Student Blog: Dear Someone Who is Thinking About Trying Improv, But Isn’t Quite Sure…

Dear Someone who is thinking about trying improv but isn’t quite sure,

Hi. My name is Nish.
I’m not originally from a drama or comedy background, or really anything that’s required me to be on stage. In fact, I used to be a professional number cruncher.

I remember being so worried about speaking in front of people that my heart would beat crazy fast even if I just asked a question in class. I worried I’d say something stupid, or pronounce something weirdly, or that the words would come out in the wrong order. It was so bad that once, in middle school, I had to make an announcement during assembly and I was so freaked out I accidentally made the announcement *in the wrong language*.

Yes. That happened.

So why try improv? Will it help you never make a mistake? Will everything you say be comedy gold? Will you finally be as rich as you dreamed and buy a footstool made of solid gold studded with rubies?

Of course not, don’t be ridiculous. First and foremost, improv will teach you one very important thing:

Sh*t happens.

In class, in shows, at jams, in the bar, at home, on dates, at work, and in school assemblies.

Pause

You: “Sh*t happens? That’s your big lesson, Nish? I already knew that! This is a scam!”

Nish: “Ah but it’s not, young Jedi. The problem Dear Someone who is thinking about trying improv, but isn’t quite sure, is that while you know that sh*t happens and there’s nothing you can do about it, no one makes a bigger deal of it than you.

Let me paint you a picture with my imagination brush: You go about your normal day until aforementioned sh*t ensues, at work for example. You freeze. You don’t know where to look. How are you supposed to react to that sh*t?

Massive uh-oh moment.

Hours later you’re sure everyone is either laughing at you or talking about you or thinks you’re stupid. Your internal monologue is repeating, “Ugh I’m SUCH an idiot! I can’t believe I froze and asked the boss such a stupid question about the Penske file!”

The future is bleak and things will never be the same again… Maybe you should move to Dubbo. No one knows you in Dubbo, right?

But guess what? The world moves on. People relate with you because they’ve made mistakes too. Also, they’re worried about stuff like Christmas shopping or the war on terror. Plus things are almost always worse in our heads then they are to everyone else.

The thing about improv is that it teaches you to be less hard on yourself.

Firstly, it teaches you that it’s okay to freeze and freak out. In fact, you won’t even realise it but one day you’ll wake up and realise that improv classes are paying off and that you’re now equipped with the tools to dig yourself out of these kinds of holes. Then over time you’ll realise you don’t remember the last time you froze. Suddenly you’re all there, your heart’s in it, you’re not freaking out and, big picture, it’s much nicer than that solid gold footstool you always wanted.

Secondly, it teaches you that when class is over and you go home and reflect on your improv session, nothing is to be gained from beating yourself up about it. When you f**k up, your team mates know that feeling because they’ve been there too. They get it, they understand, and they root for you — without judgement. And because of that you can move on, gaining confidence and comfort in yourself, and your peers. Then when you have your awesome improv breakthrough, they’re proud of you because you are a rockstar.

And really, once you’re in a world where you, and everyone around you thinks you’re a rockstar, is there anything else cooler than that?”

You: “Erm..”

Nish: “Answer’s no, kiddo. There isn’t.”

“Nifty” Nish Merchant is currently a Level 3 Improv Student at LMA in Sydney
Photo: Vickky Idnaani

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