Improv Is Easy!

(Then why is it so hard?)

Posts tagged Improv

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The Eventé - Marcus Bishop-Wright

The Evente is one of my favorite improv forms, and this’ll be a great class.

Sign up, NYC improvisers!

Fridays 7-10 p.m.

April 4 - May 16

Filed under improv evente class

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Improv Journal: Growing Pains Redux


Last night I went to the UCB Lady Jam for the first time in probably a year. I somehow found myself awake and with energy enough to stay up past midnight for the show, so I went with a couple of friends. 

For the last several months, probably since I started my La Ronde class at The Magnet, improv has felt easy. Or maybe I should say it hasn’t felt hard. I was enjoying the form and my classmates. I didn’t feel preoccupied with any thoughts other than the desire to have fun and to push myself and expand my range of characters and play. For the most part, I think I succeeded and I got some great feedback from Rick Andrews, who hasn’t seen me play since I took his level 1 class over a year ago. 

But last night, I found myself thinking things that took me away from the focus of having fun. I was worried about not fucking up in front of the audience and wanting to make smart moves to stand out and look good. I felt rail-roaded at certain times, while I was busy trying to find a more patient way to heighten or make moves. I felt a little lost. I hated my moves. It was maybe a 10-minute set, but it felt like it went by so quickly, before I could get my bearings and feel settled. And I get that a jam is a different animal - it’s often faster play. People are more aggressive and the emphasis is more on game moves. I’ve done jams where I felt like an asshole for being aggressive. This time I felt like a lamb, just trying to get through the set without fading away.

I made a move at one point that immediately felt like a negation or like I was undermining or calling another improviser out. I did not like my play. I can chalk it up to it being a long day (I ended up being awake for 20 hours, which is unusual for me). I could blame it on a rough week emotionally for me. I traced back the start of these feelings to the practice I had days earlier where working on game stuff put me back in my head and took me away from the fun. 

Maybe I’m just in one of those waves that we all go through where improv just isn’t working or making sense to me right now. Maybe I’ve sat too long in a bull market and I’m heading into a bear market? 

Then I read the post I reblogged from Sarah Rainone (see below this one), which was a lovely post about why we do improv. It’s about supporting your partner and making them look good. It’s about genuinely making human connection and quickly without thought or pretext. And it’s the reminder I needed for why I continue to do improv. Prior to the Lady Jam last night, I saw a great Monoscene class show with a bunch of people I know. I was impressed at how much fun they seemed to have, how big their choices were, how much they committed to what they were doing and how they supported each other. At the practice where I felt a little mentally strained, I was playing with some improvisers I only recently met, but with whom I’m having a blast improvising. And outside of improv - and this isn’t a profound anecdotal point, but it feels important to me nonetheless - I’m using my improv training to feel comfortable talking and flirting with someone I would never ordinarily have the courage to chat up. 

Improv has given me so much and made my life better in innumerable ways. Who cares if I have a bad show? Why harp on not getting into that class I wanted or failing to impress the audience or beating myself up for not showing off? Why am I even worried about trying to show off? Why can’t I just refocus myself on being good and continuing to improve? 

I just applied to be a Magnet Big Sibling because working with younger improvisers and helping to create a supportive space for them to play and experiment and grow is what I think I need right now. Getting to coach some great people has revitalized my improv perspective. Maybe being a Big Sib will help re-adjust my attitude again and clarify why I continue to do this. 

Filed under improv comedy Nicole Lee growing pains jam jams

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This is why we do this.


I’m lost in thought, on my way to pay for an improv space, wondering if I’ll get into the class I applied for, when an older gentleman, as bundled for the cold as I am, waves his hand to indicate that I can step in front of him and step on the train first.

I get the sense that he doesn’t speak, or doesn’t speak English at least, so I follow his lead with the pantomime and kind of half-bow to say thank you.

I step forward and feel a tap on my shoulder. I turn around and he tugs on his hat and smiles, points to my hat, indicating he likes it.

I smile, tug on my own hat, point to his hat, indicating I like HIS.

He gives me a thumbs up.

We board the train. It’s so packed that no one need grab a pole: we’re so smooshed together that there is literally nowhere to fall. (This is the red line, boarding at 34th St. during rush hour.) I can’t really turn around to see the guy, but I know he made the train, too.

A bunch of people get off at 42nd street, and somehow I manage to get a seat. So does the guy.

He lowers his head in an exaggerated way to indicate exhaustion, but then raises his head and laughs.

I do the same.

He gives me a thumbs up.

I’m thinking, holy shit, we are doing some straight-up vaudeville right now. This is the best.

Then he points to his knee and waves his hand to indicate his knee is not doing great. Thumbs down.

I wave my hand over my own knee to indicate “so, so, but pretty good.”

Then I cross my fingers and point to his knees to show I hope his knee gets better and I say a little wish to myself that it does.

I don’t think wishes work like people think they do, in a physical way. It’s more subtle than that: it’s how the wish makes you, and others around you, feel. It’s about what happens next.

The next stop is mine, so we smile and wave goodbye.

This is why we do this, I think. This is why we do this.

Moments later, I check my email and see that I didn’t get into the class. For the first time, I don’t care. Instead I think: how can I fill my days when I would have been in class? Where can I travel? Who will I meet? What will we make?

There is a bigger stage out there. And no one is casting us. And no one is giving us notes. And no one is deciding whether we’re ready for the next level but us.

But it’s real and it’s magic and it’s our job to bring what we’ve learned out there.

Listen, pay attention, yes-and, wish your scene partners the best.

This is why we do this.

Filed under Sarah Rainone improv