Unplug Like an Improviser

By The Second City Training Center | Feb 18, 2019

"Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you." -Author Anne Lamott

Hurrah! 2019's National Day of Unplugging is almost upon us! What in the heckity-heck is the National Day Of Unplugging?  So glad you asked.

March 1-2 will be declared a “24-hour global respite from technology” created to highlight “the value of disconnecting from digital devices to connect with ourselves, our loved ones and our communities in real time.”

Well, that sound good, right? And maybe...a little… scary?

Unplugging is not so scary at all. In fact, as many improvisers know all too well, it feels really good. In class, rehearsals, shows, and even when we’re just hanging out with our ensembles, improvisers have a knack for forgetting all about their tempestuous devil devices and staying in the present moment with their peers, thanks to a few non-battery-life-sucking-habits.


You grab a partner, look them right in the face, and “mirror” what they are doing with their body. After a little bit, the role of mirroring is reversed without any verbal cue...it’s all in the eyes. The key? It’s eye contact! Eye contact is one of the most fundamental actions in human connection. When you are actively looking someone in the eye, you are present, aware, and focused on that person.

How many times a day can you say that you truly make eye contact with living, breathing, people? Try noticing how often you do it on a normal day. Then try putting away your phone for a day and see if it makes a difference.

Yes, and-ing

Perhaps the most recognizable concept in improv is “yes, and.” In an improv scene, you say “yes” to an idea when someone initiates by acknowledging it and accepting it--rather than denying. Then, you “and.” That’s when you add to their established idea of the reality of the scene.

It’s like Tina Fey says: “Always make sure you’re adding something to the discussion. Your initiations are worthwhile.”

When you’re talking to someone and they’re really listening, they repeat things back, ask questions, and add their own input. It’s really nice. Be that person.

Creating in the moment

Since improvisers do not use props or sets of any kind, we’re challenged with creating and using imaginary objects in scenes (yes, that IS a life-sized butter sculpture of Herbert Hoover; thank you for noticing). This not only forces you into the present, it also gets your creativity flowing. It’s like throwing a party in your right brain!

So instead of reaching for your phone, try looking around and using what you have to make something out of nothing.

Don’t think, just do

Improvisers don’t overthink and judge themselves before they do something. When in doubt, just do.

Unless you want to murder someone. Then definitely don’t.


Come try your hand at unplugging with us!

The Second City Training Center is partnering with initiative instigators Reboot and hosting our very own National Day of Unplugging Day event on March 1st. Come get your mitts on an itty-bitty sleeping bag for your cell phone! We also offer weekly improv drop-in classes for on Sundays at 7pm, which are FREE if you mention Reboot.

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