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Some articles about Improv-LA classes and
how the impact they have had on our students.

Four Reasons To Take An Improv Class

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by Rob Asghar, Forbes Online


"Do not fear mistakes. There are none."  – Jazz legend Miles Davis

Tonight marks graduation for me: Graduation from an eight-week improvisational comedy class that’s challenged me, panicked me and ultimately liberated me--at least a little--from many of the fears and hang-ups that can block my ability to get things done.

I hardly took the class out of any interest in becoming a professional comedian. I just wanted to personally dive in, head first, into some of the processes that I know are crucial to peak performance and to overall success in work and life. Most of my improv classmates turned out to be there for similar, "professional growth" reasons.

It helped having an extraordinarily gifted teacher, Keith Saltojanes, who very much took the point of view of a Miles Davis.

 

Keith didn't dwell on any mistakes by me or my classmates, instead seeing every clumsy moment as a springboard to wonderful and funny new possibilities. He had an almost preternatural ability to not be disappointed in us and to instead encourage us to keep taking bigger chances. (He also found the time to break a Guinness world record last week for the longest improv show ever, an impossible 150 hours).

I’ve written before about how successful athletes and artists reach “the zone” in peak performance. It generally involves “getting out of their head”--by building up their skills in shutting off that active, rational part of their brains and learning to operate on instinct. Honing those skills requires several things:

Focusing on the process, not on the outcome.


Allowing stress and butterflies to be fuel for performance, not an obstacle.


And practice, practice and more practice, till their brain and body know from memory how

to respond with confidence when something new is thrown at them.


Improv classes are available everywhere around in a town like Los Angeles, where I live, and are common in most other large cities. They’re phenomenal resources for professionals of every type. And even if you can’t find a class that’s right for you, you can consider creating your own group of supportive friends and colleagues who will give each other permission to practice improv skills.

There are a few practical reasons why improv can help you.

First of all, we need antidotes to the new, “asynchronous” world that we all live in. We’re used to getting text messages and social-media posts, and then responding on our own time. This artificiality damages our ability to relate to real human beings in the moment. Improv drags you out of that asynchronous, virtual-reality world, and drops you into that wondrous world of high-energy, immediate, person-to-person interaction.

Second, improv teaches us to soften our focus and heighten our awareness, so that we can respond well to surprises. If you’re in a circle of people playing a word association game, one person may say “spoon,” the next may say “fork,” and the next may say “knife.” At this point, you may be thinking that the word association game is going to be all about dining or food, and you may begin thinking of related words. But if the next person says “gun” in response to “knife,” you have to be able to immediately go with a gun association rather than a dining association. You realize that the thinking and analyzing that you did before was a waste of time--and that's a good way to learn how to get out of your head and just be in the moment.

Think about that at a practical level: Most of the time, we go into meetings and conversations assuming that they need to go in one direction; when someone begins to take it in another direction, we completely miss what’s happening, and we miss a true opportunity to connect with the other person.

Third, improv teaches us to listen more patiently and to respond more slowly than we may be accustomed. That allows us to be present to colleagues and friends in ways that we may never before have been. Do you jump in to respond to people before they’re done talking? Stop doing that. One of the most powerful lessons I learned from Saltojanes’ class is that you have to let the other person finish his her or her sentence, because it may end with a surprise that takes everything in a new direction. At the very least, others will notice and appreciate how you really listen to them.

Fourth and finally, an improv class is one of the few places in life where you have permission to genuinely “fail” without fear. By definition, you’re experimenting and trying things on without judgment. For those of us uptight people who feel the need to say or do the perfect thing, we too often freeze up in the clutch and say or do nothing. That’s not exactly peak performance. Working at building up our improv muscles is a powerful counterforce that can help in every kind of professional situation.

Improv takes courage--but not as much courage as you might imagine, especially when you realize how much everyone around you is in the same boat.

Four Reasons To Take An Improv Class

idea%20vector%20logo_edited.png
by Rob Asghar, Forbes Online


"Do not fear mistakes. There are none."  – Jazz legend Miles Davis

Tonight marks graduation for me: Graduation from an eight-week improvisational comedy class that’s challenged me, panicked me and ultimately liberated me--at least a little--from many of the fears and hang-ups that can block my ability to get things done.

I hardly took the class out of any interest in becoming a professional comedian. I just wanted to personally dive in, head first, into some of the processes that I know are crucial to peak performance and to overall success in work and life. Most of my improv classmates turned out to be there for similar, "professional growth" reasons.

It helped having an extraordinarily gifted teacher, Keith Saltojanes, who very much took the point of view of a Miles Davis.

 

Keith didn't dwell on any mistakes by me or my classmates, instead seeing every clumsy moment as a springboard to wonderful and funny new possibilities. He had an almost preternatural ability to not be disappointed in us and to instead encourage us to keep taking bigger chances. (He also found the time to break a Guinness world record last week for the longest improv show ever, an impossible 150 hours).

I’ve written before about how successful athletes and artists reach “the zone” in peak performance. It generally involves “getting out of their head”--by building up their skills in shutting off that active, rational part of their brains and learning to operate on instinct. Honing those skills requires several things:

Focusing on the process, not on the outcome.


Allowing stress and butterflies to be fuel for performance, not an obstacle.


And practice, practice and more practice, till their brain and body know from memory how

to respond with confidence when something new is thrown at them.


Improv classes are available everywhere around in a town like Los Angeles, where I live, and are common in most other large cities. They’re phenomenal resources for professionals of every type. And even if you can’t find a class that’s right for you, you can consider creating your own group of supportive friends and colleagues who will give each other permission to practice improv skills.

There are a few practical reasons why improv can help you.

First of all, we need antidotes to the new, “asynchronous” world that we all live in. We’re used to getting text messages and social-media posts, and then responding on our own time. This artificiality damages our ability to relate to real human beings in the moment. Improv drags you out of that asynchronous, virtual-reality world, and drops you into that wondrous world of high-energy, immediate, person-to-person interaction.

Second, improv teaches us to soften our focus and heighten our awareness, so that we can respond well to surprises. If you’re in a circle of people playing a word association game, one person may say “spoon,” the next may say “fork,” and the next may say “knife.” At this point, you may be thinking that the word association game is going to be all about dining or food, and you may begin thinking of related words. But if the next person says “gun” in response to “knife,” you have to be able to immediately go with a gun association rather than a dining association. You realize that the thinking and analyzing that you did before was a waste of time--and that's a good way to learn how to get out of your head and just be in the moment.

Think about that at a practical level: Most of the time, we go into meetings and conversations assuming that they need to go in one direction; when someone begins to take it in another direction, we completely miss what’s happening, and we miss a true opportunity to connect with the other person.

Third, improv teaches us to listen more patiently and to respond more slowly than we may be accustomed. That allows us to be present to colleagues and friends in ways that we may never before have been. Do you jump in to respond to people before they’re done talking? Stop doing that. One of the most powerful lessons I learned from Saltojanes’ class is that you have to let the other person finish his her or her sentence, because it may end with a surprise that takes everything in a new direction. At the very least, others will notice and appreciate how you really listen to them.

Fourth and finally, an improv class is one of the few places in life where you have permission to genuinely “fail” without fear. By definition, you’re experimenting and trying things on without judgment. For those of us uptight people who feel the need to say or do the perfect thing, we too often freeze up in the clutch and say or do nothing. That’s not exactly peak performance. Working at building up our improv muscles is a powerful counterforce that can help in every kind of professional situation.

Improv takes courage--but not as much courage as you might imagine, especially when you realize how much everyone around you is in the same boat.

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Meet Keith Saltojanes of Improv-LA

Today we’d like to introduce you to Keith Saltojanes.

Keith, can you walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.


I used to be someone who was very shy. I would never like to talk in front of people in school, and I wouldn’t talk to people in big groups, and really only had my friends talk at me. Then I started doing an improv class in college as part of my Theatre degree. I fell in love with it immediately because it gave me the freedom to create at the moment as the writer, the actor, the director, the sound engineer, the editor, and my imagination flew.

This was in 2005, and a year later, I started guest teaching the Saturday workshops where I started myself. Cut to 2009, and I moved to Los Angeles, and a few of my friends wanted to learn improv, so I would do exercises and improv scenes with them in their apartment. That eventually grew to them suggesting that their friends work with me as well, which then led to me to having a huge overwhelming feeling (that believe me, I tried to not listen to) of starting my own classes.

After a few weeks, and different trial-and-error ways of marketing, I had a couple of friends who started to come by and soon (but really months later) the classes grew to people I didn’t know starting to attend. I found someone who let me use their loft space in Echo Park in exchange for advertising their business, so I moved the drop-in classes to an indoor location.

At this point, more and more people started coming to the classes, so I was then able to move to an actual theatre space in Hollywood. This was when I started doing regular 6-week courses and the basis of what I do now. Fast forward to now, 2019, and ImprovLA has about five on-going courses going on during any given week, with Levels 1-4, Writing, Musical, and more classes coming this year, all of which consistently sell-out in advance every month.

I recently hired three more teachers and an office assistant to help run the administrative side of things too. I’ve been hired as a creative consultant for Netflix, Walt Disney, Hulu, Universities and have made what has become the first International School of Improv where I travel multiple times during the year to different countries and run workshops and perform.

I was the first teacher to bring long-form improv to China where the show and classes were solely in Mandarin (that of which I did not know the language, so it was interesting having a translator). I’ve taught elsewhere in Thailand, England, Ireland, Scotland, France and next week I’m going to Japan for my second time to teach and perform as well.

In addition, a few years ago, me and another teacher produced a show that set the Guinness World Record for Longest Continuous Improv Show at 150 hours, seven straight days. The previous record was 70 hours, and we wanted to completely destroy that, and did.

The school originally started as a way to help people who I saw in the improv community who seemed frustrated that they were going through a system of the “bigger schools” and paying a lot of money, but still weren’t having fun on stage. For me, improv gave me confidence on-stage and off, so I always have led from that place for my own teaching.

Everything I’ve done to grow the school has come from intuitive feeling, and from a place of love, and I’m thankful every day to hear how it has a positive effect on my student’s lives. Some of my favorite student success stories include: a student in class who does real estate said he used the skills he learned from Improv-LA to close his first million dollar deal, another person faced his fears and asked out someone he’s always liked, and now they are happily married, and a shy camera operator who worked for James Cameron spoke up and pitched the idea from what the alien creatures could look like for the film Avatar. He lives in an awesome penthouse downtown now. Maybe I should charge more for classes…

We noticed you do have lower prices than some of the other places in town.

 

Yes, I always felt that improv should be learned by anyone and not about being a factory to just pass students through while taking their money. So we try to have competitive rates while also having them still be affordable for the average person who has other things to spend money on.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?


From not getting support from people around me to finding students to even attend classes, it wasn’t the easiest thing. I also had to face my own fears of ‘maybe I don’t know what I’m doing here.’ But following my feelings and passion for improv, comedy, and creativity, all I had to do was get out of my own way, and it’s worked out in the long run.

We’d love to hear more about your business.


I’ve studied and performed at every improv school I could get my hands on, and they gave me invaluable skills. While a lot of the other schools in Los Angeles are more geared towards performing on their stage and being a part of house teams, Improv-LA focuses on the individual getting better as not only a performer, but also a person. It doesn’t matter the background that you have, anyone can do improv and use the skills for whatever they do in life.

We all improvise every day, but for some reason, when put in situations where we feel like we can’t control everything, we think we can’t do it. Every day we wake up, and no one has a script to tell us what to do and say and we’re able to get through the day anyway. So my school leads from that idea. Just stop overthinking and play like you did as a child, but with everything, you now know as an adult. We all have creative power if we stop getting in our own way.

What were you like growing up?


When I was very young, I was very outgoing and would put on shows for family members on holidays and would wear a homemade costumes to school. Well, I soon realized that this made me a very easy target for bullies, so instead of continuing that creativity, I shut down and closed off.

I became very introverted to protect myself from any mockery, but the creativity was always there in my head, and I’d use it for visual arts or writing stories or what became the first student-written show in my conservatory program in college. Once I started to do more creative things in high school and then eventually (for some crazy reason) choosing to be a theater major in college, it opened up that door for me once again, and after that first improv class, I was hooked.

Today while I overlook the daily functions of Improv-LA, consult for companies looking to add more creativity and fearlessness into their overall product, I also use the same skills I teach working as a TV writer, all of which would not be possible without what I learned from improv.

Benefits Of An Online Improv Class

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This year has really taught us how online improv classes can be so helpful and inspiring for everyone. Also, by moving online, the comedy improv classes provided the chance for grown-ups to have fun and laugh when stuck at home with the kids. This article shares with you a few excellent benefits of moving improv classes online that you could reap.

Online Improv comedy classes help in improving your career.

Comedic improv classes help build your confidence and leadership skills. The Improv-LA Masterclass videos are very interactive, which gives an improvisational theatre feel, without ever leaving your house. The instructors take the course and perfectly translates it to an online video series and indeed, the improv classes are the straightforward exhilarating.

Online group classes help to stay focus.

One of the most notable benefits to reap from online improv classes is that it helps you be very present in the moment. The friendly instructions strategy is fun, along with assignments, exercises, and warmups from the instructor, make it easier to respond and build focus skills.

Group Improv classes build patience and communication skill.

The best thing about improv classes is that you don't have to worry about bad internet connections or people talking over each other. The online courses allow you to meet the person you have hidden inside you, that you used to be as a kid, all while maintaining the flow. Listening to the instructor is not only educational, but funny too, as each lesson was filled with great comedic moments (no surprise since some of the teacher's credits includes the whos-who of improv history- Second City, Groundlings, UCB, and Curb Your Enthusiasm. All of these help build your level of patience, listening skills and improve your communication skills.

A Fun kind of professional development

Whether in-person or online, improv training is always recognized as one of the best ways to hone up your corporate skills. The online sessions create out-of-the-box thinking capabilities, and the many benefits come into play during client meetings.

The bottom line, online improv classes come with no location limit. You can participate in the comedic improv class from anywhere in the world, and even at your own pace. And best of all, act in front of your computer without any stress or anxieties.

You don’t have to be a tech-wizard to participate in an improv class online. The best way to get hands-on experience of improv classes is by participating in a session.