Doing improv comedy can be an intimidating skill to pick up, but with a teacher like Aram Rayzian, you’ll pick it up in no time! He was also once a student learning the ways of improv, and now, as a teacher, he believes everyone can be taught how to be an improviser with the right fundamentals.
“Once you start to see the fundamentals and what makes improv work and how we’re able to do it successfully and better, I hope that more people realize that there’s a place for them at the table. And that it’s not just for people who are class clowns in high school.”
Aram Rayzian: Seven nights a week, you can do a show, watch a show in Chicago, improv or sketch. I love improv because as cliche as it sounds, it’s new every time, and there is sort of an adrenaline that you get each time because of that. It’s a brand new show. We’re never going to see it again. Everyone is in the same boat. We don’t know what’s going to happen. That’s the thrill of it all. And then when it goes really well, we’re like, “That’s great. We were able to make that up.” And then if it doesn’t go over, we’re like, “Well, give us a break. We’re making it up.”
My name is Aram Rayzian. I am a chess player part-time. I’m not that great at it. And I teach … I’ll take it from the top. I’ve always wanted to do something where you’re part of something that’s bigger than yourself and that’s so humbling, and then also makes you feel like the work that you’re doing is important. Currently, I produce Flex at Annoyance. It’s an all-BIPOC team that started at IO, and then we’ve been performing around town. Right now, we have residents at Annoyance, and who doesn’t love being able to play with your friends every week in front of an audience and have them come and kind of shake off their week and their stressors? The amount of comradery that came out of that, of doing something with a group every week, is something that’s so valuable.
(Instructing class) Give them a hand. Give them a hand…
Class participant 1: That’s true. That’s true.
Class participant 2: Yeah. No, you got to look at the bright side of life. It’s really…
Aram: So our job is to show that relationship. What makes this parent-child thing different and worth exploring?
That’s the performing aspect. And then be able now kind of in this part of the journey to be able to teach it and kind of reflect back on what was transformative for me as a student to hear. And there’s so many transferable skills in improv that can be transferred to fellow other performing aspects, auditioning now. And then I remember the first class I ever taught, I had one student and he was like, “I’m just here so I can be better at playing pretend with my son.”
Class participant 3: I’m telling all my friends and family that I’m trying to convince them that I’m dead. Okay? It’s this whole life boss. It’s this whole life. It’s been getting to me.
Aram: Scene! Great job. Great job. I thought that was… Did that feel better?
Class participant 3: Yeah. Yeah.
Class participant 4: All right. If you drink this potion, you’ll live forever.
Class participant 5: All right. If you drink this potion, you’ll live forever.
Class participant 2: All right. If you drink this potion, you’ll live forever.
Class participant 3: All right. If you’ll drink this potion, you’ll live forever.
Aram: All right. If you drink this potion, you’ll live forever. All right. Now, brand new character passing a brand new object with a brand new emotion.
And I think a way that we’re sort of heightening is, which is a tactic that we can do, is…
A misconception is that a lot of people will look at improvisers and watch shows and say, “I can’t do that.” Once you start to see the fundamentals and what makes improv work and how we’re able to do it successfully and better, I hope that more people realize that there’s a place for them at the table. And that it’s not just for people who are class clowns in high school. I think it’s for people who want to validate and be validated. So much of this art form is support. There’s different ways to support — go and watch people’s shows. And then the support that’s on stage, those fundamentals that make this work — listening, agreeing, not judging what your partner’s saying. That’s who it’s for. And I think it’s for people who want to have fun. I mean, we’re adults playing pretend so no one’s trying to look cool. How many people get to play pretend in their normal regimens? So we get to channel that inner kid.