Tumblr isn’t letting me reblog this, because it’s an answer to a question and Tumblr is severely flawed. It’s an excellent post and I agree with all of it.
Just wanted to add that it really bothers me when people talk about improv as a dead end, or about how improv won’t pay…
Honestly it’s totally fine to do improv for improv’s sake. But I don’t understand why asking about improv’s financial viability is “offensive”. A lot of people who are struggling to build real careers in the arts take improv to supplement their acting/writing talents. And a lot of these people are fairly new to the entertainment industry and have questions and want to know how the people getting jobs got them. Also, in case you hadn’t noticed, improv classes are expensive. It takes real time and money to study and perform good improv. If you happen to have a scholarship or generous parents or a lucrative day job, hooray. But not all of us have that. At some point, a cost-benefit analysis has to be done in regards to whether or not someone who’s answering phones (like me) or waiting tables (like a lot of my friends) indefinitely should continue to empty their savings into improv classes. So maybe chill out, dudes.
I would like to avoid this becoming some dumb tumblr battle that pits the “artists” against the “professionals” or whatever silly-not-completely-accurate-on-either-side language might be used. However, I would like to compare improv to any other art. A painter or poet hopefully doesn’t get into those fields because she/he thinks it will lead to financial success. The painter or poet or whatever gets into those fields because their art speaks to them. There is something so compelling about creating that they will find any means to keep doing it. If it should result in financial stability without the need for another job, that’s wonderful but an artist keeps making art no matter what. I view improv the same way.
Of coarse a painter or poet could do commercial illustrations or write jingles for commercials and improvisers often are cast in commercials and other acting roles. I just see it as a disservice to any art form to enter it with the point of view of “I want to profit from this.”
Those who seek talent will often gravitate towards those whose voices are truly their own and who don’t just try to appease what they think others will want to buy. Create because you love it. If someone discovers your work and offers you a way to make money off of your voice that doesn’t compromise it, go for it. If your work and offers you a way to make money off of it that does compromise your voice, make your own decision.
Ultimately I cannot speak for anyone other than myself. I do not expect anyones mind to be changed by reading my piece. All I can do is express my opinion which is to say that entering any art (including improv) with the purpose of making money from it is a disservice to the art and the people with whom you work. Improvise for the sake of improvising. It’s gone as soon as your done. If improv isn’t enough of a reason for you to improvise, I say don’t but it’s your decision, not mine.
Some of my friends (improvisers) were gathered around late on Saturday night/Sunday morning and this topic inadvertently came up from possibly the least expected person, too.
Speaking for myself — I am happy to be apart of this community, exploring my creativity with some of the funniest people in New York City. From the way this question is phrased, that doesn’t seem to be the case for everybody.
My biggest goal — even prior to getting involved in improv — has been writing and getting a book published. I’m happy to report that I’m closer than ever to attaining that goal. Why? Because improvising helped get rid of writer’s block at a time when I couldn’t think straight let alone put pen to paper. Also, because it’s opened up my network to people with publishing connections in addition to just having super funny and talented people willing to read the stuff I write.
I don’t think a great many people look at improv as a destination, but for the few who do, I don’t know what to say. Maybe you’ll make it but maybe you’ll be very disappointed, become depressed, stop working on your creativity and fall out of the community because you’ve become bitter?
Can’t say for sure, but I really liked this line, Will and I think it sums my vantage point up pretty well:
"If something is fun and enticing, you are victorious. You should keep doing that. If you’re a zombie and going through the motions it’s time to move on."
Say no more.
EDIT: I did not mean this response to be offensive to anyone doing improv as a means to make a career in comedy—obviously, especially those who have already landed writing gigs, acting gigs and everything in between. Just the manner in which the question was phrased originally—didn’t sound like that was the case.
Promote healthy dialogue, people.