Before we go any further, just so you know: I’m not retiring from improv. I’m not even close to thinking about quitting this art that I’ve loved for the past 11 years of my life. So if you’re hoping that this is going to be a big Lou Gehrig moment, I suggest you stop reading and do something else, like building a birdhouse. Seriously, I don’t see enough of those small architectural wonders.
Back to the question at hand; Why in the world, for the past decade, have I spent my time studying, watching, performing, and loving this art form?
This question formed after reading Molly Buckley’s blog entry on her improv experience (Found here, on her brilliant website). She posits that to her, the stage is her church, improv her religion. Some may call it an extreme statement, but after seeing her perform for the past couple of years, I’d say it’s right on the money. Molly rocks it out every time she performs. So does everyone who’s a part of Made of BEES.
But why? Why do I feel the compulsion to get up on the stage, perform for the masses, and bring smiles to faces? Why am I not content to sit back, relax, and let the thousands of other performers through this great world do the entertaining for me?
Life would be so much simpler if I just threw in the towel, proclaimed “I’m done.”, and never worried about setting foot on the stage again. There would be time to do normal things, like watch TV and go to bars and debate the merits of my favorite NFL team’s draft picks. I could even try to breach the dating scene. It’d be jarring at first to keep my focus on the beautiful girl in front of me than the dozens of potential characters that always frequent the restaurants, bars and bowling alleys. But eventually that temptation would fade, and I’d be a simpler person. A normal person. A saner person.
So the question remains. Why? Why have I devoted 11 years of my life to studying, seeing, and performing improv? After some soul-searching, I think I’ve found some answers:
- Improv accepts.
- It encourages.
- It emboldens.
- It always says “Yes”.
- Improv never calls in the middle of the week, telling me that things just aren’t working out.
- It never sends me an email, saying that I’m not qualified enough to be a part of it.
- Improv shows me where I shine brightest.
- It shows me my weaknesses, and then strengthens them.
- Improv doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you’re from, how much money you make. All it cares about is you perform to the best of your ability.
- It teaches me how to trust.
- It proves it’s all right to be vulnerable.
- Improv brings people together.
- Improv helps me become the person I want to be.
There are more answers. I just haven’t found them yet.
To Molly, improv is her church. To me, it’s a mentor. It develops me. It pulls me out of my shell, telling me it’s all right to be who I am. I can succeed, or I can fail. Whatever happens, improv will be there for me the next day, and the day after that. It doesn’t discard me. It needs me as much as I need it.
There’s no telling how long this mutual need will last. Maybe I’ll wake up one morning and find myself lacking the desire to get on stage. Maybe the time will come when I have a career and a wife and a mortgage and I’ll have to put it aside. Maybe I’ll finally take the advice of some of my more practical friends, and “grow up”.
But until then, I’m here. In the present. And presently, I’m about improv, and all the hope and joy and love that comes with it.