Years ago I attended an improv festival in Milwaukee. Backstage there was a sign, “Check your ego at the door.” It seemed like pretty good advice at the time. Improv is shared creation and making the other performer look good. Having a group of performers knocking heads over who’s the best doesn’t get anyone anywhere. Ultimately it leads to a bunch of shouting on stage with the loudest person being the “funniest”
But, it always struck me as odd that the advice was to avoid ego altogether. At any moment the full focus of a scene may be on you, and a hearty ego is going to help you make the most of that moment before you pass it to the next performer.
An adjustable ego might be a better way of putting it, but “Detachable Ego” has a certain ring to it.
In my experience a large majority of improvisors are white men in their 20’s. If ever there was a group that needs to be aware that their ego isn’t the only important thing on stage, it’s that demographic. Hence the sign.
Being an improvisor long enough to age out of that demographic, I find it interesting to observe from both sides. I don’t actually know if it’s training, learning, stage experience, or from getting older and having less to prove, but, I do know that I’m still involved in many funny scenes, I just don’t shout over my fellow performers as much anymore. I’d say that’s progress.