Wayne Brady Wants to Build an Improv Empire

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Wayne Brady is on a mission to spread the “yes and…” gospel of improv far and wide.

The host of CBS’ “Let’s Make a Deal” and longtime cast member of The CW’s “Whose Line Is it Anyway?” tells Variety’s “Strictly Business” podcast that he is working on plans to build a business consulting firm that uses the tenets of improvisational acting to help coach executives and other leaders. He also has a vision for using improv training to help youths develop self-confidence and critical-thinking skills through schools and theater companies in the spirit of the Second City and iO troupes.

“The skills that improv gives you give you an upper hand in any room,” Brady says.

The ingredients of a good improv scene are actors who come in with virtually no preconceived notions of what they’ll do. The sketch, or the product, is built as a continuous creative collaboration among actors trained to say “yes” to ideas that they enhance with their creative contributions.

“In order to do the ‘yes and’ of improv you have to actively listen. I don’t block you by saying ‘Oh this is better, let’s do it this way,’ ” Brady says. “I took in everything you said. I’m going to take it and add on to what you gave me. We’re going to keep doing this, back and forth. By the time we’re finished we should have an end product that sounds good, is incredibly funny, has kept the audience guessing but satisfied them at the end of the day.”

Taking a breath he adds, “That’s how a business should run.”

Brady is at work on several business ventures as well as a TV development slate with his business partner, Mandie Taketa, his former wife. He plans to outline his improv skills philosophy in his forthcoming book, “Making Shit Up.”

The Orlando, Fla. native explains in the conversation that he was steered by family tradition into a planned military career before he “found his tribe” in the theater department as a high school junior. Brady traded ROTC for the drama club and never looked back. Today he sees a great need to expose kids to the performing arts, in underprivileged communities

“I want to start a school for teenagers to help take them into adulthood,” he says. “Places where the kids who look like me haven’t been taught the skills that I was able to take.”

Teaching youths how to listen with empathy, think fast on their feet and work in collaboration with others are good building blocks for interpersonal relationships, Brady assets.

“You aren’t prepping them for a life on stage,” he says. “You’re prepping them for life.”

“Strictly Business” is Variety’s weekly podcast featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of media and entertainment. A new episode debuts each Wednesday and can be downloaded on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher and SoundCloud.