One Word Suggestion: Parasite

Welcome to One Word Suggestion.

Most people think improv is just for comedy or maybe jazz music. But, really, it’s a tool for life. In each three minute episode of this series I use a single word, suggested by you, as a leaping off point to explore how having an improvisational mindset will help you perform at a higher level, both personally and professionally, whether you have a career on or off the stage.

This week’s word, parasite, was suggested by Abraham.

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Unless you’ve been hiding in a dark basement for the past couple weeks, you’ve probably heard about Bong Joon-Ho’s amazing award-winning film, Parasite.

It got lots of pre Oscar buzz winning the Palm D’or at Cannes and then went on to break all sorts of records, including winning 4 Oscars. Most impressively, for Best Picture, the first non-English-language film in Oscar history to do so.

Also, before I get too far, I should warn you, if you haven’t seen the film, and you should, there are spoilers ahead.

In very simplistic terms, the film is about a poor family, the Kims, who infiltrate a rich family’s household, the Parks.

The story kicks off when the Kim family’s son, Ki-woo gets given a gift by his friend — the chance to work as an English tutor for the Park’s daughter.

Ki-woo accepts the offer and then “Yes, ands” the situation, eventually bringing his sister, father and mother in to work as staff in the wealthy Park family household.

And for a while, things seem to be going pretty well, until they aren’t and the film takes a turn towards the terrific, in the deepest sense of the word.

So what does this have to do with improv?

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Well, families are nothing if not ensembles (see episode 7), and the Kims must continually improvise to keep their scam alive. Especially when they encounter a strange man living in the Park’s secret basement bomb shelter that they never knew existed.

But what I want to focus on is the moment that started it all — the offer made to Ki-woo to tutor the Park’s daughter.

The film’s entire premise hinges on that single gift. And in improv, there’s an expression which is “give gifts.”

Paul Vaillancourt, an improv teacher, and co-founder of iO West, writes about gifts in his book, The Triangle of The Scene.

Vaillancourt explains that the best way to set your partners up for success is to make statements that not only include specifics, but also include information that gives them clues about character, attitude, setting, and/or the situation.

On stage, it’s the difference between…

Hi Mom.


Mom, I can’t believe you won’t let me eat ice cream in the car. You’re the meanest person in the world!

The first offer is an empty box. The second gives the other person the who, what, and where of the situation as well as the relationship and attitude of the people in the scene. Lots of gifts.

In real life, it’s often as simple as being more specific.

It might be the difference between…

Do you have that report ready?


Do you have today’s TPS report ready? I need you to present it at the 5:30 pm board meeting.

The added specificity is a type of gift you can give your colleagues. The more info they have, the less likely something will get lost in translation, and more likely you’ll both come out looking good.

So if you want to succeed on the improv stage, give big, playable gifts to your partner to create improv scenes with rich characters.

And if you want to succeed at work, be specific, share whole information, and be a giver.

Not a taker, or, a parasite.

So that’s my take on parasite.

Thanks for the great suggestion, Abraham.

If you want to suggest a word for next week, or add your perspective, drop me a note in the comments or in a review. I’m making one of these every week, for a year, so definitely subscribe, like, share, and all that jazz.

Or better yet, listen to the podcast.

And in the meantime, if you’re interested in improv for personal growth, professional achievement, or just for fun, my suggestion is to get yourself into an improv class or book a corporate training workshop for your team.

You can learn all about LMA’s programs at

Eran Thomson is the Founder of Zuper Superannuation, Laugh-Masters Academy, LMA Professional Development, Comedy & Co, and the Australian Improv Festival.

The One Word Suggestion podcast with Eran Thomson

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