Improv = Zen. Who knew?
Yesterday I finished my first series of improv comedy classes at The Hideout Theater. I signed up for classes a few weeks back after I saw a performance and had two competing emotions flow through me afterwards: 1. Excitement—that looks like it could be so much fun! 2. Fear—that scares the shit out of me! I signed up anyway. I figured what’s the worst that can happen?
Fear of embarrassment is high on people’s lists of things that terrify them. I’d have to say it’s #1 or #2 with me. Watching Awkward-Situation-Ben-Stiller-Movies is for me, what I imagine watching horror movies are for others. Sometimes, I just can’t watch it. It’s painful. (And not just because the movie’s bad). Living that in real time in front of other people. How embarrassing. And improv, I thought, will be very embarrassing. Funny thing happened. It was. And nobody cared.
The people in the class were a mix of young and. . .slightly less young. Experienced and novice. Most, like me, were curious about it and decided to take the leap. What I found fascinating—what I did not at all expect—was how much the class experience translates to everyday life. We go through life carrying a lot of baggage. We interact with each other in ways that we don’t fully understand or take the time to be aware of. We put up barriers, seek to control situations and self edit our expression without even knowing that we are doing it. We try to win. Instead of just being in the moment. Instead of enjoying the moment, regardless of the outcome.
That is the biggest lesson I’ve taken from improv so far: winning isn’t everything. As I’ve written before, being good isn’t everything. Sometimes it’s OK to suck. Sometimes, genuinely sucking at something is the most interesting, funny, amazing and human thing you can do in that moment. And you never know where that moment will take you.
So, to my classmates: Much, much respect. I saw you show genuine courage and be awkward, smart, connected, energetic and hilarious each day in class. I look forward to seeing you in level 2. I hear they hook us up to E-meters, adjust our Thetan levels and make us tell our deepest darkest secrets. Should be fun!