For 27 million Americans, the idea of getting up in front of an audience to talk can cause more than a few butterflies in the stomach. Shyness, fear of public speaking, and social anxiety affect all aspects of life. Everything from schmoozing around the water cooler to speaking up in a meeting can be impacted by how comfortable you are with talking in front of others.
Public speaking may seem like a situation that can easily be avoided, but research shows that fear of it can have a major impact on your quality of life, including:
- a 10% impairment on wages
- a 10% impairment in college education
- a 15% impairment on promotion to a management position
Once the facts are stacked up, it’s easy to see how important it is to overcome your fears.
Improv and comedy classes have seen a huge rise in popularity for people seeking a way to get over their social anxiety. Imagine getting up on stage alongside a group of friends, accepting a suggestion from the audience, and then just letting the scene take you along for the ride. While that might seem like something you’d never want to do now, improv and comedy classes are an effective method for reducing speaking anxieties.
If you participate in an improv class, you can expect to learn these 3 basic things that will help you in your everyday life:
Be willing to make mistakes – Improv teaches you that even if you make a mistake, fumble, or can’t think of the wittiest one-liner, it’s okay! You’ll learn to think of your mistakes as unexpected choices. This frees you from your fear of saying the wrong thing.
Say yes, and… – Both in life and on the stage, people will surprise you with what they ask of you. Improv classes teach you to roll with whatever comes your way.
Learn to really listen – Typically, people with social anxiety struggle to focus on what the other person is saying. Instead, they are overthinking how they look, sound, and come across in a conversation. Improv and comedy classes teach you to really listen and focus on what others are saying. Naturally, you’ll be able to engage with people much better once you learn this skill.
Here’s a list of the top beginner’s comedy and improv classes in the Bay Area.
All Out Comedy Theatre – Improv 101 Class
Where: 2525 Telegraph Ave. Suite B, Oakland, CA 94612
When: Classes start January 7th
Suitable for: Beginners
Website: All Out Comedy Theatre
Price: $205 for an 8-week course
This class is perfect for the absolute beginner because it spends plenty of time focusing on the fundamentals in a fun, friendly environment. Over the 8-week course, you’ll really get to know and rely on your peers in the group. One Yelp reviewer said the instructors are excellent at teaching you to “be in the moment, go with the flow, and build energy in groups.”
BATS School of Improv – Foundation 1 Course
Where: Bayfront Theater B350 Fort Mason Center San Francisco, CA
When: Classes start January 2, 2018
Suitable for: All levels, including beginners
Website: BATS Improv
Price: Starts at $299 for a 6-week course
BATS Improv is known for being the most highly-acclaimed improv school and theater in the San Francisco Bay Area. Expert instructors offer a huge listing of classes to all ages and levels of experience. Expect to learn from the best while building strong friendships with your troupe. When speaking of their improv classes, one Yelp reviewer said you can expect to “get out of your comfort zone, learn something new about yourself, and meet awesome people who you will most likely end up being great friends to you.”
Leela Improv Theatre Co. – Improv I: Let’s Play!
Where: 901 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94103
When: Classes start January 8th
Website: Leela Improv Theatre Co.
Price: $265 for a 6-week course
Taught by some true masters, the improv classes at Leela are a great way to come out of your shell. Their beginner’s course specifically focuses on foundational techniques like problem-solving, being flexible, and increasing comfort with the unknown. Countless reviewers promise the insightful experience this course offers. One reviewer promises “You will grow beyond your wildest imagination. You’ll learn so much!”
SF Comedy College – Beginners Stand Up Class
Where: 868 Kearny St, San Francisco, CA 94108
When: January 22nd
Website: SF Comedy College
Price: 5-week workshop starts at $259
If you think doing stand-up comedy is more your speed, the San Francisco Comedy College is the perfect place to start. Their beginner’s course focuses specifically on the art of writing and delivering a joke to an audience. The instructors create a welcoming environment to push yourself in creative directions. A Talent Coordinator with the Late Show with David Letterman praised the college by stating “they are a very talented and passionate group of people with their hearts and minds in the right place.”
Joya Corey Full Spectrum Improvisation – Mixed Level Class
Where: 1586 27th Ave, San Francisco, CA 94122
When: Classes start January 13th
Suitable for: Bold beginners-intermediate
Website: Joya Corey
Price: $125 for a 5-week course
Joya Corey has worked with students to teach them the art of improv for more than 25 years. A master of technique, Joya has developed a system for improving movement. She focuses on teaching her students how to let their creative juices flow while bonding with a supportive community. Designed for everyone from the bold beginner to seasoned improv veterans, you’ll learn unique and classic improv methods. One reviewer raved that “If you are stuck in your head when onstage and find yourself limited in your capacity to trust your instincts, Joya can help you get past the inner critic that is getting in your way.”
Moment Improv – Wednesday Drop-in Classes
Where: 145 9th St #103, San Francisco, CA 94103
When: Always starting
Suitable for: All levels, including beginners
Website: Moment Improv
Price: $15/per class
For those interested in a smaller commitment, these 2-hour Wednesday night sessions are perfect for residents of the Bay Area. One reviewer said that one session is all you need with the instructor to gain real, applicable techniques for overcoming a fear of public speaking. He said, “unlike any other instructor I’ve worked with, Marcus’ instructions and explanations are clear, concise and, most important to the working player, immediately useful.”