I started taking improv classes at ColdTowne Theater last night. In the class of 20 people–yes, twenty!—17 are dudes. Of those 17, a standard 85% have beards.
“But, Andrew,” you ask, “why are you, of all people, taking improv classes? You’re already perfect.”
True. But I can always get more perfect.
After taking three levels at Merlin Works and five at The Hideout, which both teach improv from basically the same playbook, I was eager to experiment with another school of thought. ColdTowne has a reputation for being more “gamey” than some other theaters.
I went into class eager not to reveal my true identity: Improv Batman. I’m just one of you, mortals. And really, despite my two years of experience, I really am one of them, because in many ways I’m opening a new, heretofore unread chapter of the Improviser’s Manual. But I don’t want anyone in the class to think I’m somehow ahead of the curve, or a show-off, or a teacher’s pet know-it-all jerkface.
So when, while going around the gigantic, twenty-person circle introducing ourselves and explaining our experience with improv, I limited myself to saying, “I’ve done some improv around town.” And then I implied that I’m a homosexual while attempting to make a joke about a first date I went on. It was awkward. I was intimidated by the gorgeous woman sitting directly across the circle. What else is new?
After an hour of chit chat, we hopped up on our feet and started learning “Yes and…” by doing some “zip-zap-bop” and one-word-at-a-time stories and simple two-person scenes. But even in these innocuous games my experience shone through, apparently, as I got a couple of shout-outs from my classmates for my good work. Ugh. My Bruce Wayne mask is slipping.
Really, I’m one of you. I mean that. I’m just here to remind myself of the fundamentals and maybe add some new pitches to my repertoire. And to stop being so uptight and get downright silly again.
But this whole 20-person thing is probably going to grow annoying. It wasn’t last night, as we were mostly just talking and starting. But when we start digging into scenework it’s going to be a challenge to sit quietly in the audience for a vast majority of the time. You can certainly learn by watching, but you learn more by doing. Or at least I do. And with 19 other people competing for stagetime, I’ll have to get good at being patient. We’ll see how that goes!
In the end, I had a hoot being in a big group of brand-new people. Beards, a beautiful woman, a good teacher (who’s not afraid to go blue), and a reminder that “Yes and…” isn’t just a fantastic URL for a blog, but the most important lesson in all of improv.