I decided recently I wanted to return to performing on stage. Because I did not need to memorize anything, I chose improv comedy as a vehicle to do that. One of the first lessons drilled by my instructors was simple: Show, don’t tell.

As an improviser takes the stage in an improv show, he is tasked with creating an environment for the audience with no script, no costumes, and no props other than a couple of chairs. Within this framework, the comedy in improv does not come from quips and punch lines, but instead relatable persons doing relatable things in an odd or unusual context. Body positioning, emotion, and connections between the character you have chosen and your teammates shows the audience what you are trying to tell them. By showing­­—and not telling—the goal is to draw the audience into your little world so they can join you in laughing at your characters, your character’s antics and (hopefully), themselves.

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