Students in Service and Leadership at Harvard

Laura Frustaci - Blueprint for Action


Is the purpose of improvisational comedy to make people laugh? “Yes, and”… improv can also be a useful tool in developing qualitative skills applicable to numerous other arenas and contexts. After interviewing members of Harvard’s only short-form improvisation group, I was able to identify which transferable core skills performing improv helps to cultivate, and where improvisational comedy might have uses beyond the college-lecture-hall-turned-stage. Based on these findings, I can offer recommendations for OTI going forward for more socially-conscious, impactful, exciting improvisation. 

I interviewed six members of the group.

Survey Findings:

What skills does improv teach?

66% of people interviewed said Confidence
50% of people interviewed said Social Cue Awareness 
50% of people interviewed said Teamwork 
50% of people interviewed said Ability to Think on Your Feet 

Has there ever been a time when improv has helped you in an academic or work environment?

How could improvisation work be directed to be more public service oriented? 

Quotable Moments: 

“You learn to respect your stream of consciousness as something that has value and worth.”
“We’re on a sinking ship together.”
“It’s hard to say that improv is a pathway to social change at Harvard specifically when it’s not an unbiased, all-inclusive space to get into in the first place.”
“For marginalized groups in the education system, there are so few avenues of self-expression, and where there are avenues of self-expression they’re very restricted and regulated. Improv is different from that.”
“Sometimes you can ‘fail up’ and a failure can be fun.” 
“It’s not the only tool we have, but a really great and underused one.”
“Teaching kids that failure is okay and they don’t need to be afraid of trying hard at things.”


Within OTI, we could internally create more pathways to leadership. This could be done in two ways: 
Within Harvard, we could engage more with the Harvard/college community:
Within Cambridge, we could engage more with the Cambridge community:
With these recommendations on the table, I think it is clear that improvisation is not just about laughter. Laughter is important (it’s the best medicine, in fact) but improv can also offer development of confidence, creativity, and collaborative skills, as the title of this page so aptly suggests. Doing all of this research was a phenomenally exciting way for me to gain more insight into and support of a theory I have been harboring for years—improvisation is a bit more useful than we societally give it credit for. The next step is taking this knowledge and using it to try to make a difference, whether that’s only in one person’s life or in as many residents of the Cambridge area we can lure into a room with the promises and alluring possibilities of “Yes, and…”

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