empathy

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.

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)

 

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I really liked that thing you did, with the thing!

New goal for practices and classes:

Make a mental list of your favorite thing everyone did over the course of that practice, and tell them afterwards.

This may prove to be an ambitious memory trick, at least in the beginning; if you need to start smaller, only do five.

People have been doing this for me lately. I’m usually caught off guard and can’t immediately think of a reciprocal compliment. When it becomes a two-way street, everyone wins— not only because we both feel validated that someone noticed our best work, but because it’s healthy to get out of our own heads and focus on some of the awesomeness that’s happening around us.

 

…I realize I phrased this like an advice post, and I have not been doing improv long enough to be giving anyone advice. It’s more a personal goal. What’s your experience with empathy and reciprocal compliments?

On going to friends’ shows

I was a college music major. My mother sings. I have sat through my fair share of concerts. Because that’s what grown-ups do, right? We sigh and suck it up and fidget through boring-ass concerts for our friends and family, because we are obligated to try to make these people happy.

Improv is a totally different experience. When I go to friends’ shows, they shower me with gratitude afterwards (“Thanks for coming!! No, really!”). Which feels weird. I just had a great time laughing my head off. I’m the one who came out ahead in this deal; why are they thanking me?

I genuinely enjoy watching improv— good, bad, everything in between. When I know the people who’re improvising, I dunno, it’s even better. My heart swells with pride when they deliver a good beat; my heart breaks when they get flustered; the laugh lines are somehow twice as funny as they would be from someone I’d never met.

When I watch your show, you’ll get no sighing and sucking it up and fidgeting from me. The anticipation and excitement I feel leading up to your little show is the same I’d feel if you were an honest-to-god celebrity. This shit is addictive.

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.

Twitter +/- other people

I recently joined Twitter. <–(That’s a link to my account.)

I thought it’d be a good venue for learning how to consolidate rambling thoughts into bite-sized witticisms. So far, so good. It’s surprisingly gratifying, in the way that any creative pursuit can be.

And yes OF COURSE I am counting Twitter as a creative pursuit. It’s writing! It teaches us to (a) identify tweet-worthy thoughts/events, (b) frame these things in a way that makes them interesting to others, and (c) boil everything down to the briefest possible essence of the idea. These aren’t bad skills for general communication, either.

But.

I have no Twitter-friends, so I’m just broadcasting into the ether. I’m not communicating, I’m not making anyone laugh, I’m not getting any social-media validation. (Ditto with this blog.)

I guess this brings us back to a basic improv concept: Empathy. It’s less about what I can say for myself, but about what I can do to make blogging/tweeting fun for YOU. Why do you blog? What makes it worthwhile for you? Is it when people laugh at your jokes, or “like” your heartfelt essays, or leave you well-thought-out comments, or follow you in what appears to be an honest appreciation for your writing (in contrast to all the “GET RICH QUICK” followers I seem to have acquired)?

Awright, Internet: amuse me. I want to give you Likes and Comments and Shares. I want you to have fun. LET’S DO THIS TOGETHER.