Improv is not a solitary sport (you’ve been reading this
blog for just such amazing insights, I know!). With improv you need a team.
The same is true for life. People are naturally social animals and most, if not all, of our endeavors succeed because of team work. Hey, even a dictator needs advisers, ministers, secret police, etc.
Of course we don’t just have one team… Hopefully, we have teams for each project in our lives, everything from raising babies to landing that important account at work.
Which brings me to today’s improv mantra: Take Care Of Your Scene Partner. Or said in another way, Feed Your Team.
In improv, sometimes a scene just isn’t about you. Sometimes your job in a scene is to be the waiter, give the people at the table drinks and leave.
My very intelligent wife reminded me about this recently. I had a death in my family this summer. My mom’s wonderful longtime companion passed away last month, and I returned home to be with her and to attend his funeral. I was grumbling about traveling to the East Coast and wondering what lesson the universe was trying to teach me when she cut through all the bullshit and said, It isn’t about you, Todd. It’s about your scene partner. Shut up and play support.
I humbly traveled to the old homestead. And here is what I found. My mom has a great team. Why wouldn’t she? She’s been feeding her team for years.
Never a wealthy person, my mom has:
- Taken people in when they needed a place to live.
- Supported and nurtured the dreams of her children, and her friend’s children
- Encouraged and taught 100’s of children for 31 years as a preschool teacher
- Sat with sick friends
- Given of her time and energy
- Helped, laughed with, and loved the many different people in her life.
Now when she needed feeding, they came to support her.
Yet, even as I was amazed at the team my mom had, I was even more struck with how incredible a team her companion John had. Here are some examples:
His travel agent not only showed up to the service, but stood up to speak about how he had affected her life.
The man who cuts my mom’s hair wrote her a letter about how he had met John once, years ago (Once!) and how saddened he was to hear of John’s passing.
The owner and all the trainers at the gym John used to go to all showed up for his funeral.
Time and again they all said the same things, how he was always interested in them, how polite, kind and giving he was.
John not only fed his team. He fed everyone around him.
So, even though I was playing support for this “scene” the universe had some amazing lessons for me. If you are an improviser, think about your favorite people to work with on stage. What makes them so great? Non-improvisers, who do you like to work with /play with in life? Why? I suggest that the best people are those that give to, support, and feed the team.
Because without your team, you are alone on stage.