The following quote is a couple weeks old now, but I came across this recently and have been meaning to write about it. I saw this at the end of an article about the Tennessee Titans preseason in The Tennessean:
“We just have to continue to work hard, believe in one another and lift one another up,” Douglas said. “When there’s a mistake, be there for your teammate, and when we do good stuff, remain humble.”
This is a terrific quote from the Titans wide receiver Harry Douglas, and it’s just as apt for the art of improvisation as it is for the sport of football. In improv, support work is one of the most important things you can do for your improv group. At its simplest, it’s making sure you are supporting the ideas of your scene partner and building upon them with your own fun details that make sense within the context of what you’re doing. It also can mean providing support from the backline if you’re not in a scene, be it adding some audio effects with your mouth or stepping in to fill in a background role in a scene (but always in such a way that contributes to the Game of the Scene, and doesn’t take away or distract from what’s going on in the scene). When you make your teammates look good, you look good.
Continuing with Douglas’ quote, this support work is also crucial if someone makes a “mistake” in improv. I put that word in quotes, since mistakes are very often gifts in disguise. I can’t tell you how much fun I’ve had taking someone’s “mistake” and turning it into the next idea or pattern we played around with in a scene. And when you do that, the original person that made the “mistake” looks like a genius.
The last part of Douglas’ quote is also very important – when you feel like you’ll pulled off a significant victory in whatever pursuit you’re doing, stay humble and don’t let it get to your head. Success can be fleeting, and keeping a level head is a great way to earn the respect of others. And that respect very often leads to new opportunities and new successes.