I doubt myself at every show and class. I’m always trying to find that balance. Sometimes that voice makes me not do my job well.
However, I have also learned over time, when I don’t hear those voices at all, I’m ignoring that voice that helps me be better. I start letting ego say, “I’m the best”, and I stop getting better. I stop listening. I say inappropriate things. I stop being a good team mate.
Don’t stop, don’t make the face, but when the show is done, make a note, I need to work on that skill, that technique, that part of the song etc. That voice is not bad. It helps us get better. It keeps us in check.
You deserve to enjoy life. The world at times will be their to serve as critic. Let the critics do their job. Your job is to create. Your job is to do your best in the moment.
Do this in classes too. Confidence is a skill we need to practice. Fight the urge to stop.
Don’t give up on your self or the scene. Dig deeper. Make simple choices. Take the pressure off yourself so you can have fun and play.
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