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If the love of this beautiful, disgusting art form didn’t suck us all in, there would be a lot more lawyers, doctors and bus drivers sharing horrible puns in your break rooms. Most of us aren’t built to live behind a desk. We choose this path not for the money– lord knows that’s not it– but for the love.
So, I present this list to give you, the “regs” (regular people) some perspective.
Here is what NOT to say to an improviser.
“When is your LITTLE comedy show?”
Nothing is more belittling then putting “little” before anything you ever talk about. As narcissistic, surroundings-aware comedians, we read into EVERYTHING YOU SAY! On this journey, we don’t know how far we’ll make it, or if we’ll “make it” at all, so every show we do is BIG to us! One day, your friend may be a Big Deal, and because most improvisers/actors/comedians are petty, we will always remember those times you called our show “little”. So don’t be an accidental asshole. Have the decency to at least pretend you’re proud of everything.
“Tell me a joke…”
If I had a dollar for every time I heard this, I would have enough money to rent a thousand hands to smack the faces of everyone who said it. For some reason, comedy (and music) is the only thing people want you to do on demand. Are you a Chicago police officer? Do I ask you to “sit around and do nothing?” Are you a landscaper? Do I ask you to cut a bush for me real quick? Are you an investment banker? Do I tell you to “Go suck the lifeblood out of the working class in this country?” I don’t think so, so stop it.
“Which show is the funniest for me to come see?”
It would be SO embarrassing for both of us if I invited you to a show just so I could suck real bad in it. We, as improvisers, have plenty of shows before we ACTUALLY start inviting you to them. And honestly, we don’t know how funny things will be until it happens. So, if it’s bad, just know we are giving our best. Be supportive and un-dicklike.
“You can use this in your act!”
Sure, I can. We go out and spend all this time and money on improv classes and training, watching shows, practicing for hours on end and countless hours of writing just in hopes that we run into you at Ikea to hear that incredible career-changing bit that blows the world away about your Aunt Berta falling in a toilet. I swear, it’s a great story, but jokes are more complicated than that. Stop treating us like a verbal charity.
“You should meet my HILARIOUS [insert funniest person you know here]!”
Nothing is more annoying than inviting somebody to your show so they can talk about somebody else (specifically, a hilarious uncle) while not even mentioning what you’ve just accomplished the last 20 minutes that you probably worked months on just to be able to have a chance to get booked. You call it self-centered; I would call it just being a decent human being.
“Man, I have to make it out to see your show one day.”
Dude, I know you’re not coming. Shut up.
Go be supportive of your struggling improv buddies. You never know, one of them might be the next [insert famous comedian every comedian wants to be like here].
Chris Redd (@Reddsaidit) is an alum of The Second City. See him on the big screen in Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping and on stage as part of the Second City + NBC Break-Out Comedy Festival, this weekend at UP Comedy Club.