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by Darren Held

You’ll have to excuse my language today, but there’s an article that I refer back to periodically called The Complete Guide to Not Giving a Fuck, and it’s kinda the point of my blog today.

Improv, as I may have mentioned, can be scary. I mean, it’s scary in a good way, not in an oh-my-god-there’s-a-scorpion-on-my-nose way. But it’s scary nonetheless. And in a really weird way, it can actually become scarier as time goes along. Yes, I’ma tell you why. How’s that for awesome sauce?

Assuming you start taking improv classes on your own and you don’t know a single person in class – that in itself can be scary. However, you don’t know these people, so there’s an excellent chance you don’t give the tiniest fuck what they think. Even the teacher, probably. You push yourself to whatever degree you’re capable of, and you go for it, and the opinion of the others in class probably factors very little into your mindset.

Only then you keep taking the class, and you get to know your classmates and pretty soon you’re friends with them and singing at karaoke bars with them after class or attending tea parties with them on the weekends or being decorated with Batgirl figurines by them when you fall asleep on your couch during your own party. Or, you know, so I’m told. And pretty soon, these are among the very most important people in your life.

And you realize you give very much of a fuck what they think.

And that, my friends, is no good in terms of improv.

As #3 of the aforementioned article states, “It’s Your People That Matter,” and they matter a lot. Their opinions matter, their friendships matter, they matter. And I don’t know about you, but I want the people I care about to like me. (Sometimes, as Lisa has kindly pointed out when I needed to be called on my bullshit, I want them to like me best. It’s true. I can be that shallow.)

When your people matter, and it causes you to rise up and be the best version of yourself, that’s awesome. But when you’re afraid of losing their good opinion, you can start to self-censor and judge yourself in an effort to avoid incurring their judgment. You might not want to look stupid or silly or ugly or gross or creepy or whatever on stage, for fear that they will not approve and no longer like you.

I’m not going to lie; it could happen. People have walked out of my life for less valid reasons than those, so I know it’s a possibility. But just think about how colossally stupid that even sounds: I’m afraid that if I do a creepy/sexy/stupid/gross/whatever character that you won’t like the character and, consequently, you will no longer like me.

If your friends are that lame, they don’t really qualify as “Your People That Matter.” No. They don’t. Anybody who would stop being your friend because you put it all out there in an improv scene with a character or emotion or information WAS NOT YOUR FRIEND IN THE FIRST PLACE.

You can’t be afraid AND do good improv at the same time, because you will always be holding something back. Naturally, that doesn’t mean you just flop around onstage and say whatever you want; there are still rules and structure to keep in mind if you want to do good improv and be a good scene partner. Feedback on your technique is still valid and appropriate, especially in a class setting – you can’t learn or improve without it. So it’s okay to care what people think of how the character/emotion/information WORKED in the scene, but it’s not okay to care what they think of you for attempting it. Your People That Matter will applaud you for pushing out of your comfort zone. And the others…

Well, who gives a fuck about the others, anyway.

By Sonnjea Blackwell

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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