Many teachers think of children as immature adults. It might lead to better and more 'respectful' teaching, if we thought of adults as atrophied children.

— Keith Johnstone

The most informative Keith Johnstone quotes that are free to learn and impress others

If you have a good idea, open your mouth and say something else.

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Imagination is as effortless as perception, unless we think it might be ‘wrong’, which is what our education encourages us to believe.

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Most people I meet are secretly convinced that they’re a little crazier than the average person. People understand the energy necessary to maintain their own shields, but not the energy expended by other people. They understand that their own sanity is a performance, but when confronted by other people they confuse the person with the role.

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Suppose Mozart had tried to be original? It would have been like a man at the North Pole trying to walk north, and this is true of all of the rest of us. Striving after originality takes you far away from your true self, and makes your work mediocre.

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An artist who is inspired is being obvious.

He’s not making any decisions, he’s not weighing one idea against another. He’s accepting his first thoughts.

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I don't even think you should tell the audience you're improvising.

It's like an apology in case it's bad : 'we're just making it up' If the improv isn't better than the rehearsed stuff, then you should just rehearse it.

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If it weren't for fear, I wouldn't have to teach you a damn thing

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Good impro can make you laugh, we love it, but soon the content is forgotten.

Good scenes from The Life Game stay with you always. They haunt you.

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Truth is that the best ideas are often psychotic, obscene and unoriginal.

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The improvisation had to be in public, because you only get value playing to strangers.

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Very hard to get an audience. So if you're going to fill the theatre, you can't just rely on old stuff.

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When you want to have entertainment, it must be a waste of time.

I don't like that. I don't like improvisation being pointless.

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About Keith Johnstone

Quotes 45 sayings
Profession Playwright
Birthday 1933

In a normal education everything is designed to suppress spontaneity, but I wanted to develop it.

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If people had no fear, you'd hardly need to have to teach them.

It's the fear that screws everything up.

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In a scene [where the improvisers must interact] without the letter S, the audience is waiting for you to lose - so they can laugh at you. Don't try to win.

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Wherever you go it's the same fear. And the same protective devices. There is one big error I think and partly my fault which is that a lot of things are taught to beginners which you can cast off later on.

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The improviser has to understand that his first skill lies in releasing his partner’s imagination.

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I'm not against work, I think work is great, I work a lot;

but if you want to play, the consequences must not be important.

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Some people in this life think they're worth something, or that they have a right to things. I never thought I had a right to anything 'cause of the way I was broken as a child. And therefore I was sort of floating around and would get sucked into things.

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Light entertainment means it mustn't teach you anything.

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Many teachers think of children as immature adults.

It might lead to better and more 'respectful' teaching, if we thought of adults as atrophied children. Many 'well-adjusted' adults are bitter, uncreative, frightened, unimaginative, and rather hostile people. Instead of assuming they were born that way, or that that's what being an adult entails, we might consider them as people damaged by their education and upbringing.

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My feeling is the moment the theatre is not full you have to do something else.

But most people somehow think 'If we did it better, they would come'. No. They don't come.

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Don't come on to be funny - come on to solve problems.

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There are people who prefer to say ‘Yes’, and there are people who prefer to say ‘No’. Those who say ‘Yes’ are rewarded by the adventures they have, and those who say ‘No’ are rewarded by the safety they attain.

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I mean, in the foreword to Impro in Denmark is by Søren Iversen, who I taught long ago, he was a Danish director, after he left. He said he'd read about [Eugeny] Vakhtangov. I'm a fan of his. When he heard that Vakhtangov had lots of tricks, he thought this was very bad. But when he came to be my student, he realised it was very good to have a lot of tricks. You saw some this morning.

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None of us really grow up. All we ever do is learn how to behave in public.

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I think my brain is much more intelligent than I am...so I tend to trust it.

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Every time you go the way the audience expects, they'll think you're original.

People laugh with pleasure at the obvious.

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If you believe you're good already, you don't need to do extra stuff to impress us. Your best work comes when you're absorbed; because then your ego is away.

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In life most of us are highly skilled at suppressing action.

Bad improvisers block action often with a high degree of skill. Good improvisers develop action.

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I was crazy about silent comedy - in the old days, and crazy about Japanese movies.

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Where if you're in a universe where you have to accept ideas, you'll never know if your partner wanted the garbage you're handing them. They have to take it.

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Every theatre worth anything has somebody in the middle of it who is driving it;

like Joan Littlewood with her theatre.

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Enjoy things even when you’re screwing up.

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The best laughs are on the recognition of truth.

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Good improvisers seem telepathic; everything looks pre-arranged, This is because they accept all offers made—which is something no ‘normal’ person would do.

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As I grew up, everything started getting grey and dull.

I could still remember the amazing intensity of the world I'd lived in as a child, but I thought the dulling of perception was an inevitable consequence of age - just as a lens of the eye is bound gradually to dim. I didn't understand that clarity is in the mind.

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I see a great lack of stories around.

I bought six literary magazines and looked through them to see what people were doing. There wasn't a story in them. They were all about how poetic the feelings of the author were.

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At school any spontaneous act was likely to get me into trouble.

I learned never to act on impulse, and that whatever came into my mind first should be rejected in favour of better ideas. I learned that my imagination Wasn’t ‘good’ enough. I learned that the first idea was unsatisfactory because it was (1) psychotic; (2) obscene; (3) unoriginal. The truth is that the best ideas are often psychotic, obscene and unoriginal.

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I left my theatre the Loose Moose almost twenty years ago, and I hardly ever go back. Sometimes I go back to do a Mask class. They're doing more of this than I was doing when I left. Often it's the same improvisers but they're older. And now, they don't care if the theatre's full or not.

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You can sort of trick people into being really good. Even if they didn't know anything.

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I tell people not to do their best. I don't know when that started. Quite a while ago. Because I . . . when they're doing their best I don't get their best. So I try to persuade them to be average. Because if you're wonderful and you're average, you're still wonderful. If you're a bad improviser and you're average, you're what you are.

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The problem's always been to deal with the fear.

Cos the fear is pretty . . . it ruins everybody really.

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Trying to do better is trying to be better than you actually are, and I don't think you can do that.

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