Thinking on your feet

Hi Dave – I’m going to Los Angeles to take an Improv Intensive Workshop at Second City. I’ve been planning this for a few months and feel this is my next step in finding my calling. I’d like to get more into TV, rather than just stand-up. I hope this workshop will not only add to my resume, but will help me define a more thorough path for me in this crazy comedy career. LOL! I was just wondering what you think and what advice you would give, if any? Thanks – E

Hey E – Good luck on your learning adventure to LA. I really hope it’s a great one and you find laughs and success. In fact, I’ll even improvise around that thought…

  • Find laughs – by working with one of the best improvisational comedy schools and…
  • Find success – by improving your comedy skills and ability to “think on your feet.”

It’s not in the script!

Improvising (thinking on your feet) on stage can seem almost impossible to many aspiring performers. It’s one thing to be quick-witted and toss out ad-libs at work or hanging out with friends, but it’s a whole different ballgame to do it in front of an audience at a comedy club or speaking gig.

Some comedians and speakers memorize, prepare and rehearse their material so they know exactly what they’re going to say. But if something happens to distract them – for instance an audience member’s cell phone rings or a server drops a tray of drinks – they’re lost. They’re speechless. They don’t know what to say because they haven’t prepared for this.

It’s not in the script.

True story…

When I first started working at the LA Improv there was an earthquake during a show. A bunch of us that had just moved from New York ran out to the middle of Melrose Avenue and were, like… “What the heck was that?” BUT the comic on stage didn’t miss a beat. He was quick thinking (on his feet) and adjusted his act so when we walked back inside the club he was talking about the earthquake.

It wasn’t in the script, but it didn’t matter. He had reacted to what just happened (an earthquake for cryin’ out loud!!).

Well known improvisors

Many performers have told me how important improvisational training can be if you’re interested in doing anything on stage, but not confident in your ability to think fast on your feet. If you lack the knack to ad-lib, one of the ways to improve is to get into an improvisation class.

When you’re skilled at improvising, almost nothing should faze you or throw you off your set when doing stand-up or a speaking presentation.

It will give you more confidence on stage. The best comics and speakers I’ve worked with all seem to have the ability to talk with an audience (conversational) and if something happens in the room that’s unexpected – a server drops a tray of drinks or even a (gulp!) earthquake – an ability to improvise around the situation will help the performer stay in control of the show.

During the first session of my workshops I emphasize the importance of expecting the unexpected while on stage. We do this by playing an improvisational game I learned while performing with an improv group in Los Angeles (I didn’t spend the weekend nights sitting behind my desk at The Improv!). Two people are on stage having a conversation. At various times during this conversation, one of them is selected to choose a card (from a basket, hat, etc…) that has a song title or line from a movie written on it (suggestions by the audience). He reads that as his next line in the conversation – and usually it has nothing to do with the subject they’ve been talking about – and the other person has to respond in a way that keeps the conversation moving ahead.


March 2020 Comedy Workshop at The Cleveland Improv


Workshop showcase performance at The Improv

Wednesday, April 1 at 7:30 pm

Workshop Marquee 150

To join waiting list if space opens and…

For details and to advance register for next workshop visit…



It’s a standard improvisational game and one many of you probably know. It’s the type of exercise that helps performers learn to “go” with whatever is happening on stage and a way to practice thinking on your feet.

Second City and other good improvisational workshops teach many different games and exercises. A lot of these techniques can also be used in stand-up and speaking. After all, you never know what might happen or when it might happen while you’re on stage…

Advice? (Remember – you asked).

Follow The Rules

Just go with it and have fun. Keep an open mind when you’re exploring your talent. Really learn and don’t be afraid to go out on the edge and take a risk.

Also if you have the opportunity, check out the LA stand-up comedy scene. As always the BIG names will be at The Improv, Laugh Factory and The Comedy Store. But also find out where the smaller clubs are – and even the open-mics. Then go watch and…


Talk with LA comics and learn about the comedy scene. Ask about performance opportunities – if it’s easy to find stage time or a nightmare. How often can they expect to get on stage every week? Maybe you could even sign up for a few open-mics and do sets. It always helps to get stage time.

And since you’re there for improvisation, also look for those types of clubs. Second City will have some great shows for you to see – and maybe even perform in.

There are also smaller troupes put together by comics and improvisers that are not as well known, but also very skilled and funny. These comics perform in the smaller clubs, hotels, bars and anywhere else they can find an audience.  You might even be invited to go on stage if you tell them what you’re doing – you never know.

Which is what improvisation is all about. You never know, but as you’ll learn through training – just “go” with it. And since we’re talking about comedy – have fun.

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Thanks for reading and as always – keep laughing!!

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