032: Improviser Dan Sipp says yes to THIRD DATE and the Medical Improv Initiative

“Once I found improv, I knew I wanted to do that with my life…” So many applicable takeaways and specific examples! In the first half of this episode we discuss Dan Sipp’s decades of experience in improv and his improv company Third Date. In the second half, we delve into Dan’s work with the medical improv initiative within the Duke Healthcare System.

Dan Sipp is a Chapel Hill native who has worked in the theater as an actor, director and teacher for nearly 30 years. He began his improv career with Transactors Improv Company and performed with them for nearly 15 years. In 1998 he moved to Chicago and 8 spent years studying, performing and directing improvisational theater. He returned to the Triangle to run the iO-South Training Center in Raleigh. He currently performs with and directs his improv company, Third Date.

Dan started working in medical education as a Standardized Patient actor and a volunteer patient advocate in the Duke University Health System. He later joined the staff of Campbell University’s Osteopathic School of Medicine as the Standardized Patient Program Director. He’s now the Standardized Patient Training Coordinator for the Duke University’s School of Medicine.

In 2016 Dan launched the Medical Improv Initiative at Duke with Dr. Ray Barfield. Since then they’ve offered dozens of inter-professional workshops for learners of all levels in the Duke Healthcare System. Last August Dan organized the first ever meeting of Medical Improv instructors from institutions around the country at Duke.

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Time break-down:

[0:00] Episode intro and Dan’s bio.


[1:55] “Once I found improv, I knew I wanted to do that with my life…” How did Dan discover this? What was it about improv that lit his fire?

[5:30] One of Dan’s goals is to legitimize improv.

[8:18] Building the skills to become a great improviser: What are the skills and how do you build them?


[11:15] How was the THIRD DATE ensemble formed? How does ‘being funny’ fit in the work they do? Playing the relatable, realistic moments (no unicorns!). Understanding the form, playing well with others on-stage, zero-ing in on moments worth exploring. What does a rehearsal look like for THIRD DATE?


[30:39] How did the Medical Improv Initiative come about? What benefits would improv provide for healthcare professionals? What would a workshop look like (specific exercises) and how can we apply those exercises to our lives?

[40:30] A difficult conversation that a physician might have and the response that brought tears to Tamara’s eyes. And a little side-conversation about improv and parenting.

[44:00] It’s hard to practice improv off-stage even though we’d be better people if we did!

[47:44] Stories of light-bulb moments from students in these workshops. The deep bonds that form when people make art together, and when people feel like ‘they are on the same team.’

[58:30] What’s next? What are Dan’s goals and aspirations?

[1:01] Thanks and sign-off

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