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December 9, 2019

Lessons From Improv Comedy to Reduce Health Disparities

Author Affiliations
  • 1Section of General Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
JAMA Intern Med. 2020;180(1):5-6. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2019.5930

“Can someone suggest a location that can fit on this theater stage?”

“Restaurant kitchen.”

“Great! Let’s begin.”

Three years ago, I started taking improvisational (or improv) comedy courses, and I am now in standup comedy training. Improv comedy performers, such as those in the troupe I am in, The Excited State (Figure), extemporaneously act out scenes using audience suggestions rather than a defined script. Hearing about my avocation when it was new, a friend said, “Marshall—and I say this with the utmost respect—I can’t picture you doing improv comedy.” While not a natural, I love performing improv and have unexpectedly learned important lessons for reducing health disparities.

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