Four Elements Of Experiences That Make Great Gifts — Improv Has Them All

3 min readDec 23, 2022

“The purpose of life is to discover your gift.
The work of life is to develop it.
The meaning of life is to give your gift.”
Dr. David Viscott

The season of the gift exchange is upon us. We search for the ideal present to light someone up. We stock Amazon wish lists, stuff stockings, and celebrate eight miraculous nights of Hannukah. But some interesting research shows that the intangible gifts involving shared experiences are not only increasingly popular, but actually foster stronger relationship ties than material gifts. When both giver and receiver are engaged in a positive, shared adventure, the gift has the potential to deepen the social bond and generate lasting memories.

One study identified the “4 S’s” of experience-giving:

  1. Surprise- the experience reveals something unexpected and new;
  2. Suspense-there is uncertainty and elements of the unknown involved;
  3. Sacrifice-the giver offers their own time and engagement;
  4. Sharing- the giver is fully engaged in the experience with the receiver;

Interestingly these 4 elements are part of almost any experience in the category of “fun” — and fun is something we all need to have as much as possible in this crazy world. Comedy — and especially improv comedy which has creativity and all these other elements baked into — is generated by:

Surprise — the story, characters, or game has a twist on rational reality we do not see coming

Suspense — it is interesting, has unexpected moments and we do not know where the story or scene is going

Sacrifice — all comedy does not require sacrifice, but in improv comedy there is often a need to surrender control, let go of an idea we had if our fellow players go another way, and sacrifice any desire to “win” the scene;

Sharing- improv is interactive, the comedy is driven by give and take among 2 or more players or the players and an audience, and all these contributions are gifts everyone gives to each other to generate something completely original.

An article titled “The Rules Of Improv Can Make You Funnier — They Can Also Make You More Confident”




LCSW, CGP, CPAI, writer/performer, storyteller, storytelling coach. Improviser on team AURA at Magnet Theater in NYC. Storytelling coach for individuals & orgs