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'Life is one big improv’: How the skill can help with the everyday

From left, Bob Baker, John Larson and Ken Haller joined host Don Marsh on Thursday's episode about improvisation.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis on the Air
From left, Bob Baker, John Larson and Ken Haller joined host Don Marsh on Thursday's episode about improvisation.

Improvisation is a skill often associated with jazz music or comedy. But on Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh spoke with three individuals who use it in their daily lives.

Bob Baker, John Larson and Ken Haller joined Marsh to discuss the quirky talent.

While some may have the notion that improv artists just “wing it,” Baker, founder and director of the Improv Comedy Cabaret, said there is actually a framework that exists when improvising.

“You’re making it up in the moment; however, [improv] is not completely free form. There [are] actually principles that are involved in learning and performing improv,” he said.

One of the principles discussed was saying, “Yes, and….” This concept involves two or more people in a scenario agreeing with each other’s notions and then adding something to further the situation.

In Larson’s experience using improv to aid business, he’s found it to be a great team-building activity.

“People were generally looking for ways to learn how to cooperate better versus compete, so the ‘Yes, and…’ principle was a big part of that,” Larson said, who is a St. Louis Public Radio announcer and author of “Just Say Yes: An Optimistic Guide for Entrepreneurs.”

For Baker, the most important skills to be learned doing improv are being present and listening.

Haller, a Saint Louis University professor and pediatrician, added that these skills are extremely important in his work as a doctor. He said he tries to teach improv’s principles and lessons to medical students.

“You have to listen to understand, rather than listen to respond,” Haller said.

For more information on how Haller incorporates improv into medicine, visit kenhaller.net. For more information about taking improv classes, visit bob-baker.com.

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary EdwardsAlex HeuerEvie HemphillLara Hamdan and Caitlin Lally give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.

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Caitlin Lally is thrilled to join St. Louis Public Radio as the summer production intern for "St. Louis on the Air." With a bachelor's degree in journalism from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Caitlin also freelances for area publications like Sauce Magazine and the Belleville News-Democrat. In her career, she's covered topics such as Trump's travel ban, political protests and community activism. When she's not producing audio segments or transcribing interviews, Caitlin enjoys practicing yoga, seeing live music, and cooking plant-based meals.