“The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently”
- Friedrich Nietzsche
From Two Is the Magic Number - A New Science of Creativity, the introductory article in a series about creative pairs on Slate.com:
It’s common sense that babies and mothers affect each other. But when you stop the tape and look at it frame by frame—as the researcher Beatrice Beebe and her team did in this experiment—you see how remarkably fast the exchange takes place, down to fractions of a second. It’s not that a baby waits for stimulus from her mother and responds in kind. Actually, as the psychologist Susan Vaughan puts it, “both parties are processing an ongoing stream of stimuli and responding while the stimulation is still occurring.”
I have never read a better description of what is happening between improvisers on stage than that. Boiled to it’s essence, good improvisation is nothing but ongoing stimulus and response. The words that you, the audience, hear spoken are only a fraction of the communication happening when comedy is created live, on the spot.
Communication – effective communication – is an ongoing, total body, 360° process.
To be effective you must be:
For mere talent to, as the Slate article puts it, “explode into innovation, discovery, and brilliance” you must collaborate. To collaborate you must communicate – and verbal is only a portion of that.
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I have a hot temper fueled by a healthy dose of righteous indignation. Recently, while navigating my wife and son through Midway airport, I took the time to get in a stranger’s face about how rude and overly aggressive they were being. And when they didn’t immediately back down (which, honestly, I expected they would) things got loud in a hurry.
While trekking through eerie Mirkwood forest, Bilbo Baggins and his dwarven companions, beset by exhaustion and hunger, strayed off the path chasing food and merry music despite repeated warnings to never do so. They didn’t find comfort, but instead spent weeks in an elven dungeon before they found their path again. There will always be unexpected obstacles, setbacks and distractions on our journey. Why create more?
When I was a kid and I wanted to touch a dead armadillo (yes, more than once) my dad would yell, “You don’t need that!” That’s one thing. But getting in a stranger’s grill because I feel justified in doing so? Not on the agenda for the day. “You don’t need that!” So why bother?
To hate is to show you still care, who needs that, focus on what’s really important.
- Henry Rollins
I clearly have some baggage (the need to publicly correct an asshole) that distracted me from my mission (getting my boy to grandma’s house). What if airport security had gotten involved and we missed our flight? Grandma would be pissed! I’d rather spend a month in an elven dungeon.
Pack your bags, sharpen your sword and STAY ON THE PATH! If it’s not Mission Critical, don’t even bother. “Leave that dead armadillo alone, son!”