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Juggling Business and Comedy: Improv at HBS Is Alive and Kicking

Updated: Sep 1, 2023

Pallavi Chadha, Community & Entrepreneurship Editor


This tight-knit community meets every week to be silly and let loose.


Planning conferences is cool and all, but do you ever find yourself searching for an extracurricular activity that is a little bit…different? Look no further than the HBS improv club. It’s the one official place on campus where students can let loose and pretend to be a tree or a talking potato without judgment.


Improvisation (“improv”), as a performance art form, involves creating scenes, characters, and dialogue on the spot. In many ways, it is like jazz music, where players improvise their melodies and harmonies in real-time. Improv requires quick thinking, effective communication, and collaboration with your fellow performers. It’s not a stretch, then, to say that the skills learned in improv can be applied to many areas of life, including business, public speaking, and personal relationships.


Every Wednesday at 4 pm, the group meets in Batten, a place that, let’s be honest, probably smells like old coffee and desperation. But the club’s members don’t let that deter them – the fun they have there is worth it. The only prerequisite is a willingness to make a fool of in front of fellow classmates – so basically, if you’ve ever had one too many drinks at a HBS mixer, you’re qualified.


Led by an RC or EC, the group begins with a series of wacky warm-up exercises that are designed to get the brain working and the body moving. Think charades, but with way more yelling and awkward flailing. When someone forgets a rule or messes up a scene, there is no sense of judgment. It’s all in good fun!

Once the group is warmed up, a club member introduces a range of improv exercises and games. These exercises are designed to teach participants different aspects of improvisation, such as building characters, establishing relationships, and creating storylines. One popular exercise is called “Yes, and.” In this game, one participant makes a statement, and the next participant builds on it, saying “yes, and” before adding their own contribution to the scene. This exercise teaches participants the importance of building on each other’s ideas and creating a collaborative environment.


As the session goes on, the games get more and more absurd. One minute someone might be pretending to be a zoo animal, the next they’re an alien trying to order a pizza. It’s all part of the fun, and the more ridiculous a participant can be, the better.


But the improv club isn’t just about making weird noises and doing silly dances. It’s also a tight-knit community of people who embrace their weirdness. There’s no better way to make friends and connections that will last a lifetime than by laughing at – er, with – one another.


If you’re looking for a break from the monotony of case studies and networking events, come join the HBS improv club. Who knows, you might just discover a hidden talent for comedy. 

 

Pallavi Chadha (MBA ’24) comes to HBS having spent the past few years understanding the Indian startup ecosystem as a consumer VC investor. What she enjoyed most about that life was getting to know people and truly listening and understanding the stories behind their journeys.

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