We recently attended an improv show at ComedySportz in Chicago with my tween daughter and her friend, and it was a great night full of laughs.
If you haven’t heard of ComedySportz, it’s a fun approach to improv. A “match” features two teams, each with three players, competing for laughs and points by playing improv games. A with a referee keeping things moving and calling fouls. The teams plan, on average, between seven to twelve games in a match. Each show is different both because there are over 100 possible games and because there is some audience input.
The games are not about sports, it’s just a sports set up. And it’s a family-friendly one, focusing on smart, clean comedy. The more game the teams played, the more I got to thinking about how improv and parenting overlap a bit. Here are 7 ways improv is like parenting.
1. You never know what’s going to happen.
How many times have you started the day with a plan and at the end of the day, what you and your kiddos actually did is radically different from that plan you had 12 hours ago? Kids are masters of the curve ball, and that means parents are masters of handling them.
Similarly, in improv, the whole point is that they have to react immediately to a brand new idea shouted out from a stranger. While parenting may not involve shouting strangers, sometimes our kids shout out things that make us wish they were strangers. Point is, in either venue, anything can, and often does, happen.
2. Correllary to #1: Going with the flow is important.
Because in improv and parenting (and life in general, really), sometimes you just have to put your (fabulous, well-reasoned, obviously successful) plan aside and instead go with the flow. Fighting for things to go your way often isn’t productive, and sometimes, following a path set out before you that wasn’t in your initial plan can be fun.
3. The support of those around you can make all the difference.
Whether we are raising humans or playing an improv game, it takes a village. Life is better when you know those surrounding you have your back. I think ComedySportz is aptly named because improv really works best when those performing are on the same wavelength and working together to create.
4. Surprises can be fun.
I’m a planner, but the night at ComedySportz reminded me that sometimes surprises are fun. The ref asked the audience for a suggestion of a topic that talk shows have not yet covered. To my surprise, my daughter yelled out, “Gummy worms!” (In case you doubted the universal appear of gummy worms, a teen boy sitting in front of us whom we did not know turned around and said, “Great call!”) I didn’t expect her to be so quick and so loud, but it was a fun surprise. Then the ref awarded her with a package of Chuckles, a surprise she certainly welcomed.
I’m guessing that those on the stage didn’t see “gummy worms” coming, but they made it awesome.
5. You don’t have to understand everything to enjoy it.
Ever have a toddler go on and on about something in a language that you’re pretty sure no one but your toddler speaks? We’ve been there. And while we have absolutely no idea exactly what the child was saying, that doesn’t mean we didn’t love seeing the joy and excitement that he felt about whatever it was.
At the ComedySportz show, we were seated in the back. Someone up front was named Rick, we think. There was one interaction that none of us quite caught. But soon #saverick was on the television screens. It kept coming up, and it was funny. Did we completely get it? No. Did we latch on to it anyway? Yup. I texted my daughter “#saverick” this morning and she thought it was hilarious.
6. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
I think this is hugely important in any part of life, but it’s something I’m not great at and frequent reminders are really helpful. The players at ComedySportz don’t seem to take themselves too seriously and just like on Saturday Night Live, the times they cracked up were hilarious. They were having fun, and that was contagious.
It can be hard to not take your job as a parent too seriously, but when you can inject a little levity or goofiness into a situation, it will probably be easier for both you and your children.
7. Laugh together whenever you can.
The day after we went to ComedySportz, Dr. Michele Borba told me that families with tweens need to be sure to carve out time to laugh and giggle together. “Laughter is an instant vacation,” said Milton Berle. We may have only traveled into the city, but it felt like we were in another world, a happy one at that.
ComedySportz says it has fans ranging in age from 7 to 70 years old, and that was true at the match we attended. One family was there celebrating a 45th wedding anniversary with three generations and they all seemed to be having a great time, and the competitors did a great job honoring their special occasion. (I never thought I’d want to spend an anniversary at improv, but I do now!)
ComedySportz is in 25 cities. If you’re in Chicago, kids aged 7-13 get $15 tickets for ComedySportz shows Thursday, 8 PM, & Saturday, 6 PM now through September 5! You can reserve by calling 773-549-8080 or at CSzChicago.com.
Disclosure: My family received free tickets to check out a ComedySportz match. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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