Commandment 1 – I am the Lord your God

by Matthew Stillman.

10 Commandments

Okay, fine. I’ll do it. The 10 Commandments have a lot to teach us about improv.

Traditionally in Jewish theology the commandments are divided into the first four – the relationship between God and humans and the last six – the relationship between humans.

That distinction may become relevant shortly.

The first commandment reads

I am the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of slavery.

This is traditionally interpreted as “I am the Lord your God”

So Who or What is the “God” of improv? This is your God after all… you are attempting worship in rehearsals and on stage. Every great mystical/ religious tradition that acknowledges a divine presence makes a critical point in emphasizing the imminence of God. That this God is here, now and can be connected to in a deep way if only you would get out of the way with your dumb old shit. And while certain strains of Christianity say that ultimate union with God happens in heaven even those strains say that you can meet God here on earth even if it isn’t as amazing as God in heaven – but even so, a temporary heaven on earth.

And now is the key part. Each religion has a whole battery of exercises, methods, philosophies and doxologies to simply get individuals into the experience of the unperturbed present moment. And so do we.

The God of improv is simply this – the present moment.

And who can dispute this? Certainly every improviser has had at least a glance through the keyhole of the beautiful and full moment of just being in the present – your personal past is gone, any thoughts of your future have vanished and you are just happily just there in your scene. It is heaven on earth at its best, no?

This actually reflects on the God that brought Jews out of slavery from the verse from the Bible. We have all been in horrible scenes – planning, trying, working, flailing. And it is absolute bondage, right? It’s slavery of a sort.  God, the present moment rescues us from that.

This commandment lets know what you are dealing with and is said to contain the other nine – the way to freedom and reminding you that you were in bondage.

But at its core improv is only about being in the present. Not being funny, but being truthful – now.

The first four commandments will set up the nature of the relationship we need to have with the present moment as improvisers. That established we’ll look at the rules between players in the final six.

Commandment two soon.


6 Responses to Commandment 1 – I am the Lord your God

  1. Ben Whitehouse says:

    I’m glad I’m circumcised!

    Great article and I totally agree, I think a lot of improvisers forget that Zip Zap Zop and other pass the action warm ups are there to teach us to respond to what just happened and not preplan our actions. Being in the moment and responding to what is happening is next to Godliness… that and cleanliness.

    I can’t wait to hear what commandment 9 means “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor”

  2. The Gooch says:

    Now that we’re wildly speculating, I wonder what lessons we can take from “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife”

    Don’t stare at a girl’s chest while she’s improv gardening?