Not everybody should take improv classes.
I know, I know: Sacrilege!
Everyone should take an improv class, right? After all, this is the advice I offer to anyone who will listen. “Take an improv class! You’ll thank me later!”
Last night, for example, I finally met a girl in person whom I’d known only via Facebook for several years. She and her boyfriend came to my Cagematch show, and afterward she was fawning over all of the performances. I explained to her, “You should take an improv class! It’ll change your life.” And I meant it. I’m convinced that for most people three hours of improv training per week is far more effective and far less expensive than talking to a shrink.
But on reflection—of which, it may surprise you to learn, I am capable—I decided that no, not everyone should take an improv class. There are some people for whom an improv class would be ineffective or even disastrous. So here are the…
5 People Who Should Not Take Improv Classes:
1. Lindsay Lohan
It’s easy to pick on Lindz. She’s the epitome of a cautionary tale. (The tale being, specifically: Don’t do a whole bunch of cocaine after starring in a couple of family-friendly comedies. Also, don’t stuff rat poison into your face.)
There is a booming industry devoted solely to picking on Lindsay. Although in the last couple of years, teasing Lindsay about her bizarre facial transformation or her tame run-ins with Beverly Hills cops or her tacky movie roles seems less cruel than it used to. She seems to embrace her wacky persona a bit. (How else could you explain Liz and Dick?)
And remember, in the early days of Lindsay’s career—especially after Mean Girls—she was considered a real talent; not just a pretty face, but a pretty face with plenty of acting chops to work in Hollywood for many, many years.
So given her skills, why would Lindsay be terrible in an improv class?
Because she’s fucking crazy.
One of the early lessons improvisers learn is that when starting a scene, you should attempt to create a base reality. Create a world that is at least mostly recognizable. Once you’ve grounded your characters, the location, and your activity in something plausible, when you finally do find the “game” of the scene, the game of the scene will stand out in sharp contrast to the reality. UCB sums up this concept with the phrase “Blue doesn’t show up on blue”—meaning that if everything is wack-a-doodle from jump street, then nothing you do in the rest of the scene will seem unusual, and therefore nothing will seem particularly funny. Blue doesn’t show up on blue. It is in the contrast of the absurd against the grounded where most of the comedy exists.
But LoLo? She’s cuckoo. And her life has seemingly been one long, drawn out episode of Ren & Stimpy for sooooooo many years that she may have no connection to reality. She’s rich (or, rather, she lives a rich lifestyle). She’s hounded by paparazzi. She’s written about every day, regardless of whether she does anything of note. She hangs out with bizarre celebrities. She does—did?—plenty of drugs and goes to parties that only SNL’s Stefan knows about. Lindsay Lohan hasn’t dipped her toe into reality in almost a decade.
I suspect that explaining improv to Lindsay Lohan would be like explaining parking meters to Gwyneth Paltrow. What is this strange, ordinary thing of which you speak??
Lindsay would start every scene right in the middle of Crazytown—because she’s the Duchess of Crazyvania.
2. Gary Busey
Oh, Gary. Oh, dear sweet Gary Busey. Oh, shaggy-haired maestro of the mumble! Is it our fault? Can we blame you on America? Has our instant-gratification, a-mile-a-minute modern culture spawned you? Should our entire civilization be taken to task for laying the groundwork whence grows a man of your particular brand of insanity, Gary? Well, Gary? What say you, Gary? Is it our fault? Are we the reason you exist?
Whatever the cause, Gary Busey exists. And he is to be dealt which. Just not in an improv class.
The problem with denying the Busey from joining an improv class is that, if he caught wind of it, he’d want in. He’d not only want to sign up for 101 at Merlin Works, he would want to teach the first class. And he’d want to teach it with nothing but acronyms.
“Y.E.S. A.N.D. That stands for Yellow Eyeballs See All Nighttime Dramas!” (Or some shit like that.)
But Busey, aside from being a force of disruptive nature in the class—after all, how can you do a scene with a guy who has one eyeball boring into your emotional core while the other is somehow molesting your soul?—the Busey-nator wouldn’t get much from the class.
Because he’s batshit insane.
Look, I don’t mean to pick on the mentally imbalanced. Some of my best friends are fucking nuts. But that doesn’t mean they’re not terrible scene partners. Busey is no exception. Unlike Lindsay, who initiates every scene in Crazytown, Busey would initiate every scene in a whole other dimension. There would be no recognizable references for you to grab on to. He would Yes-And himself until his hair caught on fire. Gary Busey would do a six-person scene with himself. He’d think you were a table lamp and he’d tug on your crotch to turn you on.
On second thought: Let him teach the class. At least then he might tire himself out and fall asleep on the bench.
3. Every U.S. Congressman
Gosh, this list is starting to look like a line-up of The World’s Easiest Targets. But no list of awful people would be complete without the current United States Congress.
I could detail every failing of Congress’ last six years, but apparently WordPress has a 1.5-million word limit. Suffice it to say: they accomplish nothing—nothing of any relevance, that is. They’re perfectly capable of renaming a highway in Idaho or declaring March 12th “National Chimney Sweep Appreciation Day.” But on the issues that matter—even the tiny, relatively uncontroversial ones—they go nowhere.
Now, I’ll admit that I’m a dyed-in-the-wool liberal. But for this Congress, my loathing knows no party. Because while yes, the Republicans’ only mission has been to deny Obama (and, by extension, the country) any movement on anything issue of importance; the Democrats have caved and hesitated and equivocated themselves into supreme impotence. One party digs in and says “no!” while the other backs off and says, “sorry to have offended you, sir!”
Imagine an improv class filled with these stuffed suits!
Imagine Rep. Louie Gohmert, a Republican from Texas (shocking!) who gleefully denies climate change and evolutionary biology, and who just today was caught boldly lying (again) about Obamacare’s impact on the poor—imagine this walking human penis trying to play “I’m A Tree.” For starters, he’d probably refuse to play on the grounds that it would too closely align him with the environmental lobby. Then, once he was shamed into playing, every single offer he’d make would refer to Obama’s illegitimacy:
Player A: “I’m a tree!”
Gohmert: “I’m Obama’s Kenyan birth certificate, printed on paper made by rightfully cutting down the tree.”
Player A: “I’m an apple??”
Or picture the wiener of all political wieners, Anthony Wiener. It pretty much goes without saying that in a warm-up game of “Big Booty,” he’d orgasm every time a lady shouted “Big Booty, number 1!”
These people, by and large, are soulless ambition whores. Listening isn’t their strong suit. Neither is giving a shit. And without the ability to listen and support your partners, you’re going to be a world-class improv dud.
4. Rick Perry
Not to belabor the political point, but I have to save a special place for the governor of my fine state, Mr. Richard Perry. (Or as Molly Ivins so kindly called him, “Governor Goodhair.”) Most of you remember Perry for his brief and disastrous (and kinda gay) run for President in 2012. But those of us in Texas have had to deal with this royal dipshit since George W. left for the White House back in 2000. Perry is the quintessential Frat Boy: slick talk, faux smile, latent homosexuality—a total bimbo. Yes, Rick Perry is a male bimbo (a mimbo?).
By comparison, if you can believe this, George W. was an excellent Governor.
Perry is a Tea Party guy. He hates science and he loves Jesus. He denies help to the poorest and sickest while handing out goodies to the very rich. He’s a cliché who has done real, long-lasting, tangible harm to millions of fine Texan citizens. (His recent decision to extend the legislative session for the sole purpose of passing an illegal and diabolical plan to restrict abortion in this state is only the most recent of his villainous maneuvers.)
But wouldn’t this personally charming and smooth-talking guy do well in an improv class? After all, he knows how to commit (see: every bullshit tea-bagger bill he’s signed). And given that it’s improv, he wouldn’t have to encounter many of those terrible minorities he seems to despise so much. And wouldn’t his thousands of stump speeches have prepared him for bullshitting?
Well, not exactly:
That’s all you need to see to know that, when the moment requires Perry to step up and act with conviction, he’s unable. Not because he forgot the third department he would eliminate; but because he never really knew in the first place. He’s a straw man, a paper maiche man. There’s no there there. He is an android programmed with a series of talking points from Sarah Palin and Grover Norquist.
When called upon to be himself and to draw from his own experiences, he’s left stammering. Improv doesn’t require you to be funny; but it requires you to be willing to be vulnerable, or at least “be yourself.” If you have no self, you cannot be it.
So, Dick Perry, please leave the stage. You’ve been eliminated from the worst edition of Maestro ever.
5. Johnny Manziel
I’ll keep this one short, as I don’t want this list to become too Texas-centric. But needless to say, Johnny Football here would make a terrible improviser.
Why? Because, while there are no rules in improv, he would still find a way to break them all.