Select Your Location

How to Balance Improv & Your Day Job

By The Second City | Jan 21, 2014

If you’re like 99.9999% of improvisers, you cannot survive on your art form alone and must supplement your income with a day job.

While your day job may not be the most rewarding experience creatively, it does have certain perks: a roof over your head, food on the table, and (if you’re reading this) valuable I’m-pretending-to-work-but-actually-catching-up-on-my-social-feeds time.

It’s a tough balancing act between being coherent for your day job and doing what you love.  Here’s some MEGA-PRO TIPS on surviving the mundane daily grind and infusing improv into your workplace.

1. Get to Work on Time

You’ve just finished a KILLER Tuesday midnight set at “The Lucky Shank” bar. It’s 2 a.m. and you have to be up at 5 a.m. Take a quick assessment and make your decisions based on these questions:

  • Is the bar closer to work than your apartment is?

Yes? Quickly befriend the bartender. When it’s last call, go to the bathroom and lock yourself in the stall. If the bartender is lazy, he will not check the bathrooms for stragglers. If he is a good bartender, you’ve already befriended him and he must adhere to the Bartender’s Code© and let you spend the night.  You’ve just shortened your commute to work, saving you time.  Grab a cold one for the road, and you’re off!

  • Did you dress in layers?

Yes! Like a crafty snake, you shed one of your many clothing layers, and now you’ve got a brand new outfit for the day!  A belt can transform into a headband; a frumpy sweater can be wrapped around the waist to create a belt; leggings can be turned inside out to turn into … leggings.  Viola!  A variety of looks in just a few simple rearrangements!  You’ll turn heads, your co-workers will say “is that from yesterday?” and you’ll calmly reply, “Do not fucking try me, Maggie.

  • Do you have zero self-respect for your body and float aimlessly through life?  

Duh, a thousand times YES!!! You’re an improviser.  This should come naturally. Just eat that three-hour gap and enjoy your Tuewednesday, the longest day in the week.

2. Deal with Coworkers

When your co-workers hear “improv,” they immediately think SNL or Whose Line? or Nick Cannon Presents: Wild ‘N Out.  They immediately think you must be that good at any given moment and that improv takes no effort.  And they’ll harangue you with requests:

“Tell me a joke.”  

PRO TIP: DON’T TELL HER A JOKE.  Give her the old “if you want to hear a joke, you should come to my show.”  A sales pitch, brilliant!  Now you’ve got her in your corner, and in your audience!  You’ve just turned a potential fail into a mild success!  If they continue to press you, try this:

“Knock knock.”  “Who’s there?”  “Your monkey.”  “Your monkey who?” “I’m not your fucking monkey, Maggie, let me drink my coffee.”

“I could do what you do.”  

The reverse of “tell me a joke.” So, turn the tables: tell me a joke, Maggie. I hope it’s so freaking funny.

PRO TIP: It’s not going to be funny.

“I bet you get tons of material here!”  

Oh, I do, Maggie. I do a great impression of you.

PRO TIP: Tell your other co-workers you do an impression of Maggie in your show. Instant ticket sales.

3. Hyper-Combo-Infuse Everything

SUPER-PRO TIP: INFUSION!  It’s not just for Vitamin Water. If you can bring improv into play at work, it looks amazing. If you can be the slightest bit clever, witty or charming, your bosses will notice. And your boss’ boss will notice. You will be miles ahead of any DOGSHIT sales guy reading from a prompted script. Now all that’s stopping you is an MBA in Business Management! Keep it up, and they may just disregard that you were a theatre major in undergrad and have no concept of the J.P. Morgan credit model and finance hierarchy.


Eric Schinzer is a comedian and improviser in Chicago.  He is part of Second City at Sea and performs with the sketch duo Battlemasters.  Please follow him on Twitter @Schinzer.

Hilarious Right? Follow the Second City For More