Month: December 2013

Runner’s World – Three steps to cope with a bad performance

1. Scream and Shout

This initial grieving stage may last a few hours or a few days, but it’s not helpful if it lingers. “Prolonged grieving lowers self-confidence and motivation,” Balague says. “When you are unable to constructively evaluate what happened and point to a solution, it may signal some underlying emotional issues.”

2. Dissect the Disaster

Instead of analyzing all of this in your own head, Nyamora recommends going over the details of your [performance] with someone else—ideally an experienced [improviser] or coach. Writing about the experience in a journal or blog can also be helpful. “Your internal thoughts can be overly critical, but when you write about an experience, you tend to be less negative and more objective,” he says.

3. Move Forward

You also need to consider the emotional toll the bad [show] took on you. “If you’re feeling desperate to prove something to yourself or others, or you’re still angry about the last [show], wait,” Nyamora says. “It might be best to take a break from [performing] until you feel emotionally recovered and really miss it.”

Hah! How do I recover emotionally from a bad improv scene, I asked? I like this answer, mostly because it’s basically exactly what I’m doing. Thank you Runner’s World.

Still— this is more of a long-term solution. I still need tips for the short term— like when you’re at Mile 7, and you just fucked up your last 3 splits, and the race might still be salvageable, but your psyche is just like “AW FUCK, GO HOME.”

Sports psychology as applied to improv psychology! I wonder what else I can find in this vein.

An improv/ video game metaphor with animated gifs

I have feels so I made pics to splain:


When I do good scenes, it’s like

Sometimes my improv is ok


When I do bad scenes, it’s like

Sometimes my improv is :(


When I do enough bad scenes in a row, I don’t die, but my health is so compromised that it is impossible score a win. I can’t focus. Bright side: at least the hits level off.

Bad night


I need to figure out how to mentally suck it up and bounce back faster. When I’ve been hit, of course I can strut out there and play another scene, but the scene will be lousy. My brain is busy screaming “YOU’RE TERRIBLE AT THIS,” and it’s tough to shut it up and make it do improv. And each additional bad scene just kills me a little more.



Practice group hurt my fragile ego this week. Our substitute coach overslept, so we coached ourselves, which meant our problematic scenes received a group critique. They were good analyses, because we have good people, but (a) my starting Health was only ~75% (exhausting day), and (b) after a few bad scenes I couldn’t perform anything BUT problematic scenes, which had the added pressure of “if I go out there, I’m feeding myself to the wolves, I WILL be picked apart, I don’t want to be picked apart.”

So what did I do? I clung to the wall, counted down the minutes left until practice was over, and did no scenes for the next hour.

This was obviously the wrong course of action.

You’re supposed to jump right back in, right? Get over yourself and try, try again?

But if you CAN’T win, if there is no possible way for you to win at that moment… why?

How do people do this? How do you bounce back mentally, in the moment, without needing to pull back and heal for a couple days?



Sprites from

Mega Man characters ripped by Tomi, © Capcom

Magic Sword background ripped by jin315, © Capcom

Jump in and have some fun!

Dear diary,

After a week of whirlwind emails (are we doing this? are we not? ok, it’s on, oh but now we have 9 people not 5, hello studio do you have a bigger room?), we had our third (my second) practice group on Friday. We did a lot of scenework, and it felt surprisingly good. Once I figure out a character and an emotion, as long as that character/emotion doesn’t require 90% of my brain, then my partner and I can just react and play off each other and figure out the rest. WHICH IS FUN! Which is exactly what I’ve been looking for. Which is obvious to any stray improviser who stumbles upon this blog (YEAH YOU), but hey, I’m still figuring this stuff out, man.

We played “beating the shit out of a game” again, which is a rapid-fire tag-out game that’s loads of fun.

…I say “loads of fun” as if I actually jumped in at any point. I didn’t. For the entire game. I am too slow. My brain is molasses. I couldn’t get an angle.

But it did get my brain-wheels turning (I wanted to jump in!), and it was fun to watch.

Same old improv-stage-fright ramblings packaged in a slightly different way

Yeah, no, I know, after I haven’t thought about something for like a month, I’ll think of it again and come to the same exact conclusions all over again, and it feels like the first time every time.


Once again, I went to a Magnet Mixer (an improv jam) and didn’t jam.

People who knew me were like, “Whyyyyy not?”

It’s a good question. Everyone is scared, not just me. What drives them to go onstage, and what makes me hang back?

…I mean aside from garden-variety cowardice, I can deal with that.



Why do people get on stage at all? Why not limit improv to classrooms and apartments? I assume most people get some kind of a high from the adrenaline/endorphin rush of being on a stage and making people laugh, yes?

I must not have experienced that yet.

Here’s how the process of going on a stage works for me:

  1. Anxiously battle panic awaiting your turn to go up.
  2. Get on the stage like a deer in headlights, battle going blank, and mostly say stupid shit that doesn’t further the scene.
  3. Flog yourself afterwards for being terrible. Refuse to enjoy the rest of the show because you’re so wrapped up in yourself.
  4. Go home and try to remind yourself that you’re not a shitty human being.

The fun comes in where, exactly?


I keep thinking of Will Hines’ essay on “Improv As Religion“— a line from it, anyway:

We believe that these improv classes are going to burn away the parts of our personality that we don’t like and leave in its place a braver, more powerful person.

Improv requires a skill set and disposition that I don’t have, that I’ve never had, and that I’ve wanted to have for a long time. And I keep hearing that anyone can be an improviser. I’m filled with hope. Screw talk therapy, I’m going to DO something, I’m going to IMPROVISE.

Do I need to face the stage issues at some point? Absolutely. But I still have so much to learn offstage. I just want to keep learning for now, ever so slowly building that “braver, more powerful person,” until someday I feel like maybe I have a chance at climbing that stage, making people laugh, giving my scene partner a thrill, feeling good about myself, and claiming the adrenaline rush that is rightly mine.

The joy of witnessing mistakes

I like watching improv. This blog wouldn’t exist if I didn’t.

One thing I love watching in improv, though, is mistakes. When experienced improvisers trip up, that is hilarious to me.

Does this make me a shitbag?




Our Level 1 teacher told us:

Nobody comes to an improv show saying, ‘oh man, I hope they screw up.’ No! The audience wants you to do well. They’re rooting for you!


As he said this, I thought:

Oh. Really? I want them to screw up. That’s the best part. Obviously I am a terrible person and do not belong in the improv community.




This past week, with the Sound of Music Live setting the internet on fire, one of my favorite podcasts (PCHH, or Pop Culture Happy Hour) discussed this apparently universal desire for screwups when watching live shows, which made me feel much better about being this way.


There’s a part of that desire to see something go “wrong” that’s not malicious, it’s just that you like it when people’s humanity is exposed a little bit. —Linda Holmes, 13:25


I hope, a little bit, that something unplanned happens [during the Sound of Music Live], but it’s not because I want bad things to happen to people, it’s not really schadenfreude, it’s just that… it’s just that you like it when those unplanned things that kind of make life bumpy and interesting happen. —Linda Holmes, 14:17


“…In these situations, you’re not looking for people crashing and burning—” (Stephen Thompson)

“—you’re looking for the stunning recovery.” (Trey Graham) (quote at 15:50; lead-in story begins 14:30)


I guess that’s why I love watching experienced improvisers screw up. When people at my level get flustered, it’s uncomfortable, but when experts mess up, that’s awesome, because they recover beautifully.