NIDS, Nice Improviser Disease Syndrome, is when players play polite. They don’t want to offend anyone. They don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable, their fellow players or the audience. NIDS equals boring playing. It’s like going to an office and watching people work. Everyone is polite to each other. Nobody says anything that will make the shit hit the fan.
You know what? Fuck polite.
The cure for NIDS is intimacy with your players. Having the trust with each other to be able to fuck with each other. Knowing that whatever you present on stage, its going to be okay, it’s going to be dealt with, and nobody is going to get their butt hurt about it. Because it’s just improv.
Intimacy implies vulnerability. Intimacy requires players to courageously look inward and make themselves totally visible to each other. Internalized toxic shame makes this kind of exposure feel life-threatening for players with NIDS. Intimacy, by its nature, would require the NIDS infected player to look into the abyss of his/her most inner self and allow others to peer into these same places. It would require the player with NIDS to let their fellow players get close enough to see into all the nooks and crannies of his/her soul. This terrifies players with NIDS, because being known means being found out. After all, players with NIDS have worked their entire lives to become what they believe others want them to be while trying to hide their perceived flaws. The demands of intimacy represent everything players with NIDS fear most.
The thing is, you’re acting, you’re not you, you’re a character. I recently saw a scene where things got awkward and the scene was finally getting its legs. It became interesting. It was different than the vanilla stuff you see in real life. It was right at that point that someone in the scene said something to the effect of how weird they were feeling, and they left the stage. If you can’t embrace awkwardness on stage, you shouldn’t be on stage. Awkward is where the gold is.
For more on NIDS, and what you can do to prevent it from you or your loved ones, read Jimmy Carrane’s book, “How To Improvise Better.”