Oh yes it can and I am proof of just that! Read on to find out how I went from a 'shy' child who grew up to be full of self doubt to a confident performer who loves nothing more than to be on stage, making a fool of herself and making people laugh.
What is comedy improvisation? Quite simply it is working with others to create short scenes 'in the moment' based on an audience suggestion.
No planning needed just bravery, spontaneity and a sense of fun! Look up the TV show 'Whose line is it anyway' to see the professionals in action.
Improvisation has changed my life.
As a child I was seen as ‘shy’ by people who were not my immediate family and close friends. I did not raise my hand in class due to fear of looking or sounding ‘stupid’. In college I still did not speak up in class.
I struggled with my self confidence and self-esteem. I knew deep down I had a burning desire to be heard, I just did not know how to access it or where to start.
Around 12 years ago I worked for a forward thinking alternative education provider who encouraged me to build new skills. I found a 6-week comedy improv course and before I knew it I was booked on.
I will never forget my first session. I was terrified! About 12 of us all stood in a circle and we had to introduce ourselves by saying an adjective and our name accompanied by an action.
Everyone threw themselves into it and said their names so loud!
My chest tightened, my breathing became shallow and I had a brief thought ‘I’m getting out of here’. Too late! It was my turn and in that moment I made the decision to just go for it. I shouted ‘Super Suzi’ and did a flying action. Everyone laughed and I realised I was in the right place.
I still remember my first scene - I was in a graveyard with two others. Although I do not remember the details I know we listened to each other and accepted our reality (digging graves). We worked together to create some comedy magic. This is how improv works.
You don't 'try' to be funny as the comedy occurs naturally because of the situation and the fact that no one really knows what is going on.
I remember the sense of freedom and adventure of being able to create the reality by using my imagination. There really is nothing else like it.
I can honestly say that improv has changed my life! I now speak up in groups and am making up for lost time in this area. I have grown in self-confidence, my self-esteem has blossomed and I have found something that I am really good at.
I am less anxious in new situations as improv teaches you to be comfortable ‘not knowing’ what is coming next. I am able to ‘think on my feet’ where needed and trust that my brain will come up with something.
Around the same time I was diagnosed with ADHD (inattentive type), autistic traits and mild tics oh and lets not leave out OCD!
Things were starting to make sense as to why I struggled to communicate at times and why my confidence and self esteem was impacted by undiagnosed learning difficulties.
Now I am able to reflect and reframe. My neurodivergent brain is my superpower when it comes to comedy improv. I say whatever comes to mind, there is no planning involved and there are limitless opportunities for creativity.
Oh and lets not forget the icing on the cake; FUN & LAUGHTER which are essential ingredients for the soul. In fact, one improv student describes improv as her ‘therapy’. Another says it is 'playtime for grownups'.
The benefits of improv are immense and yes it feels scary at first, of course it does.
Your inner critic will tell you 'you can't do it', that 'you will look stupid', 'no one will laugh' and 'you won't know what to say'.
Well, you know what? Your inner critic is trying to keep you safe and the way it does it is to encourage you to stay where you are and to not try anything new. It thinks it is keeping you safe when actually it can be holding you back.
I listened to my inner critic for years believing it to be the truth and now I know these thoughts are not fact and certainly not the truth, I can say 'thanks for trying to help but I'm going to give this a go as it feels right for me right now'.
The result? Increased self belief and confidence, and feelings of empowerment that I never knew possible.
I have literally transformed! And you can too.
Because of my improv experience I had the confidence to audition for and perform in two scripted murder mystery comedy plays (see picture of me as the eccentric TV show director, Desiree Chesiree) and to go for and appear in two TV ad campaigns for Public Health England.
Some people might think you need to be a confident person to try improv and this simply IS NOT TRUE! The confidence comes from trying new things and taking the leap to stretch your comfort zone in a safe, brave and supportive space.
I love to teach others how to improvise and to spread the joy of improv. As an ex teacher my approach has always been inclusive; 17 years teaching experience in mainstream, alternative and special education.
I treat each participant as an individual and encourage them to work at their own pace. I am a qualified coach and use my coaching skills within my sessions. I am non-judgemental, I inspire you to stretch your comfort zone at a pace that suits you.
Want to try online improv? Check out upcoming monthly workshops here: