Blog: Pj Jacokes

Thinking on the fly takes talent, but it's one that can be taught. Pj Jacokes, comedian and producer of the Go Comedy! Improv Theater and Go Improv Academy, makes a career out of showing Metro Detroiters how to be fast on their feet. His sketch this week outlines why we should care about improv and fostering those bursts of imagination.

Post 2: Demand Imagination

I believe that there is a war against imagination.

But it wasn't always like that. As a child, imagination is encouraged. It's on the checklists that my son's teachers go over every semester. Imagination is at its strongest when we're children. It's used when there are bad guys at the bottom of the stairs or you have one last chance to win the Super Bowl or when a broom is a guitar or a banana is a gun. But as a child, imagining is as natural as breathing. It's vibrant and unapologetic and weird. Not too long ago during bath time, my 4-year old, Dax, created a musical based on his bath toys – Basketballs vs. Monsters.
But there is a point where some kids are labeled with having "an overactive imagination" – and, somehow, that's a negative thing. Creativity is something to be feared. Then in high school, it's not cool to have an imagination. In college, there's no time for it and in the corporate world there seems to be little patience for it. Or when it is used, it's under the moniker "ideating" which is as far from the idea of imagination as you can get. 

As a result, a lot of folks who come to our improv shows will say, "Oh, I could never do that." Well, the truth is, it's something everyone used to be able to do. In fact, I'd say it's something everyone still does. It may not be as bold, but improv is something we all do. Every one of us. I do it on a stage with the hopes of making an audience laugh. You might do it at work, explaining why you were late or at home, explaining to a child what thunder is, or at a bar, when you get caught looking at another girl. We may not call that using our imaginations (some might call it lying, which in some cases is accurate, but irrelevant in this argument), but it is.

On Conan O'Brien's last show, he offered this, "All I ask of you, especially young one thing. Please don't be cynical. I hate cynicism -- it's my least favorite quality and it doesn't lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you're kind, amazing things will happen."

Cynicism isn't hard to come by. It's easy. Any idiot can complain. Just look at any online forum and you can see scores of negative, cynical comments from anonymous posters that lead nowhere. This is not the time for negativity.

I believe Detroit needs overactive imaginations right now. It needs us to see things that aren't there; that could be there and it needs us to believe in them against all odds. It needs us to believe in other people's crazy ideas too. We live in a city built on crazy ideas – so crazy they just might work – and it's time for another round.