Dave Morris: The Way of Improvisation at TEDxVictoria (Full Transcript)

September 13, 2016 1:27 am | By More

Dave Morris is a storyteller, improviser, and speaker. Here is the full transcript of Dave Morris’ TEDx Talk: The Way of Improvisation at TEDxVictoria conference. This event occurred on November 21, 2015.

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Dave Morris – Storyteller, improviser, and speaker

Hello, hi, wow! Very attractive audience. So, if you can’t tell by the way I’m dressed, I’m an improviser. Improvisation is what I do and what I teach.

Now I’m sure we all know what improvisation is, right? I’m assuming. Give me some nods here. I like this interaction. Yeah, give me some nods. So improvisation, we’re making things with what is at hand. We’re creating something out of nothing, we’re making it up. But still, when we hear the word improvisation, we all think of something. Who here thinks of improv comedy? When they hear ‘improv’? Raise your hand. Who here thinks of Jazz music? Anybody? Yeah, there you are, sexy. Who here thinks of freestyle rapping or hip-hop? Anyone? There you go. We got some hands. Who thinks of MacGyver? There it is, right? Mac would improvise the most amazing things.

And all of you are right. Improvisation is all of those things. But what I love about it, is that it’s not just one of those things. Improvisation isn’t actually even a thing, when you think about it. Improvisation is a process. It’s a way of making a thing. It’s not a product that I can give you or show you, what I do is I improvise theater, or hip-hop, or explosive devices. And that’s what I’m going to talk to you about today,

I’m going to talk to you about what I call: ‘The Way of Improvisation’. The Way. When I teach improv the majority of students I have, whether they’re high school students or adults, none of them are actually wanting to be professional improvisers. None of them. They all just want to improve their lives. And what I’ve found is that the skills that I use and teach in improvisation are the skills I use when I live my life. Because life, believe it or not, is improvised.

So I’m going to take you through 7 skills and 7 steps of improvising that I teach to people and we’re going to sort of translate those into our real lives, sound fun? Sound cool? You with me? Give me some nods, I like the nods, I like the nods. Yeah, good, awesome.


The first of these skills — the first thing I have to teach especially with adults, is ‘PLAY.’ Very simple, we all knew how to do this when we were children. But as we grow up we slowly start losing our sense of Play. Right, and what Play is, is that idea of engaging in something just because you like it. Right, like oh this is fun. And we lose that as we get older. And Play happens here in this moment, in my body and what Play becomes as we get older we start taking it more seriously and it becomes the opposite of Play which is Work, which everybody hates.

Because Work is serious and we start thinking about it and we get worried about it and we’re stuck in our heads and we aren’t just playing and being present in the moment and this right here, is where life happens. It’s where everything happens is in the moment so let’s get there instead of here.

Let yourself fail

The second step: ‘Let yourself fail.’ Now we already heard a very handsome doctor talk a lot about failure, so I’m going to try and not spend too much time on it here. Such a handsome doctor! But notice that it says ‘Let yourself fail.’ It’s not just “FAIL”. Because failing is easy, we can all do it. The hard part is to be OK with that and to ‘let yourself fail’, and accept that failure is a natural way of things, the doctor said it so much more intelligently. But I’m an improviser, we’re pretty much the same.

And it’s the fear, the fear of failure is what does it right? Because as soon as you start fearing failure, you start getting worried about it, it gets you right back up here in your head again and you’re worried and you’re thinking about all the failings you’re going to do and then, you probably will fail. Improvisers understand that if you fail, failing does not make you a failure. And that’s a big difference there. Just because you failed, doesn’t mean you’re a failure, it means “Oh I failed, I screwed up. All right, well I’m an improviser so, I’ll just start again.” And that’s it. That’s the worst thing that happens.


The next step is Listening. You’ve all probably heard that phrase or something similar about how we have 2 ears , and 2 eyes and 1 mouth, so we should listen and watch twice as much as we speak, right? You know that? Not true. Most people listen just enough to be able to respond. But we don’t listen with every part of our being to what they’re saying. A very wise man once told me that listening is the willingness to change. If I’m not willing to change based on what you’re telling me, I’m not really listening. I’ve already made up my mind, I’ve decided how I feel, I’ve decided what I think, and I’m just going to let you talk at me and then I’m going to respond.

But improvisers listen with every part of their being because we’re present in that moment. I’m there with you as you’re speaking to me. I’m willing, I don’t have to change, but I’m willing to change. Improv is a collaborative art form and collaboration means taking yourself out of the equation. Getting that ego about what you believe and what you think out of the way so that instead of it being your idea and my idea, it becomes the first idea and the second idea and the third idea, we’re just going to listen and react and change.

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