Introducing: Ben Noble

PEOPLE WE LOVE

PHOTO CREDIT: NATHAN PARKER

To say we’re inspired by Ben Noble would be an understatement. Although this author, blogger, improviser, teacher and speaker – yup, he does it all – claims he’s not special, we think quite the opposite. We had the chance to sit down with Ben to learn about how giving himself permission to say ‘yes’ opened multiple doors – and can do the same for you, too.

Improv is not easy! How did you get started? How did you know it was for you?

It was all very serendipitous.

After I graduated college, I was nervous about making friends as an adult. I wasn’t sure how to meet new people now that I wouldn’t be thrown into dorms and activities with new people in my same situation.

I was listening to WTF, Marc Maron’s podcast, and he was interviewing John Favreau, who mentioned getting his start in improv. When I heard that, all these memories of acting classes and school plays came rushing back. When I got home, I Googled “STL improv,” clicked on the first result, and signed up for classes starting that weekend. I figured the worst that could happen was I wasted $200 and made a fool of myself in front of a few strangers.

On the first day, our teacher spoke about the life-changing power of improv – that the lessons he would teach us over the next eight weeks weren’t limited to creating spontaneous comedy, but could be used to improve yourself and your relationships. It sounded a bit “new-agey” and farfetched. But ultimately, I came to realize he wasn’t so crazy after all.

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PHOTO CREDIT: BRANDON RICE

The improv and comedy fields are full of legends and masters of their craft. Who do you look up to the most? Who would you love to work with?

Aside from the fact that his podcast steered me towards improv, I really admire Marc Maron. I realize he’s not an improviser, but he’s a spectacular interviewer. I also admire the level of honesty and candor he displays in his stand up and on his podcast. Two skills that make for a great improviser. I’m still waiting by the phone for that WTF interview request. I also really enjoy teaching improv – sometimes more than performing. I’d love to travel and teach workshops and classes at some point.

What made you want to teach other people how to do all these great things…writing, improve, etc.?

Before I started taking improv classes, I had all these creative projects I wanted to do, and yet, I never took action. But improv is all about saying yes to ideas (even crazy ones) – and I realized that that didn’t just apply to things people said on stage. I should start saying yes to myself as well.

I know that I’m not unique. Everyone out there has more creative potential than they’re expressing through their day job. But most people don’t act on those sparks. They rationalize it away by saying they’re too busy (and then binge watch Stranger Things) or say they’re not inspired (and end up waiting forever).

But once I gave myself permission to say yes, amazing things happened. I started my blog, I started following my interests and experimenting with design and podcasting and writing.  My life dramatically improved. I published a book. I started teaching improv more. I started asking for what I wanted. I got two new job opportunities. I got an email out of the blue to do an interview for Express.

I’m not special. I just started doing the things I had always wanted to do without worrying about what could happen – positive or negative. And everyone has that same power.

None of this would have happened if I’d never said yes to myself and my ideas.

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PHOTO CREDIT: NATHAN PARKER

How do you push through creative roadblocks? And, what sparks your creativity?

I’m a naturally curious person. I love learning and trying new things. So I would say my creativity is constantly sparked. The hard part is going from cool idea to execution. Because actually doing the project isn’t as fun as dreaming about what it could be. The minute expectation meets reality, people typically quit (myself included).

So to push through creative roadblocks, I have to create accountability. If I am seriously going to tackle a new project, I tell my blog readers, my best friends, and my girlfriend what I’m doing, when it’ll be done, and I keep them updated on my progress. I don’t want to let people down, so I know that even if I’m not “feeling it,” the work still has to be done.

You give a lot of advice in your website. What is the most important advice you’ve shared and why?

In middle school, I dreamed of being the next Wes Anderson. When I graduated high school, I wanted to go to film school. But I didn’t watch many movies and, despite getting a camera for my birthday, I rarely made movies with my friends. My dad asked how I expected to get in – much less enjoy – film school if I didn’t spend my free time involved with film in any way. At 13, I thought he just didn’t get it. But eventually (as all of us do), I realized my dad wasn’t the crazy person. I was.

I wish I could take credit for this advice, but it’s actually from Austin Kleon, author of Steal Like an Artist. He says – “if you want to be the noun, first do the verb.” We all want to call ourselves something – a writer, a musician, a poet, an actor – but we want the title without doing the work to earn it. I wanted to be a director, but I wasn’t actually making movies. It was too much work!

Be sure that you actually enjoy the toughest parts of a job before jumping for the title. Enjoy it so much that you’ll do it for free in your spare time. That’s the guaranteed way to get paid to do what you love.

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PHOTO CREDIT: BRANDON RICE

What is your dream gig and why?

Currently, I am a copywriter at an advertising agency, which means I get to write headlines on billboards and scripts for TV and radio commercials for big brands. I can’t see myself doing much else.  One day, I would love to support myself through my own writing (books, blogs, podcasting, etc.) and teaching improv, but I think that’s down the road a bit.

Can we meet your cat, pretty please?

This is Mew (named after the Pokémon way before Pokémon Go made Pokémon Great Again). I found her outside my apartment building three years ago and took her in – I either saved a life or stole someone’s pet. She doesn’t know how good she’s got it.
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PHOTO CREDIT: NATHAN PARKER

What do you love most about St. Louis, and why? Any hidden spots you love that you’ll give us the inside scoop on?

St. Louis is a hidden gem that doesn’t get the respect it deserves…but I’m kind of OK with that. It’s a great city for creative people wanting to do cool things. For starters, the cost of living is really cheap. And there’s a lack of competition you find in bigger cities – everyone is here to help one another succeed.

As for some of my favorite places in the city: Every Sunday, I meet my friend Brian at Rise Coffee to sip on a bottomless mug and work on creative projects. The Dam has the best damn burgers in the city. And of course, I perform and teach improv a few times a month the Improv Shop.

What’s next for you? Tell us everything!

The biggest thing I do is write a weekly newsletter called the Monday Memo, where I share my thoughts on creativity and improv and help people say yes to their ideas and make more cool stuff. Right now, I’m also working on a podcast with my girlfriend about tackling scary creative projects with the help of local creators. There’s also probably another book sometime in the near future.

To keep up with everything I’m working on, the best thing to do is sign up for my weekly newsletter at immakingallthisup.com. I’m very involved with my subscribers and it’s a fun little community! Join us, won’t you?