Podcast sharing time – Put Your Hands Together

Quick public service announcement:

I’ve been looking for a (free) podcast of various comedians’ stand-up routines for a while. I found one: Put Your Hands Together. It’s live weekly standup recorded at UCB-LA. There are big names, medium names, names I don’t recognize. It’s exactly what I’ve been looking for, and I hope maybe you will like it too.

CLAP DAMMIT CLAP

 

Introversion + Too many people in this scene

I’m an introvert. Whenever I take Meyers-Briggs tests, I’m wayyyyyyyyyy over on the introvert side of the spectrum. (I haven’t retaken the test since I’ve started doing improv, and I don’t know if I’ve started to get more in touch with my extrovert tendencies lately, but I’m still definitively an introvert.)

 

A defining characteristic of introversion is that we’re quiet and reserved in large groups. We are most comfortable by ourselves, or talking to someone one-on-one, maybe two. Not a crowd.

I bring this up because I find that I prefer doing improv with just one scene partner, and I get progressively more freaked out the more people I have to play with at once.

Monoscenes, by definition, require interacting with a large group of people at once, which I’m starting to think automatically sets off my introversion/ social anxiety/ agoraphobia/ fear, and renders me useless for improv.

 

…..

I was involved (I still am, kind of sort of? I haven’t officially quit) with an indie team that did variations on monoscenes. I was never really into the form, but everyone else seemed to be, so I went along with it. I hoped that I was just inexperienced, that I’d grow to love the form with time. Hasn’t happened.

Those same teammates have commented that it’s really hard to do a good Harold. No argument from me— all long-form improv is really hard. But to my mind, Harolds— or any forms built from straight-up two-person scenework— seem more straightforward to pull off.

I want to improvise laid-back explorations of two-person relationships. I like those in real life, and I like the idea of improvising make-believe versions of them. No pressure. No crowds. Just you and me having a moment together.

I dunno. Improv is hard enough on its own, so why make it even harder?

 

I do believe that if you’re still mostly failing in the practice room, it’s prudent to be patient and keep it behind closed doors until you’re nailing a slightly higher success rate…. I also believe you can get comfortable being on stage by doing stuff that you have a high probability of succeeding at. Sufficient preparation allows you to build skills, and utilizing those skills drives your success.

(Did I just quote myself? Yeah. Yeah, I did. #arrogance)

Some long forms are more difficult than others. When I get bored of the easier ones, then yes, I’ll move on to something trickier. But I see no reason to jump into something I’m unlikely to succeed at before I’ve mastered some forms that I might actually be able to pull off.

And I’d be more likely to succeed because…

“It’s just so much easier to follow passion than it is to follow…”
“…an obligation.”

(Rick & Lewis)

 

Arrogance vs. self-loathing

As basically every post on this blog can verify, I have issues with self confidence. But I’ve got an ego, too, and feeding that ego feels really good— that’s the whole reason comedians go for laughs, right?

When I’m not filled with self-loathing, when I start thinking, Hey, I might actually be competent at this, or God forbid, Maybe I’m even GOOD at this, I’ll often catch myself and put on the brakes: Whoa there Robin, your last practice was probably unskilled as anything, but you were in an egotistical headspace, so it only felt good. You still aren’t good. You can only improve by addressing your flaws. So I’ll start focusing on all the mistakes I make, and I’ll realize I can’t do ANYTHING right, and I’ll crash right back down to self-loathing.

Self-loathing is an unwanted state of mind, because it makes me question every move I make, which leads to bad improv, which leads to hating myself for being terrible at improv. (Also because self-loathing is generally unpleasant and unproductive in life— let’s not forget there are several reasons why self-loathing is not ideal.) But I don’t want to be pompous and overconfident either.

I’m on an egotistical upswing right now, and I’m trying to fight my natural tendency to seek humility and find a happy balance.

To quote an episode of the Mental Illness Happy Hour podcast:

[People always say to me, 'Self deprecation/ low self esteem] is going to keep me humble.’

And I always say to them, ‘Humble? Not your problem. You don’t have a problem being too arrogant.’ …I will say to them, you know, as a therapist, I’ll say, ‘If I hear you sounding too arrogant, I promise you, I will tell you to bring it down a notch. Not my biggest fear when I think of you, being an asshole-dick-arrogant-schmuck. Not what I worry about.

- Mental Illness Happy Hour, Episode 165: Mini Episode: Low Self-Esteem with therapist Dr. Guy Winch, segment starting around 22:16

 

So: go ahead and overshoot the confidence thing for a while. I give you permission, Self.

Overcoming fear: I want to be here

For the past few weeks, I’ve been getting deeper into my current improv philosophy of “just have fun.” Am I making a lot of dumb Level 1 mistakes because I’m not panicking and weighing the pros and cons of every decision? Sure.

But honestly, if the Bill Arnett improvement graph is at all accurate, then I was already doing some of my best work in Level 1, and my current bad scenes are generally better than my Level 1 bad scenes, simply because I’ve been doing this for nearly a year now and those “better decisions” can just sort of happen now, sometimes, if I can just LET them. And I can let them happen if I can just be less afraid.

 

Why am I so afraid?

  • Because people I respect will judge my performance negatively, and they will lose respect for me.
  • Because I will ruin everything for my brilliant teammates if I make one stupid move, and every move I make has the potential to be stupid.
  • Because performances feel like opportunities to show off how shitty I am, the whole idea of which makes me cringe.

 

Are these fears valid?

  • No, people won’t lose respect for you. Sometimes you do shitty improv. It’s okay. If people hate you/ pity you after one bad show, then they don’t understand improv, so fuck them, who put those dickfaces in charge of your life?
  • No, you won’t ruin everything. No mistakes in improv. You may make a choice that makes the scene harder to play, but your teammates are good improvisers, and they can take your choice and make it sing. Mick Napier asserts that the best way to support your scene partners is to make bold choices, so gift the fuck out of your teammates and stop worrying that it’s dumb.
  • …I actually kind of agree with the last one, though. You yourself aren’t shitty. But yeah, I do believe that if you’re still mostly failing in the practice room, it’s prudent to be patient and keep it behind closed doors until you’re nailing a slightly higher success rate. I think this is at odds with the popular majority, and I do agree that actively avoiding stage time will feed your phobias. But I also believe you can get comfortable being on stage by doing stuff that you have a high probability of succeeding at. Sufficient preparation allows you to build skills, and utilizing those skills drives your success.But feeling like all performances are a venue for your shittiness? Dude. With class shows (for example), you’ve spent eight whole weeks building the skills necessary to perform the form! You’re prepared! Chill out!

 

How can I stop being so afraid?

Right now, my anti-fear tactics are:

  1. Play like there’s no audience, like it’s just another no-pressure practice group session.
  2. Don’t spend the time leading up to a show thinking about the show, even if you’re focusing on positive affirmations. One of my teammates once said “being in your head with overwhelming positivity is still being in your head.” (Plus— affirmations don’t even work unless you’re already confident, don’t waste your time.) Go for a walk, give attention to each of your five senses, practice basic mindfulness. Being in your head = worry = fear = weak improv.
  3. Remember that you want to be there!

 

Why do I want to be here?

Because this is FUN. Because I love being silly.

The shows I most enjoy watching are the shows where it looks like the improvisers are having fun. If ME having fun leads to a better show for the AUDIENCE, well duh, my work is cut out for me.

 

(As ever, this is all just rambling personal opinions that I’ve already stated in previous blog posts, just repackaged. My apologies for redundancy!)

Vossprov – Bill Arnett: The Experience Graph

http://vossprov.tumblr.com/post/69006511917/bill-arnett-the-experience-graph

image

You may not feel like your scenes are getting better but your poor work is slipping away. That plateau you’re on that frustrates you after class is actually a slope. And while the climb may feel like inches a day, the ground is rising to meet you by several feet a day.

To put it another way: your bad scenes improve sooner than your good scenes do. Becoming a better improviser means tightening the gap between your best and worst work & becoming more consistent, which natually happens over time (years), mostly by doing less godawful work. Chill out and keep on truckin’.

Polishing your diamonds

CC, Parent Géry, Wikimedia Commons

I keep thinking about something I read in The Boiling Point a while back.

 Your weaknesses never really go away. …when you have more reps, you’re able to lessen the effects.  I believe your weak spots will always be weak, but there are degrees of weakness.  With a ton of rust, your trouble spots just feel much larger.  With practice, you can manage their symptoms.

In other words, everything you’re bad at now, you will always be bad at, sorry.

…..

I think we all come into improv as big chunks of ore with little diamonds in our rough– little talents that were already there to start with. And with training, we can extract and polish all those diamonds into exquisite gems. But when we don’t already have a specific diamond there in the rough beginning, we can’t just make it appear. We can distract from the missing diamonds by showing off our polished gems, or we can throw some of our non-precious ore into a rock tumbler and show that off too, but we can’t polish a diamond that was never there.

Wikimedia commons, CC, 88pathoffroad

Tumbled worthlessness = very pretty worthlessness

Almost since I started improv, I’ve focused on polishing my non-precious ore, because frankly, any improviser should. I don’t want to rely on crutches and bad habits.

cristal de diamant sur conglomérat - crystal of diamond in conglomerate

But it’s so frustrating– no matter how hard I polish, all the ore is still rough and worthless. Worthless, everything I have is fucking worthless.

And then I remembered that I DO have some diamonds.

So right now, I’m trying to spend some time polishing the little diamonds I’ve been neglecting, and take some time away from the ore.

Is this something I would recommend? No. It’s a crutch. A bad habit.

But don’t forget about your diamonds.
Diamonds

 

 

All images used here are released under a Creative Commons license and link back to their source.

And please note: Everything stated here is just my own dumb opinion.

#EgoBoost 2

Robin, you have so much talent.

Guuuh…? Um you too…!

I love doing scenes with you, and I am really gonna miss playing with you.

Nnnnggg! <3

-Unsolicited conversation with a classmate after our last Level 3 class