So many improvisers use the phrase “stick to your shit” quite a bit. But what does it mean? It might very easily be one of the most confusing things in the improvisational vernacular.
To some it means, don’t drop your idea even if the other person in the scene isn’t on the same page as you…and this is basically wrong.
Other person: Hi, Mom.
You (who thought you were a deli manager): I’m not your mom. I’m the deli manager.
That’s not sticking to your shit. That’s straight-up denial. You see, that other person said the first thing in the scene so that is now THE REALITY that you are in. Can you be a mom who’s also a deli manager? Sure you can. But you have to be a mom first as that is the first reality that has been introduced in the mind of the audience.
I see a lot of this, too:
You: I don’t want to go to the dance.
Other person: But you have to go.
That’s definitely not sticking to your shit because you think you need to stay in agreement…but your shit is “not wanting to go to the dance” so now you have to get into why you don’t want to go. That’s the reality the audience will buy into…
Is this confusing? Fuck yeah it is. There are so many rules in improv: say yes, don’t argue, stick to your shit, live in the moment. But each of these rules have nuance. And sticking to your shit falls into that category.
In the simplest of terms, your “shit” is whatever the audience has seen or heard thus far. It is whatever reality has been introduced—
How about this? This reality I’m talking about–think of it as your life. In my life, I’m a 42 year old woman who hates her own body, buys way too many beauty products, and lives for Friday nights because of Dateline and flannel pajamas. That’s my reality—that is how my friends and family know me as well. If all of the sudden, I say I’m 32 and in love with my own body and I think Dateline is garbage, I change who I am. BUT I CAN’T CHANGE WHO I AM…not right away at least.
Confusing? Hell yeah…but that’s improvisation for you. Lots of nuance. Lots of challenges. And that’s why we love it. That’s also why we have to give ourselves some time to understand and master it…don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t make sense right away. Just like anything worthwhile in life, it will take time.