At some point last summer I was reading an article somewhere out in the depths of the internet that put an idea into my head. The article was about social anxiety, and was written by somebody who, like me, does stuff in an office for money sometimes. The idea that really stuck with me went something like this:
No matter what happens at work, nothing in the office can approach the weirdness of the stuff I do in improv class.
I’ve had my own share of social anxiety in the past, and will probably have more to some degree in the future. It usually goes something like this:
- Everybody else in this Chipotle just noticed that I dropped a wad of guacamole out of my burrito like a neanderthal.
- I’ll just pick it up with my fingers.
- I regret doing that.
Well the thought of trying improv stuck, and after some encouragement from a close friend, I signed up for Improv 101 at ImprovBoston. I didn’t know anything at all about the school or the people there, and had never been to a comedy show in my life. The only thing I knew about improv was watching Who’s Line is it Anyway? and a single (terrible) scene I did once at a college party with the same friend who encouraged me to try this in the first place. (I played a nonspecifically disturbed guy buying weird porn. Yeah.)
So I walked into the first class with no idea what to expect.
The first class went well, and the environment was a very welcoming introduction to improv. At the end of each level, ImprovBoston runs a student showcase performance, and I enjoyed that enough to sign up for the second level.
Improv 201 was a very encouraging next step, and I felt more and more comfortable each time I practiced or performed. But it was the second student show that hooked me hard.
Nonspecifically disturbed guy buying weird porn hard.
Cut to a month later. I showed up for my first Improv 301 class in the morning, and hung out between the theater and reading at Starbucks for the rest of the day. I’d picked up Improvisation at the Speed of Life the night before, and I think something about the first couple chapters flipped some switch in part of my brain, because playing scenes felt completely different. My scenes all day felt strong and important and worth watching. Not every single one, but it was a lot better than the crapshoot I felt on stage previously. And furthermore, I found those ideas carrying over to the chitchat with other people in the theater. (They’re all incredibly friendly and supportive, by the way, so that helped too.)
Respect and support your scene partner. Listen actively. Be in the moment. Trust your instincts. All things I’ve heard in my previous classes and as vague life advice in the past, but that day I felt like I finally had a handle on what that actually means in practical terms, and what happens when you do it, both on stage and off. It’s a small step, but it still feels like a deeply meaningful one in the right direction.
That’s why I’m starting this blog. My name is Sean Edwards, and I’m really excited to be learning improvisational comedy and applying it to life outside the theater, and I’ll do my best to share with you the things I’m doing along on the way.
If you’re interested in this (or not), please leave a comment and tell me why. If you have questions, I’m happy to answer them if I can, or I’ll try to find out myself if I can’t. And if you’re an improvisor or otherwise living person yourself, I welcome any advice or experiences you might feel compelled to share. Otherwise, I hope you’ll still find something good in this as I document my ongoing process of getting better at making it up as I go along.