I’m not sure that any mother is thrilled when you call home and tell her that you’re taking improv classes in LA. You come out to LA to act, but find yourself with nothing to do and no credits to show for. So, what do you do? You take acting classes and improv classes. Are the improv classes worth it? Here are six tings I wish I has known before I started my first class.
1. Don’t Buy Into Improv Theaters That Charge a “Theater Reservation Charge.”
A friend and I almost fell for this. There are small theaters in the LA area that will audition improvisers with zero training, tell them they’re amazing, put them on a various “house teams” that perform one night a month, and charge them $175 a month to do it. Of course they don’t tell you about that “small fee” when you’re auditioning. They try and sell you once you’ve received the privilege of being placed on one of their teams. Don’t buy it. Work with a named theater. Getting on a house team should be hard.
2. However, You Still Gotta Pay To Play
Comedy in LA is like acting in LA. It costs money. Except instead of acting classes, you’re paying for improv classes and improv coaches. The average improv class is $300 to $500 for 8 weeks. Each class is generally three hours. All of this varies from theater to theater, but there are anywhere from four to eight core level classes and then there are advanced programs available. So, it’s going to cost money to learn the basics on how to get good. Then you still need to have a practice team. It’s a team you meet with once a week to refine your skills. Those teams require you to pay a coach who helps you get better. Without one, you could be establishing bad habits. Those coaches usually cost $60 for two hours, but that’s split among four to eight improvisers, making it easier. Still, all of this costs a pretty penny, but it’s very, very worth it. How can you make it easier?
3. You Need To Get An Internship
Most theaters offer free classes in exchange for theater workers. You clean a few toilets and arrange people in seats. It’s very easy and it’s a good way to make friends as well as see a lot of comedy.
4. It’s Going to Take Years.
Don’t expect to become a professional improviser over night. In fact, plan to suck for quite a while. It’s likely that if you’re interested in taking improv classes you came from a short form improv background. Most improv in LA isn’t like that. It’s an entirely different form called, “long form” and it’s incredibly difficult. It’s going to take you a while to get remotely good at it, so take your time and enjoy the journey.
5. It’s All About the Reps
Take as many classes as you want, but the reality is, if you don’t keep practicing and performing, then you won’t get good. I had an improv teacher say that on average, it takes 500 shows before you feel like you’re actually good at improv. I don’t know if that’s true, but the idea is. You can’t be a fighter unless you get in the ring and practice. A lot.
6. Make Friends
All of this is the best opportunity in the world to meet other comedians and become part of an awesome network. It’s where you’ll likely get future jobs and maybe a writing partner. That and a small part of getting on a house team at any theater is being friends with people at the theater. It’s surprising how important that is.
Anything you want to add to this list? What did you learn for your mistakes?