S4E23. Improvisation is Adaptation with Avish Parashar

What happens when you throw two improvisers into one podcast? You’re about to find out!

Avish Parashar performed improv all through high school, but he stopped in college so he could focus on his studies – a decision greatly supported by his parents. That decision lasted only a few months, however, as after seeing an improv comedy show, he fell back in love. One week later, he auditioned for the campus improv group and the rest, as they say, is history.

After graduating, he started Polywampus Improv Comedy, which performed regularly in and around the Philadelphia area for seven years. He closed up Polywampus to focus on the speaking and training side of the business, using improv comedy as a tool to teach valuable business skills such as creativity, innovation, and adaptability. He’s also the best-selling author of “Improvise to Success!” and “Say ‘Yes, And!’

One of the biggest misconceptions around improv is that it’s all just “making stuff up.” That’s certainly a big part of it, but all within constraints and guidelines. Think of it like basketball: you practice the moves, you know the rules, but when you get out onto the court you never know what’s going to happen. You have to react to each situation as it arises.

Avish Parashar defines the improv mindset as having fun, being willing to fail, and focusing on what you can control. That last one in particular is important. It’s amazing how much you can accomplish when you stop worrying about the things you have no power over.

A fun exercise to aid brainstorming is The Ding Game, usually played with a bell – though you can just make the sound with your mouth. As one person is telling a story or trying to come up with a solution, another person dings the bell and the storyteller must change that current detail. The bell ringer can continue to ding the same point until the player comes up with something more original. This forces the person to think beyond the first thought that comes to mind, because if the solution were that simple, you probably wouldn’t have a problem in the first place!

Remember: try not to focus on what you can’t control. Just accept it and use it as a springboard. Nothing shuts down productive discussion like complaining about how you wish things were different.

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