A few years ago I took my obstinate eight-year-old daughter to a training class at Second City, the famous comedy troupe, in Chicago. Like everyone else, I couldn’t help but notice that decades after its creation the place continued to train a shocking number of the most interesting comedians in the country—Tina Fey, Stephen Colbert, Amy Poehler, Steve Carell, Adam McKay, and on and on. I wasn’t hoping to make my daughter funnier. I just wanted her to learn to say “Yes.” That was all I asked of Second City: to fix my child. We would enroll together in an improv-comedy training class, and for the rest of her life, when asked if she would like to try a new vegetable or clean her room or be kind to her sister, she would accept the suggestion and build on it—which is the key to all improv.
Three days later we emerged. She honestly failed to see what the fuss was about; to her, improv came naturally. I was traumatized. My child didn’t need fixing. I, on the other hand, listened poorly, responded unimaginatively to the suggestions of others, and, in general, exhibited the mental patterns of a guy who had had life his way far too often for his own good.