this thing that happened

Running is gross

When you run, you hock loogies. I don’t know why. There’s just all this mucus and it needs to go somewhere. Polite runners aim for the harmless patches of grass.

Last week, I missed the snow-covered grass and accidentally hit a lamppost. Ew.

This week, seven days later, I ran past the lamppost again… and my loogie is still frozen to it.

EW EW EW. I sincerely apologize, New York, that’s fuckin’ disgusting.

Ladies been improvisin’: A totally unnecessary postgame rehash

Overall: that went pretty well!

We Might Just Kiss: A Female Improv Event

(1) Criticisms first.

I wish I’d gotten out there more, and when I did get out there, I wish I’d said smarter things.

I think those are confidence-borne things that I’ll be struggling with for a long time.

So. I dunno. I’m aware of the problem, 90% of the posts on this blog whine about my lack of confidence, this is a known entity, we’re on it, roger that.

When I talk about lacking confidence, I should specify— I am physically pretty hammy. But when I get up there, my brain deflates like a dead mushroom. I struggle to follow what’s going on. I haven’t developed laser focus yet, and every initiation (after an opening) sets me into a panic of “oh my god, did I zone out during the opening, is she referencing the opening, should I know what to do with this, the audience will know if I missed it, ahhhh I’m just going to sit this one out and let everyone else carry the scene.”

The few times I’ve tried to discuss the “no ideas” issue with my colleagues… it seems like I’m the only one who struggles with it.

Me: I have no ideas. I just go blank when I’m up there.

Them: Wow, really? That must suck.

Ehhhh. I’m still hoping some of this will come with time and practice and experience.

(2) The good.

My warmup scene was very well-received.

Check out all those likes, that's right, I'm fucking awesome

Names and faces blurred to make it marginally harder for creeps to track us down

I’m not terrible at everything, yayyy!!!

It’s my second show ever, and it went better than my first, and maybe my third will go better (maybe not, but I can hope), and it was an experience, and it was kind of fun, and I CAN DO THIS.

Such a character!

Whenever I read advice on overcoming depression/anxiety/low confidence/fear etc., I always see “think of something you do well!”, and I think for a few moments, and I always come up empty, which fuels the depression/anxiety/low confidence/fear etc., because oh god I can’t do ANYTHING.

That in mind… I got a compliment last night, and I want to write it down before I forget it.

—–

Some buddies from my practice group watched the (awesome) class show of some other buddies from my practice group. After the show, in a nearby bar, our conversation turned towards general appreciation for the excellent improvisers we get to play with.

More or less out of the blue, Graham turns to me and says, “No, YOU… you do really awesome characters.”

Startled, I stuttered, “Really? Uh… thanks…!”

“No, I’m serious,” he continued. “Like, when you get on a character, it’s really funny. There was something you did last week… the old lady! That was amazing. I think when you get into a character, it gets you out of your head a little, and frees you up to react in really great ways.”

I blushed. “Wow,” I said. “I… thank you. Really.”

—–

(I should also mention: Graham doesn’t have much tolerance for bullshit and empty compliments. This is trustworthy insight.)

Bad stories

We spent most of our first (PIT Level 1 improv) class talking about ourselves.

Not thrilled with that. I’m naturally pretty narcissistic. I like improv (in part) because it helps get me OUT and AWAY from my own selfish obsessions, not deeper INTO them.

For one exercise, we stood up and shared stories (in preparation for a future Armando, I guess).

I don’t like telling stories. Because I don’t get out much, I don’t accumulate a lot of stories; because I don’t have a good memory, the few stories I DO accumulate fade away after a couple years.

Plus, my spoken narrative is usually terrible: I put in too many details about this part, and I leave out significant details from that part, and the whole thing is a disjointed mess.

I dunno. Everyone was telling heartfelt stories about their families. I panicked and told the class about how I don’t have a lot of connections with people, and how I was a selfish jerk who didn’t call my great aunt the week before she died.

I went home feeling like shit. (Rightly so?)

In one sense, this is a victory. Normally, when I meet new people, I pump loads of effort into being as likable as possible. Painting myself in a super-unflattering light straightaway is one way to get over that, I guess. “Be real?”

On the other hand, I foresee this becoming a pattern. From now on, I can self deprecate in front of these people without a second thought. “Oh, ha ha, well I’m a selfish asshole, remember?”  But I don’t want that to happen. I recognize the beginning of a downward spiral. (Whoa, hey, is mindfulness finally paying off?!) And geez, if I just wanted to put myself down all the time, I’d do standup or something.

Possible solution: Put that bad memory of yours to use and FORGET THIS. Next week is a fresh slate. Maybe some people, instead of being horrified at you, were touched by your frankness and humanity. Everyone fucks up sometimes, right?

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.

Justifying an unpopular opinion

“SO— Robin— what’s with you not taking Level 2, huh?” Pete asked as a few of us walked over to Walter’s ($5 for two PBRs!) after our first practice group. Of the six people who showed up, I was the only Magnet Improv Level 1 graduate who wasn’t enrolled in the next class.

“I kind of don’t ever want to go on stage again,” I answered.

“You can’t just give up after one bad show!” he said. “You’ve got to give it a chance! Do it for a while before you throw in the towel!”

“I’m not throwing in the towel! Did I not organize tonight’s practice group?”

“Then why aren’t you taking Level 2?!”

“I’m giving myself some time to improve on my basic skills, so the NEXT time I get on a stage, I’ll be better prepared.”

“Improve your skills by taking Level 2!” Graham piped in.

“Look,” I said, exasperated and apparently in need of a metaphor, “I run. I enjoy running. Running is fun for me. I run because I like the runner’s high, because I like fresh air, because I like passing people, because I like gradually getting better, because it’s a challenge.”

“Okay,” said Pete.

“I do not run because I want to win a marathon. That is not my end goal. I don’t have an end goal. I am just running because it’s fun.”

“Okay,” said Pete.

“That’s how I am with improv, too.”

“Oh,” said Graham. (Cue lightbulb.) “That makes sense.”

“No it doesn’t!” said Pete, determined to persuade me. “Classes are fun, playing is fun, learning is fun. Classes are a safe environment, and you have a fun experience at the end where you can face your fears! Don’t let the fear control you!”

“Dude, I’m not saying I will never take Level 2. I am saying not right now. I am doing practice groups and drop-in classes and mixers and watching shows. I am not disappearing from the community. I just don’t want to take Level 2 right now.”

“Look— hasn’t improv improved your life outside of class?”

“Yes! No doubt! But I don’t need to take an ‘Intro to Long Form’ class to continue benefitting from improv principles!”

 

 

 

I’m not in any hurry. I’m not doing this to be a professional comedian, or improviser, or entertainer. I’m doing this because it seems like it might be a fun skill to learn. I will go at my pace, you can go at yours, and maybe we will find ourselves at the same marathon some years from now.

Heartbreaking

A couple weeks ago, I psyched myself up to do an improv jam, and I showed up, and I realized I hadn’t improvised in nearly two weeks and couldn’t remember anything about how to improvise and also I hate being onstage. I was NOT feeling “omg I can’t do this,” but I was feeling “I don’t want to be publicly shitty today.”

In an attempt at compromise, I thought I’d try to participate in just the pre-show warm-up exercises. Loosen up, play a little, enjoy the fun part of improv.

“Uh… why?” asked the gal in charge of the sign-up sheet, which I was not signing.

“I, uh, well, I’m a lousy improviser on a good day—” I started.

“A lousy improviser?! Oh my gosh, that’s heartbreaking!!” she cried.

…’Heartbreaking?’

😦

………

In the end, they let me play, but it wasn’t as satisfying as I’d hoped. Several of the exercises were only passed among a few key improvisers*, which meant the 25 of us who were too scared to follow up someone’s great play just didn’t participate in the game, and the same 10 people kept tagging each other out.

*especially true of “What are you doing?” wherein someone mimes an action, another player comes over and asks “what are you doing?”, first player says something they are clearly NOT doing. First player leaves, second player begins enacting whatever the first player just said, rinse and repeat.

Fear sucks. So does low confidence, and a number of other things.