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by Darren Held

by Sonnjea Blackwell

It’s easy to assume that, as much as I am in love with improv and all the many ways it can improve our regular lives, I must be in love with every aspect of improv.

That’s crazy talk. I mean, I love sushi. But sea urchin… not so much.

So there are certain parts of improv that I don’t embrace wholeheartedly. Oh, okay. There’s one part. Singing. Song improv. Musical improvisation. Whatever you want to call it.

Oh, and by “I don’t embrace wholeheartedly” I mean, “I friggin’ hate.”

improv comedy wayne bradyWhen I signed up to do improv 5 years ago, I signed up to make up scenes on the spot based on audience suggestions. I did not sign up to sing those scenes to the audience. I am not Wayne Brady, okay?

But as fate would have it, Fearless Leader Darren Held is all about the music these days. Which means, whether or not I hate it, I have to do it.

But here’s something I learned after botching a song in our show last Saturday night… as with any other part of improv, commitment will carry you. Sadly, I learned this on Monday, after I failed to commit in my musical number on Saturday, but better late than never, I say. A musical improv instructor explained that if you stand up straight, with good posture and LOOK like you are great singer… well, you won’t necessarily SOUND like one, but you’ll commit to your song and the words will flow more easily and the audience won’t be cringing with worry about whether or not you’re going to have a stroke on stage. Sing off key! Lose the rhythm! Screw up simple rhymes! Just do it boldly and with confidence and bravado, and the audience will love it.

The truth is, that is WAY more fun to watch than a scared person quivering onstage who somehow manages to squeak out a perfect song.

I’ll be honest – I don’t like having bad scenes. Nobody does. We all want to hit it out of the park and make everybody laugh. So I’m not thrilled that I bailed and let my fear show in my musical number. But it was also good for me to experience that and to remember how terrifying it is to do something that far out of my comfort zone, because that’s what I expect of my new students every session. It would be easy to forget how frightening improv can be in the beginning, and I never want to take for granted how much my new students are pushing themselves. Sometimes it’s good for me to be thrust into a situation that scares the bejeebers out of me – and it’s even good for me to fail in the attempt – just so I always remember what I’m asking others to do every single week.

But for all our sakes, I’ll try to remember the advice I got this week and sing it like I mean it next time. And to Richard and Sean, who carried that scene – thank you, and I’ll do better next time. Pinky swear!

Darren Held
About Darren Held
Darren is the CEO and Creative Director of Held2gether, Improv for LIfe. He has been teaching and performing improv for 15 years, and has performed with H2g, the Groundlings, UCB and Second City. He loves Moto, red wine, and Madonna.

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