How Improv Became My Life

Part 1: The beginning of an unexpected journey

I’ve had an amazing life and incredible experiences thanks to improv.

People ask me, “How long have you been improvising?” I tell them, “Since birth.”

And I mean that. We all have. When people get nervous about improv, I remind them that every one of us has been improvising every single day since the day we were born.

Life has no script.

Right before I moved to California, two former students came up to me and said, “We are the best web designers in the world. And we want to make a website for you.” For me? Why? My instinct was to say, “No, no, no.” But being an improvisor, I said yes before I knew what I was agreeing to—something I learned through improv.

I had no idea how to put a website together. And I had no idea what I wanted it to be. I just talked with the guys at Crazy Loki, Dev and Diwant, and they took my ideas and ran with it and before I knew it, I had this kick-ass website. Not only do I think it looks amazing, I also agree that they are the best web designers in the world.

Who do you think you are?

My name is Jay Sukow and I’m an improvisor. My life’s philosophy is “yes, and…” But I didn’t start out to become an improvisor. I started out not knowing what I wanted to be.

I grew up in Glenwood, a far southeast suburb of Chicago. My dad, an iron worker and my mom, a teacher-turned retail store manager, were so supportive. “I don’t care if you want to dig ditches. Whatever you do, do it well and be happy.”

I didn’t take an improv class until I was a 5th year senior at Illinois State University. I didn’t even really know what improv was. But instantly, I was hooked. My first improv class was actually a Christmas present from my parents; an 8 week course at Second City Northwest, in Rolling Meadows, Illinois. It was my last semester of college and I would drive up every Friday night from Normal, Illinois to take a 3 hour improv class from 12-3 on Saturday. Sometimes, I’d drive back that night. Other times, the next day.

I clearly remember the first thing I ever learned in class. The instructor told us to walk around the room as if a string was connected to our heads, pulling them to the ceiling. Oh. My. God. Then, he said that string was now pulling from our stomachs. I walked around, amazed. I loved it! I was hooked. So each week, I went back. I took more classes. This was my real world education.

My first three teachers were Stephen Colbert, Dave Razowsky, and Steve Carell. Eventually, five of us formed the group “Wakamalaka”: Liz Allen, Ed Brown, Bob Dassie, Ed Dassie, Judy Fabjance and me. We did our own student graduation sketch and improv show, which turned into a year run of “The Best of The Second City Northwest.” I got to perform the same sketches as my comedy mentors! All thanks to our producer, Cheryl Sloane. She’s the daughter of one of my all-time favorite people, the heart of Second City for its first 50 years, Joyce Sloane. Two amazing women who gave me a shot.

To be continued...


Live - Laugh - Love.

As Martin deMaat said, “You are pure potential.”

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Written 6 years, 7 months ago.
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