When will Improvisation get you fired?

Published by ShawnKinley on

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When will Improvisation get you fired?

Some people HATE improvisation. If that person happens to be your boss, then your impulsive attitude towards spontaneous expression could get you kicked to the curb.

There are some surprising examples where impro has been the reason for dismissal.

Damon Wayans, Adrian Brody, Milton Berle, and Frank Zappa, all strayed off script on the iconic Saturday Night Live. They were either fired or banned from the show for life.

Notoriously known for the strict, NO IMPROVISATION rule enforced on the cast, producer Lorne Michaels makes no apologies for firing or banning performers. 

The argument that Michaels puts forward is this,

“…what we do here is so nailed down that there’s very little improvisation. Every line, every bit of dialogue has a camera cut attached to it. If you’re not where you’re supposed to be, then they’re going to miss the shot.”

It would be unfair not to mention that Michaels actually believes improvisation can be a great training tool. He just doesn’t want anyone using it once the cameras are on.  

To be fair, SNL is not an improvised show.  It’s a pre-written sketch show.

Where Lorne Michaels argues against improvisation for safety’s sake, we see that safety reflected in the predictable, lackluster essence of the show. Protecting itself from the unknown ensures that it will be another safe Saturday night.

I suppose if the writing was exceptional, those improvised moments might be understandably damaging. But seriously SNL… You could loosen up just a bit.

And is being fired for brave risk-taking such a bad thing anyway?

  • Editor-in-Chief of Vogue, Dame Anna Wintour was fired from her early work as a stylist for pushing the line of what she was supposed to create. Her response? “I worked for American Harper’s Bazaar… they fired me. I recommend that you all get fired. It’s a great learning experience.”
  • Thomas Edison – inventor of the lightbulb was turfed for creative tinkering.  While he was supposed to be creating newspapers, he was improvising in his office with other ideas.  When one experiment ended with spilled acid burning a hole through the floor and onto his boss’s desk one floor below, he was unceremoniously released from his position.
  • Oprah Winfrey was fired as a news broadcaster when she couldn’t help but express how she felt.  She went on to a job that better embraced her ability to express, react and improvise. The rest is history.
  • Actor Hugh Jackman might never have been the Wolverine had he not enjoyed the unscripted dialogue while he was on the job at 7-11 of all places.  He explains,  “I got fired after six weeks because the [boss] said I talked too much to the customers.”

If you get fired for communicating, expressing a feeling, or adapting outside the planned script when a moment calls for it, then maybe you are simply being released from the chains of the rigid work world into a bigger, better place with broader possibilities!


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