I have been thinking lately of why improv terrifies me: it requires me to be willing to fail spectacularly. I start with nothing. I wonder: What if I have no ideas? What if I freeze? What if everyone sees me fail? It is so easy to talk myself out of volunteering. It’s so easy to just stay small and safe – that way no one can see me mess up.
However, the generosity of comedy, I am learning, is not about my small bubble of self and how I perform. It’s about realizing others have hard days, hard lives, impossible years. Perhaps, if I am brave enough to fail, to make a fool of myself, to try my best, and to trust them with my wild imperfections as well as my brilliant possibilities, it is an act of kindness to them. Perhaps, they are in the same boat as me. They are self-conscious of their shortcomings, too. They experience heartache from this crazy world, too.
Improv reminds me that we are all human. We all need some places in this world to laugh, play, and find humor in our collective chaos together. If I dare to offer myself, it can make someone’s day a little better. It can remind them, and me, we are not alone.
Boldness, I am realizing, is an act of love.
For that reason, I have been volunteering actively in my improv class! Sometimes, I do well; sometimes, I learn what I can do better. But I am there, bold and present.
For fun, here’s a scene I did:
Recently, I played a scene base on the Indiana Jones adventure genre. In the scene, my partner and I bent down and grabbed a giant red ruby, which we then tried to carry over a thin, precarious bridge. She named herself “Wild Wendy” and I named myself “Sojourning Sally”. I couldn’t think of anything else but the randomness of it surprised the audience into laughter. Then, just when we thought we were getting away with our ruby theft, our arch-nemesis jumped out to stop us. He spontaneously pronounced himself, “Wild William”, to which Wild Wendy responded, “Hey, you can’t steal my adjective!” Amazing. So both adjectives and red rubies were stolen in one night! How fun!
And that’s a taste of improv.