Can You Make Money Doing Improv?

Hey, it’s me Mark!

Improvisers spend a lot of time doing improv, or practicing improv, or talking about it. It reaches a certain point where their families see them investing an enormous amount of time into this thing and they wonder, “Are you ever going to see a return on that investment?”

Our wonderful families and friends aren’t talking about an emotional return. They’re talking about money. Are we going to make our money back?

The conventional wisdom (usually shared with a person who has been doing improv for a year and loves it and wants to devote the rest of their Earthly existence to the promotion of this art) is that you will never make a living performing improv. You might someday be able to scratch out a living teaching it. But you can’t live off improv performance. It’s sad but true.

But wait…

I’ve been getting deep into Seth Godin this week. He’s an author and an entrepreneur. He talks about marketing frequently. Mostly, he’s just a good insightful guy. I like him. We’d probably be friends if we met. It’s no big deal.

Something Godin talks about is how we’re at the beginning of this new chapter in the world. We’re finishing up the chapter about the technological revolution. In the new chapter, what drives a person’s success is the ability to innovate. If you’re doing some task at your job, a machine could be invented tomorrow to do that. Boom. No more job. But if you have the ability to think differently, or the ability to let yourself think differently, you can never be replaced.

He says that we need to fail. We need to be willing to fail. Successful people are the ones who have failed more than the rest of us.

So will I ever make the money back that I spent learning to improvise? Sure. Because improv taught me to be comfortable trying new things. Improv taught me to fail.

I don’t just fail onstage. I fail every day. I fail in my relationship with my wife. I fail in my relationship with God. I fail at work. I fail everywhere. I’m getting really good at failing. It’s exciting.

I want to work in marketing. I’m not there yet, but I will be soon. How do I know?

Because I’m fantastic at failing.

The Gift of Gibberish

Hey, it’s me Mark!

Dr. Albert Mehrabian tells us that 93% of all communication is nonverbal. How about that? Pretty impressive huh? And he’s a doctor! So…this is a pretty big deal.

Our lives frequently involve us beating our heads against the wall trying to communicate with other people. We try to talk to our spouse more clearly. We try to understand our kids and have them understand us. We try to write really clear emails to our coworkers that don’t overuse exclamation points, but at the same time lack the ominous seriousness connoted by ending sentences with periods.

Dear boss...friendman...Hello there! I need, er, want, to meet you in the conference room! For business. All the best in your life, Workerguy

Dear boss…friendman…Hello there! I need, er, want, to meet you in the conference room! For business. All the best in your life, Workerguy

Communication is important, and it is difficult.


Certain short-form improv games require us to speak in gibberish. My favorite is 5 Things. In this game, one person is sent out of the room, and clues are gathered. Then they come back in the room and the other people on their team get them to guess the clues without using English; they can only speak in gibberish.

We usually succeed. Most people think we’re cheating somehow.

We aren’t.

Success comes because we have practiced communicating nonverbally. It’s just a skill, like any other. That means that you can become better at it too if you practice.

The truth is, having the possibility of speech removed actually frees us up to use all the other means of communication available to us. Suddenly, we discover that we can become a surfer by merely changing our posture. We can become young Michael Jackson by singing a few bars of gibberish to the melody of “ABC.” We can do all sorts of things, without ever resorting to language.

Gibberish helps us to make better use of the other avenues of communication available to us.

Praying in Tongues

People don’t often think of conservative Catholics praying in tongues. But I do.

Why? Because it helps me pray.

I’m a pretty verbal guy. I like to talk. I like to write. It’s important to me to get the words right in either medium. So when I pray, I often get hung up on the words. I want to be eloquent. I want to be original. I want to say something stirring or evocative or insightful. Then I get self-conscious about this.

It derails my prayer life a lot.

Praying in tongues frees me from all of this. Instead of trying to find the perfect words to praise God, or thank God or petition God, I babble gibberish and trust that God knows my heart well enough to know what I’m saying.

Without words, I find it easier to focus on my heart. Instead of composing a list of the things I’m grateful for, I just reflect on being grateful. We use words to convey to others how we feel.

When the Other already knows how we feel, words become extraneous. Praying in tongues frees us from the obligation of attempting to express the inexpressible.

It was St. Therese who said, “For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned towards heaven; it is a cry of recognition and love; embracing both trial and joy.

Next time you pray, try some gibberish, or some tongues. Let me know how it works out.


Image: Pixabay

The Key to Success: It’s a Process

Hey, it’s me Mark!

Someone asked me yesterday, “What are the chances of success for a creative idea?” It got me thinking.


Our whole lives, we’re told we’re supposed to succeed. But no one ever defines what success is or how we’re supposed to achieve it. This in and of itself should clue you into the fact that the idea of success as an and goal is a myth.

Success doesn’t exist like that.

Looking around, we can see people that we think of as successful: certain businessmen, pro athletes, the Swiss. But when you ask these people what it’s like to be successful, most of them would respond that they don’t feel successful. You don’t just hit some goal and reach total peace. It doesn’t happen. Sorry.

Successful people don’t feel successful for one reason: success isn’t a goal, it’s a process.


The process of success begins with failure. If you haven’t failed yet, you can’t succeed.

Have you ever watched a baby learn how to crawl? It’s embarrassing. They are so bad at crawling, and it’s crawling. Crawling isn’t really that hard. But these dumb babies just sit there and wiggle and move their limbs disjointedly. Morons. But…their failure is temporary. Before you know it, they’re mobile and none of your stuff will ever stay in your drawers or cabinets again.

Failure is good. Failure is the first step. And the second. And the third. In fact, failure is every step. You don’t ever get to some final step labeled success. All the steps are labeled failure and the only reason you’re crying about that is because you think failure is bad.

Failure is good.

You can accomplish a lot by failing.

Don’t be afraid of it. Success is the process of failing over and over again.