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5 Similarities Between Sex and Improv

Updated on December 31, 2015

Recently a friend in improv and I talked about not getting freaked out if the audience isn’t laughing. What I told my friend, is the same thing I’ll tell you. “If they are quite, that just means they are listening”. They are listening so closely that they don’t want to miss anything. And in terms of some of the long form shows I do, that silence is also building the tension for when that really great laugh comes. It’s like a huge release for the audience. Then it becomes about quality over quantity. Sometimes I love those moments in-between laughs where you can just feel the tension building in the room until that perfect moment presents itself for a huge laugh, and the release the entire room feels is euphoric. Is this starting to sound like something else to you? Good. Because improv and sex have a lot of similarities. However at the end of the day I don’t get to say “I had sex 4 different times on 3 different stages this weekend.” But, I would like to point out the similarities and it just might improve your improv game…and possibly your sex game.

1.) The Antici...pation

Much like sex, everyone shows up to an improv show not really sure what they are going to get. Audience and actors alike. No one in the room knows how the show is going to go. It could possibly be the greatest thing to ever hit that stage in the history of forever. There’s also the possibility it might fall a little flat and be disappointing. Even the best improv groups in the world have a possibility of having a dud of a show. No one can escape it. But just like sex, it’s that unknown and anticipation of something wonderful that gets everyone excited. Think of the last time you brushed your partner’s hair out of their face and gazed into their eyes with a knowing look of the possibility we will be getting it on later. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard the saying “Sex starts 5 days before you actually have it.” What that means is building that anticipation, so that when your hand finally does caress your lover’s inner thigh, they have been craving it for a few days and it is finally happening. Improv is the same. That room of actors and audience have a relationship of anticipation for what is about to happen.

2.) The Tease

Everyone likes to be teased. Go ahead, ask around. I dear you to find someone who says, “I hate when someone of the opposite sex teases me”. It’s a turn on. The tease in improv comes in the form of a good intro to your show. It doesn’t have to be long. Just a little glimpse into who the “Real” people are that the audience is about to spend the next 45 minutes making love to. A couple quick jokes here as “Me” to tease you into what you’re about to get.

3.) The Foreplay

Never underestimate the importance of foreplay. In improv I have referred to this before as “leaving bread crumbs”. When the show starts, we start leaving pieces of information that will pay off later in the show. Same thing as foreplay. We are warming the audience up so that we can slowly rev up the comedy, so that all the ground work we laid at the beginning is paying off at the end. Now as a man, we sometimes get bashed for skipping foreplay…it’s a myth. I can only speak personally of course, but I would love to debunk that myth for you.

4.) The Tension

Just like sex, improv and comedy builds tension. On stage the tension comes in the form of silences, and periods of no laughs. I spoke of this earlier where the audience is just listening. What they are also doing, without realizing it, is taking part in building the tension. When that tension is held for longer periods of time, the release of laughter is so much greater…again, sound like something else? For me personally, when watching improv, I would rather see a show where the laughs are fewer and far between but are smart, and the tension was built just right so that the laugh was so much more enjoyable. The flip side is a show where there are just a lot of little chuckles were there was no tension and basically a hit it and quit it type show. If you take your time and build that tension, it makes an experience that your audience/ lover doesn’t want to end.

5.) The Finish

With the anticipation built, the teasing that occurs, the foreplay warms your audience/ lover up, the tension is ready to explode, next, is the finish. And if every one of these things gets played just right, the ending leaves everyone (in sex and improv alike) saying “did you see how it all came together like that??!” The end of an improv show should be the biggest laugh of all, because of the tension you spent the last 45 minutes building to. You’ve thrust your jokes in just right, and took your time to punchlines that tickled your audience/lover in a way they have never felt before. When those lights go down on an improv show, or go on in the bedroom, if you play it right, everyone should be on their feet applauding.


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