I’ve been taking the 201 Improv Class at UCB the past two weeks, and everything’s working out differently than I expected. My plan was to be in New York Monday through Friday, work in Boston Saturday and Sunday, and then return to New York the following Monday through Sunday. I’d do improv from 11-2pm Tuesday through Friday each week, and do stand up the rest of the time. The point is, I forget that physics exist, the body gets tired, and maybe I need to rest occasionally. Eh…did I just say, “the body,” like I’m some sorta vegan whose Wikipedia’d Buddhism? I apologize to the universe and its potential conciousness.
I’ve barely written the last two weeks. It’s like my pen is dry heaving on the page. I’ve been too exhausted. Some of the open mics I was planning go to, I’ve not done. And yesterday, after class, I just stayed on the couch and slept periodically until it was today. I do feel a lot better though.
I may have been unintentionally preparing for UCB’s style of improv since I was a little boy. One of my favorite things to do since forever is for someone to assert a ridiculous premise, and then to build and justify that world together for fun. There are multitudinous pages in old comedy notebooks, where 24 year-old Tom pines for the day he meets the women that would build worlds of words with him, and together, they would linguistically dance into alternate universes, and other stuff where you’d question his sexuality. Some of my favorite stand up bits are ones that don’t usually work well, but I just expand a white lie into a large web of clearly untrue details. That’s basically what improv is. You find a thing that’s weird, and you explore how weird you can make it.
It’s too bad so many stand up’s disregard improv, because it’s such a great mental vacation from the perfectionism surrounding joke crafting. As a stand up, you’re always tinkering with your bit (not as sexual as it sounds), trying to create new and better material. In improv, if the scene’s done, it’s done. And you can cherry pick the scenes that went well, and bring them back as slightly different scenes. AND if you stink, the blame is spread throughout your whole group. So you’re developing extremely parallel skills to stand up, while the whole experience is way less strenuous once you get a little comfortable.
Whatever improv does for you, I feel more confident about being able to handle whatever’s thrown my way when I’m not expecting it. The improv classes are helping. It’ll be hard to tell until I get in front of a few more audiences of non-comics, but I’m getting much more comfortable with being in situations I can’t plan or control for, which I need in stand up as much as I need in life.