What Do You Mean Green Is Not Funny!? Improv and ADHD With Nathan Minns
Nathan Minns is the founder of Green Light Improv, a professional training company that cultivates resilience, enhances creativity, and improves communication, all while inspiring connection through improv comedy. Beginning as an actor in 2015, Nathan soon realized that his acting training was positively affecting other work skills, from creativity and confidence, to communication and decision-making. Ultimately, the change he saw in himself led him to create Green Light Improv in 2019. Green Light Improv inspires connection through improv comedy. The company doesn’t teach improv comedy, but instead uses improv comedy as a tool to teach other work and life skills. In 2022, Nathan quit his job and is now working full-time to spread applied improv training. An Ohio State University graduate, Nathan has previously spent most of his career in the startup ecosystem as an employee and a 3x founder. How does this all work with his ADHD? Can Improv Comedy work via your ADHD too? Enjoy!
In this episode Peter and Nathan Minns discuss:
00:40 – Thank you so much for listening and for subscribing!
01:01 – Intro and welcome Nathan Minns!
02:50 – So Improv is a cult right? What got you into it? What got you excited?
05:51 – Can improv positively affect your mental health? Focusing on 2 things tandem?
07:10 – What is the reason people with neurodiverse brains are drawn to the improv community?
07:50 – How do you feel on stage? Why do you continue to practice improv?
08:30 – What kinds of folks are you working with; what is your Green Light Improv company doing?
09:45 – Can you share an example you’ve experienced in where a new client ‘gets it’ for the first time, as you did?
12:40 – Is it about the 8 people you’re in a room with, or the eventual audience?
13:48 – Neurodiverse brains. Conversation engineering and management. Improv is a team sport.
14:48 – How can people find more about you?
15:06 – We should talk about Improv as a tool and subject again- than you Nathan!!
Guys, as always thanks so much for subscribing! Faster Than Normal is for YOU! We want to know what you’d like to hear! Do you have a cool friend with a great story? We’d love to learn about, and from them. I’m www.petershankman.com and you can reach out anytime via email at [email protected] or @petershankman on all of the socials. You can also find us at @FasterNormal on all of the socials. It really helps when you drop us a review on iTunes and of course, subscribe to the podcast if you haven’t already! As you know, the more reviews we get, the more people we can reach. Help us to show the world that ADHD is a gift, not a curse!
15:49 – Faster Than Normal Podcast info & credits.
TRANSCRIPT via Descript and then corrected.. somewhat:
[00:00:40] Peter: Hey everyone. Peter Shankman is with you today. Welcome to another episode of Faster Than Normal, the podcast where we talk about ADD, ADHD, Autism, Executive Function Disorder, anything and everything having to do with the neurodiverse brain, we here look at all of those things as gifts, not as curses, and we’re thrilled that you’re here. I am joined today by someone who I’ve been talking about improv both in my books and on the podcast and in my courses and things like that. As something that you kind of have to do. And why do I say that? Because improv allows you to focus on improving yourself from the inside out. An ex-girlfriend who used to do improv all the time, and I never really got it. And one day she invited me. She said, just come take class. And look, I was a drama major growing up. I went high school, the whole thing. I took this class and the simple act of having to think inside your own head in real time, massively, massively opened up my brain. and I was a fan, have been a fan ever since. So we’re talking to Nathan Minns, who’s the founder of https://greenlightimprov.com , a professional training company that cultivates resilience, enhances creativity, and improves communication, all while inspiring connection through improv comedy. He began as an actor in 2015, and he soon realized his Actor training was positively affecting other work skills from creativity and confidence to communications, decision making, things like that. So that’s where he created Green Light Improv in 2019. It inspires connection through improv comedy. The company doesn’t teach Improv. , but rather uses improv as a tool to other work and life skills. That actually, uh, resonates with me because I think that when I, when I talk to companies, when I go and speak to companies, I like to do a little improv just to get them to sort of break down those barriers that are inherent in business and inherent, I think in our brain. You know, a lot of companies, Nathan, um, more than ever before are focusing on, uh, employee mental health and employee mental wellbeing. And I think that, that you might just be at the right place at the right time type thing. That, so welcome to the podcast. First.
[00:02:44] Nathan: Thank you for having me. I loved your podcast for a long time, so I’m happy to be here.
[00:02:49] Peter: So improv. So, you know, look, I, before I started going and started becoming a fan of it, I always assumed improv was kind of a cult. Um, you had to go, you had to bring 10 friends, you had to buy two drinks, you know, the usual, right? Yeah. And I was quickly disabused of that theory, uh, my first time there. So what got you into it? What got you excited? .
[00:03:08] Nathan: Well, I started performing in 2015 and I saw my first improv show in 2016, and when I saw the show; they were just, their brains were working so fast. I knew that it was something that I wanted to do too. So I went out and auditioned for these two groups that I saw perform, and I felt like I was doing incredibly well. I was making everyone in the room laugh and I was having a blast. And the only small hiccup that came was that it seemed like I was the only person that thought I was doing well. Because, yeah, I didn’t get in, so I did not get into either group and I said, okay, I know this is something I wanna do. I’ve seen improv, I’ve done theater. So I took a step back. I started taking some classes and trying to put in the work to be able to get up to that level. Then I went back later, I auditioned again, and I did so much better. And in the end, the exact same thing happened. Really? In total? Yeah. In total. I auditioned across the two groups seven times before I got into an improv group.
[00:04:17] Peter: Wow. But you got into it.
[00:04:19] Nathan: I did . I did get into one. Um, but I, I realized there that many people, like what you were describing, see improv as this thing that they would never be able to do. And it’s a learnable skill. It’s something that you can figure out how to do. There’s training to be able to learn it. And I was very naturally bad at it, but I like to think I’m a little bit better these days than when I first started.
[00:04:47] Peter: I love that. Naturally bad at some. Well, being naturally bad at something is the first step to kind of eventually being good at something, right? Yeah, exactly. Tell me about, um, you, you mentioned the, the brain working faster. Everyone’s brain working faster in improv. You know, the thing about A D H D is that we’re constantly, our brains are constantly working faster and, and while we’re thinking one thing, we’re making a joke about something else and we’re thinking about something else, and you know, like four different things at the same time. And I found that the only place where that doesn’t, two places where that doesn’t really work well. One is in a relationship, um, when you’re not entirely focused on the person. And yeah. The second one I’ve just discovered recently is in boxing because I’ll be thinking, I’ll, I’ll, I’ll be focusing on my punches, I’ll be throwing, I’ll doing it, and then something clicks in my brain and half a second later I’m four tangents away, uh, you know, wondering whether or not, um, beavers fall in love. And yeah. Next, next thing I know, I’ve just gotten rocked with a, with a hard right to the head, so that is, uh, something I’m focusing on, but, but talk about from an ADHD perspective or from mental health perspective. Talk about how improv can positively affect that.
[00:06:00] Nathan: Yeah. I, I find that improv is one of the only places that I have gone into that community where the traits of A D H D are often rewarded. So when I’m on stage, I feel very comfortable. I feel everyone’s watching me. Of course, I’m performing. But there’s something about that heightened feeling that makes me very focused. And also in improv, we have to be fully present in the moment. And I think the stress, almost stress of being on stage helps that helps us to stay focused. And while we’re being fully present on stage, we have to be able to come up with a lot of creative ideas very quickly. And discern which ones are good, which ones aren’t worth pursuing. And I find that my ADHD is very helpful in allowing me to come up with a lot of different ideas and see what works. So I feel like it is a incredible community where it is the highest percentage of people with ADHD that I have ever been a part of any group.
[00:07:10] Peter: Interesting. Why do you think and and do you think the reason people with neurodiverse brains are drawn to it is because of the speed, is because of the quickness, is because it’s, you know, it’s, it’s like that perfect place for a brain, for brains like ours.
[00:07:22] Nathan: Yeah, I think that it’s, it’s rewarded. Some of those quick thinking skills are rewarded where it may not be rewarded in the corporate sphere, where we often do more monotonous kind of tasks in 80, in, in improv. we’re doing a lot of different things and we have to come up with a lot of different ideas. So I definitely think that, um, that’s a, that’s a solid reason why we’re drawn to improv.
[00:07:51] Peter: Interesting. Tell me about how you’re feeling when you’re on stage. I mean, are you getting. . You know, when I get off the stage after a keynote, I’m, I’m just a wash with dopamine. Right. Do you have that same sort of feeling? Is that, is that one of the reasons you, you keep doing it?
[00:08:03] Nathan: Yeah. It, it’s an incredible high being on stage. I now feel more comfortable on stage when I don’t know what I’m about to say next . And in improv than when I’m in a play, or I’m doing a keynote, something like that. I feel very comfortable. Um, when I just, I don’t have a script and I can just float along with it. I find I’m incredibly focused. Yeah.
[00:08:29] Peter: That’s very cool. Um, Where do you, uh, see it taking you? I mean, you’re, you’re working, what kind of companies and, and groups of people are you working with now in, in the company? And tell us about what the company’s doing.
[00:08:42] Nathan: Yeah, so I’m 24 right now and I started the company in 2019 in my senior year of college at Ohio State. And I found, at the very beginning that I found that working with colleges and universities, uh, worked very well. That has stayed something that’s pretty consistent working with a lot of colleges, uh, university programs. Now we’re expanding into more of the corporate sphere, small business sphere, non-university, university sphere. Um, I see it growing into a place where we can have, uh, a variety of facilitators doing this work at, at the same time, we can have the basis of the curriculum too, but I think that improv can be used for so many different things that we can start to have different branches from, uh, a law school, a social worker school and, and any other, any other groups that we think can really benefit from this kind of training.
[00:09:44] Peter: Very, very cool. Talk about one of your, uh, talk about someone who came in with sort of that same attitude I did the first time. Oh, this is, this is bs, whatever. And talk about that moment when they sort of got it and you saw, you saw the change.
[00:09:59] Nathan: So I saw, I went into one group. There were 40 people, and I started my initial talk. It’s about, usually the workshops are about 10 minutes of me talking at the beginning. And then the entire rest of the workshop is exercise debrief. And in the exercise we’re doing paired exercises for about half the time and groups of four to six for the rest of the time. So I start this 10 minute talk of just what is improv? How are we going to use it today? Why are we doing this? And about 30 seconds into this talk, someone raises their hands, think, okay, this, this isn’t typically a time when people raise their hands, . Um, I said, Oh, ok- , what would you like to say? And there was this woman, she was probably around 60 or 70, and she said, Nathan, I just wanna let you know that we are all introverts and we’re gonna hate this. Ha ha. And I was like, I appreciate your honesty,., thank you for telling me that. It’s nice to see where, where our starting point is. And in that workshop I knew; okay, this might be a tougher audience than my typical workshop, but as we started getting going, I told her, let’s just give it 10 minutes. Just give it a little bit of time and we’ll see what happens. Within 30 minutes maybe, she was volunteering in front of the entire group, which isn’t a thing we force anyone. , but we just, I asked would anyone like to share or represent the group? And she started, started doing it because I, I think they realized that this isn’t an activity that’s only for extroverts or, um, only for people who like to speak up all the time. Um, this is an, an activity that we, anyone can do, we can use it for, for any group. Yeah. And they can do something and have fun and get something out of it.
[00:12:07] Peter: You know what always interests me, the the introvert concept is interesting because a lot of people with neurodiverse brains are what you might call the most introverted extrovert you’ll ever meet. In the respect that, you know, I love being on stage, I love speaking. I love doing that because it’s me to many. Yeah. Right. But if it’s me to a few, like at dinner party or whatever, I hate everything about that. Hmm. Right. You know, I, I, I, I love being on stage talking to thousands of people, or I love one-on-one, you know, having dinner with a friend or whatever. But the concept of, of, uh, you know, sitting with her in a room with eight people where we all have to make small talk. , you know, I’ll be in the second bedroom playing with the cat. And so I think that one of the keys about improv is that it is a small group of people talking to each other, but in essence talking to an audience.
[00:12:52] Nathan: Yeah. And in improv it is very much a conversation with the audience, not in the way that we actually expect the audience to talk to us through the performance. But when we’re, because in improv, just so we’re all on the same page, it is often when five to six actors get on stage, they ask for a single word, and they use that word to inspire a variety of scenes that have never been done before. Never been written before, and will likely never be done again. So something that that we find is that we have to create all of those scenes live and we can use what the audience is giving us all, whenever they laugh, we can say, okay, that is a, a button that we just pressed. Right. That something was funny there. Let’s dig into that.
[00:13:42] Peter: That’s really smart because you’re, you’re listening to the audience and you’re, you’re, you’re letting them give you the cues not even realizing they’re doing it.
[00:13:48] Nathan: Exactly. Yeah. It, we’re not performing in a vacuum. We’re not writing in a vacuum, so it’s a nice way to, to have a conversation on that kind of scale.
[00:13:57] Peter: It’s interesting cause that’s what people who understand their neurodiverse brands tend to do is they, they tend to, uh, engineer the conversation in the respect that I can go in and start talking about something with someone knowing full well that I’m leading them, uh, down a path that I want to go to get to somewhere I wanna talk about, but making it seem like it’s their idea.
[00:14:16] Nathan: Yeah. And, and in improv, you know, we, we all have, I have a ton of ideas when I’m on stage, my scene partner has a ton of ideas and that’s where the connection happens. Because in improv we’re not doing just what I’m thinking. We’re not doing just what they’re thinking. The ideas very much meld together, and that’s much of the basis of how we use it for connecting and trust building. Because improv is a team sport. It’s not like standup where it’s just you on stage. You win and lose as a team.
[00:14:53] Peter: Totally. How can people find out more about, about you and about, uh, Green Light Improv?
[00:14:58] Nathan: You can go to https://greenlightimprov.com
[00:15:02] Peter: I love it. I love it. Nathan, thank you so much for taking the time today to be on Faster Than Normal. Really appreciate it. Improv, I think, is the subject that we, we should touch on again. Um, I think, I think it, it, it is an underrated tool for those with Neurodiverse brains; so I really appreciate you being here, man. We’ll have you back. For sure.
[00:15:17] Nathan: Thank you for having me!
[00:15:18] Peter: Guys, as always, we wanna hear what you think! Shoot me an email, peter @shankman.com. Let me know about a guest that you think might be great on the show. Uh, we’d love to know. You could follow us on all the socials and I’m gonna give you all a little, uh, piece of secret news that haven’t really announced yet. Children’s book .Coming in February. I’ll leave it at that. Thanks for listening. We’ll see you guys next week here on Faster Than Normal.
Credits: You’ve been listening to the Faster Than Normal podcast. We’re available on iTunes, Stitcher and Google play and of course at www.FasterThanNormal.com I’m your host, Peter Shankman and you can find me at shankman.com and @petershankman on all of the socials. If you like what you’ve heard, why not head over to your favorite podcast platform of choice and leave us a review, come more people who leave positive reviews, the more the podcast has shown, and the more people we can help understand that ADHD is a gift, not a curse. Opening and closing themes were composed and produced by Steven Byrom who also produces this podcast, and the opening introduction was recorded by Bernie Wagenblast. Thank you so much for listening. We’ll see you next week!