You don’t have to be funny

Improv Gym in Daphne teaches the art of ready


Telling jokes not exactly your thing? Never been the funniest guy in the room?

You should go to Improv Gym.

Not to fire up that laugh o’ meter, but to sharpen your ability to respond, quickly and effectively.

This month Jon Robitaille, who many may recognize from the Theatre 98 stage in Fairhope, began hosting Improv Gym with the Bay Cities Improv Company, which he founded.

While the unanointed may only recognize the antics of off the cuff humor from shows like “Whose Line is it Anyway” and the early days of “Saturday Night Live,” Robitaille said improv practice makes for better performances both on and off the stage.

“It teaches you to listen, to be aware and how to negotiate,” he said.

The art of improv is to focus on being in the moment, Robitaille said. By learning to be in the now and practice responding to any situation you are given, practitioners of improv learn to respond to situations without becoming nervous or feeling panicked, he said.

Every Wednesday at the Improv Gym, visitors play three to four games that allow them to focus on different types of characters or situations that they respond to with a group of people.

An example he gave is a famous improv rule called “yes and and.”

“If you are always yes and you’re not taking a negative stance, you start out by saying ‘yes I agree that what you said is valid and let’s add this’. So you build upon what’s going on. We see this in political debates all the time,” he said.

Robitaille said he became involved with improv to hone his sales skills at work.

“I was in sales and read article about how improv helps with sales calls. The more research I did I found that improv helps you with everyday life more than anything else,” he said.

Improv, he added, is also helpful for helping people overcome public speaking fears.