You can’t succeed in improv if you go onstage and just start telling jokes. You have to be flexible and pay attention to what people are saying so a scene doesn’t go astray. When you watch talented performers, you can see that they’re committed to the reality that’s being created onstage. In moments when they might not know what to say, they lean on their fellow cast members for more information. Often the group mind is more intelligent than any one given perspective. Yes, even yours.
Matt Walsh is a cofounder of the Upright Citizens Brigade improv sketch-comedy troupe. He lives in Los Angeles.