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by Darren Held

Let’s say, hypothetically speaking, I was having an “I hate improv” day recently. Why would someone who loves improv and thinks everyone in the known universe should do improv ever hate improv?

Paradoxically, it’s because I love improv that I sometimes hate improv. If I just kinda liked improv, it wouldn’t be frustrating when I don’t live up to my (often completely unrealistic and unreasonable) demands on myself.

Look, I’m a funny person. I know that. But I’m not necessarily the right kind of funny person for improv. Which means I’m constantly swimming upstream in terms of keeping up with my troupe-mates. And sometimes I get tired of paddling so hard.

Luckily, when I’m having a hypothetical “I hate improv” day, I usually vent to Lisa. Well, lucky for me, anyway. Rather unfortunate for Lisa. And in this particular hypothetical scenario, Lisa reminded me of a couple important points:

  • I don’t do scenes that leave the audience with a WTF expression afterwards
  • and

  • “Viet” and “hummus” are two words that don’t belong in the same sentence.

Yeah, we’ll just focus on the first one. Lisa meant that I don’t have crazy information or big denials or obvious mistakes that make my scene partner have to work hard to save the scene, or that make the audience think they’ve traveled to another dimension where people only speak in riddles.

She’s right. I don’t go to crazyville, and that’s an important skill. Still, improv is about making big bold choices, and I’m not a big bold kinda chick. I’m never going to change who I am, and that’s okay – as long as I keep paddling and push myself to be as big and bold as I can be. Some people prefer the big, huge character-y types, and I get that. But I just keep thinking about Gilda Radner… brilliant, obviously, with huge energy and characters. But I always thought she was funniest when she was playing off low-energy – but smart – Jane Curtin.

So I guess the moral of this hypothetical story is, don’t give up AND don’t feel you have to be something you’re not. Play to your strengths while continuing to work on your weaknesses.

You know, like in real life. Hmmmm. Didn’t see that coming, did you?

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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