When I first started taking Improv Comedy classes with Darren Held, I remember being impressed by the number of students who said that they were taking the class because they decided to step out of their comfort zone. These were the students who were shy, introverted, and maybe lacking in confidence. Yet, here they were taking an Improv Comedy class – something they would never otherwise do.
I got a direct reminder of how difficult it is to break out of that comfort zone recently. Darren asked me to sub for him and teach the Wednesday night Level 1 class. He was having rehearsal that night for Attack of the 50 Foot Sketch Show. Since both Kendra and Viet were in the show, they could not sub. So he turned to me, and I agreed. There was just one little problem: I have never taught a class.
Okay – time to find inspiration from all those Level 1 students who stepped out of their comfort zone to take Improv Comedy.
Nervous about my teaching debut, I did my best to prepare. I studied Darren’s and Kendra’s notes. I thought about the games that the students were going to play, and about the type of feedback that would be most helpful. I could have prepared even more, but my non-Improv life can get pretty busy. C’mon, The Walking Dead isn’t going to watch itself.
So the night of the class, I stepped out of the warmth of the womb that is my comfort zone and went to class. To cut to the chase, the class went very well. Everyone had a good time and the students really seemed to hear and appreciate the feedback I was giving them.
There are two reasons why the class was successful:
First of all, this was a truly great class. Everyone was there to have fun, but everyone was also trying to learn. Every single student had a great attitude. I could not have asked for a better group of students to devirginize me. They were gentle and sweet. When it was all over, I wept and the class just held me silently. Oh, wait a minute, that was a different devirginaztion. Anyway, the class was great and my thanks to all the students.
The second reason for the successful class:
Someone told me to just commit. Teaching is a different skill than performing. But I know this stuff. So I am going to go out there and be the best damn improv teacher ever. It worked. My feedback to the students may not have been as rich and detailed as Darren’s or Kendra’s, but my experience combined with commitment allowed me to provide some useful feedback. It really is like doing a scene in which your character is rich . . . or suspicious . . . or generous . . . or elderly . . . or a rich, suspicious, generous, elderly zombie on The Walking Dead. If you commit to being the character and commit to the character traits, it is so much easier to become that character.
Try it next time you do a scene. Decide on who your character and commit to it. The information that comes from the scene will further define the character.
But please don’t eat other people. There is such a thing as too much commitment.