University of Arkansas

Walton College

The Sam M. Walton College of Business

Improv Advice in Translation

Improv advice in translation

August 27, 2020 | By Stacey Mason

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I have found that most advice is worthy of thorough examination. Often advice pertaining to one discipline – with just a bit of translation – has meaning in other disciplines.

This translation process allows for more perspective and greater insight.

As a case in point: The more I study improv, the more parallels I see to other areas of my life.

What follows is some improv advice in translation.

Improv advice:
In an art form as social as improv, being easy to work with is nearly as important as being talented or funny.

Personal advice:
Never underestimate the importance of likeability.


Improv advice:
Play a character whose worldview you completely disagree with. Playing an earnest opposite will push you and make for good theater.

Life advice:
Learn to replace judgment with curiosity. Seek to understand different perspectives.


Improv advice:
No one on Earth has mastered improv. Even the best have bad shows from time to time. Don’t think about quitting after an off night.

Business advice:
No one on Earth has mastered leadership. Some days are brilliant, and some days you want to bang your head against the wall. Don’t think about quitting after an off day.


Improv advice:
If you’re doing good physical improv and being emotionally expressive, silences can last forever and still be compelling theater.

Business advice:
There’s a reason silence is golden. Not every discussion requires input; not every thought should be shared out loud.


Improv advice:
Insulting someone else’s comedy will not make your comedy better.

Life advice:
Take the high road; there’s a lot less traffic on it.


Improv advice:
Whether you’re paid to do it or not, improvisation is as professional as you make it.

Business advice:
How you do anything is how you do everything.


Improv advice:
Be specific: “Mom, I wrecked your car” is fine. “Mom, I accidentally drove your Honda Accord into the pool” is better.

Business advice:
Specific and timely communication matters. In the absence of either, people will create their own storyline. And it probably won’t serve you well.


Improv advice:
There is no failure in improv. There’s just stuff that didn’t go the way we thought it would.

Personal advice:
Failure is a harsh word – we should be careful what we assign it to in life.


Improv advice:
If a scene needs a kiss, kiss.

Business advice:
If someone needs to do something (standup for the underdog, mentor the intern, rally the troops, clean the restrooms), by all means, be that someone. Follow your gut instincts.


Improv advice:
Be the support character more often than the main character. Make the story about someone else.

Life advice:
It’s not all about you.


Improv advice:
Just bring a brick. Together we’ll build a cathedral.

Business advice:
You don’t have to have it all figured out. Just bring your best self and your best ideas, merge them with the best contributions from others, and watch amazing things happen.


Improv advice:
Don’t try to be the most clever person on the stage.

Business advice:
Listen more than you talk. You may be the smartest one at the table, but you’re not the only one at the table.


Improv advice:
Do what is natural, what is easy, what is apparent to you. Your unique view will be a revelation to someone else.

Business advice:
Not everything is rocket science. Simple, plain, elegant – that’s what works.


Improv advice:
Listen to what you are given. Focus on what is being offered, not on what you want to say.

Life advice:
The mind that is occupied is missing the present.


Improv advice:
Enjoyment is a way of approaching an activity, not the activity itself.

Business advice:
Some assignments will suck. Really suck. But your attitude and your approach to the assignment does not have to suck.


Improv advice:
In the end the thing of most value is you bringing yourself to the stage.

Business advice:
In the end the thing of most value is you bringing yourself to your calling.


Here’s the funny thing I’ve noticed: The more parallels I see to other areas of my life, the more I want to study improv. Which brings me full circle. How’s that for an insight!

Ancora Imparo… (Still, I am learning)

Post Author:

Matt WallerFounder of The Improv Lab, Stacey Mason has immersed herself in the field of Applied Improvisation for the last decade after co-founding several comedy improv troupes and training with various actor-teams including Second City in Chicago. Her corporate background includes nearly 20 years at Walmart in Logistics, Global Supply Chain and Merchandising/Replenishment before shifting towards culture coaching, stewarding the Walton Institute, Walmart’s flagship culture program. She partners with Walton College Executive Education on innovation programs and other initiatives