By Darren Held

The Little Wheel Thingy Goes Round and Round

by Sonnjea Blackwell

You all know how I feel about the dreaded plateaus… Not. A. Fan. And yet, there is nothing inherently wrong with a plateau, whether in improv or in anything else you might be pursuing.

As a matter of fact, plateaus are not only normal, they’re necessary. You learn a bunch of new stuff and, at some point, your brain is like, “Whoooaaaaa, Nellie!” because it has to figure out what to do with all that information. It has to store it and build new neural networks to access it and make sense of it and figure out how to implement it on demand. And for a little while, no more new stuff can get crammed in there while your brain is making sense of what it has recently learned.

You know when you’re saving a huge file on your computer, and that little wheel thingy is going around and around, and for a few minutes, you can’t do anything else? And if the wheel thingy goes around for too long, you start to worry that your computer is going to crash, only then right when you think it’s hung up… Voila! The wheel thingy stops and your file is saved and you can continue working!

That’s all that’s going on when you hit an improvy plateau. No big. It’s science, people.

The only time a plateau is dangerous is when you decide – either consciously or subconsciously – to stay there. Becoming comfortable, complacent, content (whatever C word you choose) is a sure-fire way to make what is supposed to be nothing more than a rest stop, a permanent destination.

I’m currently in (yet another) plateau. I’m happy, because this one is a result of tackling some of my deepest and most long-standing improv weaknesses. Unfortunately, for the time being, that means I’m not doing very good improv. I still recognize funny, so that’s a relief. But I’m having some trouble bringing it. I don’t care because I know from past experience that this is a temporary state and that, soon enough, I will be back to my usual hilarious self.


I had big plans to start this year off with all sorts of improvy brilliance, so the fact that the little wheel thingy chose now to start going around and around, saving some big-ass file I thought was already saved, is friggin’ annoying. On the other hand, what better way to start a new year than with the knowledge that your brain is taking a moment to sort out everything you learned last year so you can put it in place and call on that new information whenever you want?

So it’s all good. I’m pretty sure my brain won’t crash, and soon the little wheel thingy will stop going around and around and I’ll say something funny. Yay!