I’ve been performing improvisational comedy for more than 25 years. Only recently I’ve noticed something about getting suggestions from an audience.
Here’s the theory; when we’re put on the spot, it’s frightening. Not scary like being attacked by a lion, but there’s the feeling that everyone is looking at you. That you’re suddently the center of attention. Most people don’t like this and the response is fear.
The audience wants to impress us. Individuals want to impress other audience members. This causes further panic in their minds.
When we’re frightened, try to comfort ourselves. We revert to childhood.
We find a time when we were happy, stress-free and didn’t care what others thought of us. Our minds go back there and we answer with what a child say.
- If we ask for an occupation, we invariably get “Doctor” or “Teacher” The two occupations that we first encounter as children. It used to baffle me. How many doctors or teachers could be out there in the audience? Then I realized (and I’m amazed it took me so long to realize this) that people weren’t suggesting their own occupations, they were reverting to childhood.
- If we ask for a word that starts with a specific letter, we’ll get a word they learned on those flashcards for kids. “A” Apple. “F” Fish. “D” Dog, etc. etc.
It’s interesting the group mindset of an audience. We have hundreds of different people through our door every week and we still get the same suggestions.