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by Darren Held

Some people (who shall remain nameless) who knew me back in the day have trouble believing I can do improv. It’s true. You know who you are.

It’s not so much about the humor thing, because I’ve been a smartass my entire life. It has to do with the teamwork aspect of improv, which has actually turned out to be the thing I love most about improv.

To say I wasn’t a team player would be a ginormous understatement. Let’s review, shall we?

  1. The only sport I did in high school was swimming – which is technically a “team,” but it’s really made up of individuals doing their own events. Needless to say, I didn’t do relays.
  2. My friends did drama and/or debate… but I didn’t want my “success” to depend on other people doing their job. So I didn’t do drama. Or debate.
  3. I abhorred any type of “group project” assignments in high school and college. The ONE time I trusted everyone on the team to do their job, somebody didn’t. It was a mock election, and my team would’ve won by a LANDSLIDE, except one lame mofo didn’t do his part. So we lost. From then on, I did all the work in any group projects myself, guaranteeing all the people on my team an A… and guaranteeing that everyone knew what a major control freak, pain in the ass bitch I was.

So I get why people might have trouble believing I can be a team player. To be honest, if I’d known that improv was a total team sport, I might not have taken my first class. No, seriously. I really, really didn’t trust people to carry their own weight, and I wouldn’t have wanted to show new people my control freak, pain in the ass bitch self too soon.

But as I’ve said countless times, improv is magical. The brilliant thing is that it’s FUN, so you want to do it well. And the only way to do it well is just to friggin’ trust people. No, people aren’t perfect and yes, sometimes your teammates aren’t successful. But except in very rare instances, everyone is on the same page and trying their best to make the scene work, and that’s what teammates do. Not only that, but a control freak, pain in the ass bitch is NOT someone anybody would want on a team. Who wants to play/work/whatever with someone so in love with their own agenda that they force it on everyone else? Um, not me.

When you grasp how amazing working together as part of a team can be, you realize that it’s very lonely doing everything yourself. When you let go of your notion that everything has to be “perfect” (which is impossible anyway), you discover how fun it is to figure out how to make a “mistake” work. When an audience tells you you guys are all amazing!, you discover that your biggest win comes not from YOU looking good, but from you contributing to the TEAM looking good.

You probably won’t believe me, but when you start to love the teamwork in improv, it will carry over into real life. Seriously, most people I’ve met since I started improv don’t think of me as a control freak, pain in the ass bitch. Well, not all the time, 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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