Running An Improv Program: Low Cost, High Impact

Posted by Derek Muller at 03/27/2024

Img 0260

Launching an improv program in your community bridges the gap between the comedic genius seen on shows like "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" and the everyday interactions that tie a community together. This form of spontaneous theater is not only an affordable means to inject joy and creativity into the community fabric but also stands as a powerful tool for personal development, offering profound benefits in creativity, social cohesion, and emotional growth. With a focus on short-form improv, characterized by its engaging and accessible games, the program is suited for a broad audience range, from the young to the more experienced.

The advantages of engaging in improv are diverse and impactful. It sharpens creative thinking and problem-solving skills, as participants must conjure ideas in the moment. Teamwork and collaboration are at the heart of improv; it strengthens listening skills and the capacity to build on others’ contributions. Importantly, it bolsters confidence, teaching participants that stumbling is part of the learning process and there’s no failure in trying. Improv also enhances interpersonal communication and public speaking skills, making it an invaluable practice for personal and professional development. Moreover, it trains individuals to adapt swiftly to unexpected situations, all while ensuring the journey is filled with laughter and light-heartedness.

Setting up an improv program is straightforward, with the primary expenses tied to potential staffing. The essence of a successful improv initiative lies in creating an atmosphere where participants feel encouraged and free to explore their creativity.

To ensure the program is both effective and enjoyable, consider these guidelines:

  • Establish clear guidelines to promote a respectful and supportive environment from the start.
  • Implement a “pause phrase,” giving participants a simple way to indicate discomfort or the need to pause, ensuring everyone’s comfort without necessitating detailed explanations.
  • Cultivate a supportive atmosphere, where the foundational "yes, and…" principle encourages everyone to accept and add to the ideas presented, fostering a positive and inclusive environment for participants of all backgrounds and abilities.
  • Encourage everyone to embrace experimentation, highlighting that improv is a safe space to try new things, be silly, and learn from every attempt.
  • Provide clear direction through facilitation, with a designated leader to guide activities and ensure the program remains a positive experience for all involved.

If the thought of running the program without an experienced improv teacher is daunting, fear not. Simple, interactive games such as "One-Word Story" and "Props" can serve as excellent starting points, easing participants into the world of improv without needing specialized knowledge. Many game ideas can be found at Improv Games for Collaboration ( or through a quick Google search. It may also be helpful to have a suggestion app or deck of cards with suggestions written on them to keep the session moving.

Initiating an improv program goes beyond merely organizing an activity; it’s about fostering a space where creativity, communication, and community flourish. By adopting improv into your community engagement strategy, you’re not just offering entertainment; you’re nurturing skills and connections that enrich lives, making it a powerful addition to any community-building effort.