In addition to performing and producing comedy shows, I also have been completing a business degree in Germany which for the past few years has taken up the vast majority of my time. I could tell you plenty about what it was like going through that experience as an American (but that’s a story for another time). For now I’d like to talk about how performing improv and stand-up have made me a better businessman- and how anyone can do it.
For starters, I find myself a lot more entertaining than some of the other people I’ve met in an office setting. I don’t think I’m revealing any huge secret when I state that for the most part business tends to be pretty boring and humdrum. TV series which show a guy in a suit staring out a window while cursing about an important contract are seriously over dramatizing the situation. More often than not you get someone sitting at their desk fretting about a problem by themselves. Just being able to make a person crack a smile will get you bonus points and definitely make you memorable.
Additionally, even a basic improv course will teach you how to think outside the box. Corporate teaching gigs almost always start with an exercise called “Boardroom”- essentially you come up with any idea and immediately your scene partners treat it like mana from heaven. This is good because 1) you learn that any idea can be used somehow and 2) you build a positive force which carries over into future scenes. It’s a beginner’s way of learning how to support your “teammates” and get the creative juices flowing.
But probably the biggest effect performing has had on my business life is the ability to just get up and speak without fear. I had a bit of an accidental experiment recently- while writing my thesis, I was unable to perform as much as before. What became extremely apparent was a lack of confidence when giving presentations that I just never had before. Someone who I had known for years even commented that he had never seen me more nervous. My opinion? Just like any other muscle, the public speaking muscle had atrophied after I hadn’t “trained” it for nearly 3 months. Since getting back onstage, I’ve found a slow but steady return to normalcy.
I’m not saying that improv or stand-up comedy is for everyone. I know some people look at me onstage and think to themselves, “how does he do it?” Truthfully, I just do it- and anyone can. But can anyone do it WELL? You might not be the next big thing with comedy, you might not even be a good comedian. The point is that with the proper motivation and training, anyone can do it and everyone should at least try it- you’ll find it pays off in many, many ways.
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