A few weeks ago, as I was leaving a social gathering, my good friend since middle school (high school besties!) took me aside and shyly/excitedly mentioned that she was taking group music lessons, and she somehow ended up being the singer, and the group was performing in a bar in our hometown in a couple weeks, and, y’know, if I had time, maybe I could swing by?
“YES!” I screamed, surprising both of us. “YES holy fuck that’s AWESOME!!!!!!!”
This past week, I drove an hour to come see her, and it was amazing. All the student musicians had only first touched their instruments three months ago, and I was super impressed. But the part that made my heart explode— my introverted friend strutted onto that stage and fucking OWNED it, on pitch, rocking the fuck out. Were there a couple notes that weren’t quite what I remembered from the radio cuts, maybe. I didn’t care. I was grinning with glee the whole freaking time.
And I thought: I bet this is what it’s like for outsiders to come watch their friends do a Level 1 improv class show.
If I’d known, back when I was taking Level 1, that my beginner-level skills had the power to spark such joy for other people, I’d’ve told everyone.
I just hit my one-year-since-starting-Level-1 Improv-ersary last week.
And my brain said:
It’s been a year, and I’m still doing this.
Why am I still doing it?
I’m sort of convinced that everyone secretly hates me, and I’m working through some petty angry drama on my end right now, so the social thing isn’t a strong motivator these days, so… not that.
I didn’t suddenly get good at improv, so not that.
It still scares the bejeezus out of me, so not that.
Right now, I’m not taking classes, I’m not on a team, and I’m not organizing a practice group. I have zero obligation to commit time to improv, but I’m still carving out time for it.
Am I in this for real?
Have I proven that I’m not going to drop this the moment it gets hard to handle?
Am I an improviser yet?
I have told probably ~4 people outside of the improv community that I do improv. Word spreads anyway— “Wait, whoa, WHO said I was doing an improv thing last Friday? I never told HER I do this…!”— and photos/posts/links/event tags leak through Facebook, even if you hide stuff from your Timeline.
I’ve always been afraid that non-improvisers:
- Will judge me offstage, because I’m not the most hilarious person offstage.
- Will judge me onstage, because they’re expecting Whose Line and I’m Amateur Hour.
- Will constantly ask me “so how’s improv going?!”, and I’ll go through a rough patch where I don’t want to talk about it, or I’ll quit improv and everyone will keep asking “so how’s improv going?!”, and I’ll have to face a bunch of really awkward uncomfortable conversations.
Those are all still concerns. I’m not going to start broadcasting my improv life to the world anytime soon.
But with hitting the one-year mark, something in me was like: You can come out now. Maybe this IS just a phase for you. But it’s shaping up to be a long phase. And it’s been a part of your life for long enough. You shouldn’t have to hide it.
So. This little light of mine? Maybe it’s time to start creeping out from under this bushel.
My friend and I chatted after she sang her heart out in the bar.
“Some woman came up to me and said, ‘You looked like you were having fun!'” she said. “In other words, we sounded awful!”
“No no no no no no no!” I said. “Looking like you’re having fun onstage is half of it!”
She seemed skeptical.
“No, so, look, I’ve been doing improv— comedy— in New York for a year—” I blurted.
“Wait, WHAT?!” she said. “That’s awesome! How did I not know this?!”
“You didn’t know because I don’t tell anyone. I think you’re the fifth person I’ve told. I’m coming out, haha!”
She chuckled. I prattled on.
“In the improv that I’ve been watching, the best groups are the ones having the most fun, see. Skill is part of it, sure, but if YOU ain’t having fun, ain’t NOBODY having fun.”
That’s where I am right now. Stop hiding. Come out, have fun, shine bright. Only asshole snobs give a fuck whether your brightness comes from a $2 LED flashlight or a $4000 track lighting system. Bright is bright, and your brightness has the power to rock the world of everyone around you.