“I hate women,” said the woman

In my practice group this past week, we worked on status (which was like, whoa, coach, have you been reading my blog? No, it’s a common improv skill to work on, and he probably noticed the same fuckups in last week’s practice that led to me introspecting and writing a bunch of blog posts).

So that was useful.

Unfortunately, I’ve been equating high status with masculinity, and low status with femininity. Shit.

But I can’t be a misogynist because I’m a woman, right? Yeah I wish.

I struggled with gender identity for years before it finally dawned on me that women are not stereotypes. (i.e. “Women are weak – overemotional – catty – expect special treatment for being female – dress impractically – etc.” / “Oh! You can still be 100% female and NOT BE ANY OF THOSE THINGS, who knew.”) Sadly, those anti-female roots go pretty deep, and my past disdain for women unconsciously bubbles to the surface more often than I’d like.

I’m really lucky to have groupmates— mostly men— who are less sexist than I am. I may think I’m playing a shy, nervous, high-voiced, low-status woman, but then someone will call me “Mark.” Or the other way ’round— I’m a confident, wide-stanced, low-voiced man, but I’ll get named “Sylvia.” It’s a great reminder to get my head out of my ass, and I’m hopeful that someday I’ll learn not to stick it there in the first place.

So thank you, feminist men of improv. You rock.


P.S. Credit where credit is due: I saw the title of this post in my feed reader last week, so it may have sort of inspired this post, but didn’t totally read it until I finished writing. Turns out it’s related and a good read.

Fuck strong

I’ve gotta stop thinking of the word “strong” as aggressive and high status. I keep blasting in with loud, in-your-face characters because that’s what a “strong character” or “strong initiation” is in my head.

And it isn’t, not always, it’s not what “strong” means! A terrified low-status character can be way stronger than a loudmouthed crazy character!

Therefore, from now on, to avoid associating “strong” improvising with high status aggression, I will call it “juicy.”

“That was a real juicy initiation, good job!”

“You had a nice juicy emotional reaction to that first line.”

“Have a juicy character in the first beat.”

“We’re all working to be juicier improvisers.”


Stop fighting!

An observation about one of the many improv things I struggle with— If you come at me with an accusation, I will always, always fight.

I mean, I’ll accept the reality of the situation, that I did the thing you’re accusing me of, but I’ll be damned if you’re gonna tell me that’s WRONG. I had a TOTALLY valid reason for crashing that commercial jet, and fuck you for saying otherwise.

The problem is: fights rarely make good improv. The scene never goes anywhere– no new information gets added to the scene, you just dive deeper and deeper into the dumb little factoids you started with. It becomes about the facts (which are MADE UP! how can you strive win a fight based on make-believe facts?!) instead of about the relationship between the characters.

The problems for me, why I have so much trouble not fighting, are:

  1. I wouldn’t say I like arguing, but… uh, I like being right. So I’m usually having so much… fun?… trying to one-up my opponent that I don’t even realize I’m doing a terrible scene until like 2 minutes after it ends.
  2. It’s my honest reaction. That’s honestly how I’d handle an accusation in reality. And you’re supposed to react honestly, right?

I’ve got a short fuse. I never thought I’d be able to hold a job as long as I have; I always envisioned myself telling a boss to go fuck himself and quitting/getting fired in a spectacular tantrum. (I’ve come close! Oh did my manager and I have a talk last week. But I digress.)

Lately, I’ve had some opportunities to get screamingly rageful in scenes, and that usually goes over well because “strong emotion” and all, but I’m just like, wince, guys, I have anger issues, please don’t validate them.

Back to the point: ideally, I guess you avoid confrontational initiations, but once it’s out there… maybe I need to learn to just… accept that I was wrong, that I’m the lower status character here. At least sometimes.

Is there a way to do this without being either (a) remorseful (“I’m so sorry, I’m a terrible person for crashing that jet”) or (b) incompetent/clueless (“You’re not s’posed to shut off the engines in flight? Golly, I didn’t know that!”)? Or is one of those two options how you’re supposed to navigate the situation?

Or should I hold on to my “fuck you, I’m right” point of view (thus maintaining the “honest reaction” thing), but steer the conversation away from the subject we’re fighting about?

…I have no idea how to do that, though (in improv or reality).

So how do you handle accusations (in improv or reality)?



(Oh hey, also, this is my 69th post, hurr hurr hurrrrr.)