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by Darren Held

It’s been suggested that perhaps I have an improv addiction. To that, I say: um, duh. But I also say: I’m not the only one, peeps. Here is an excerpt from Bossypants that sums up my feelings about improv quite well.

Improvisation as a way of working made sense to me. I love the idea of two actors on stage with nothing – no costumes, no sets, no dialogue – who make up something together that is then completely real to everyone in the room. The rules of improvisation appealed to me not only as a way of creating comedy, but as a worldview. Studying improvisation literally changed my life. It changed the way I look at the world.

See, I told you Tina Fey and I agree on 100% of things. But still, there are some big differences between Tina and me (besides talent, I mean). One is that Tina discovered improv when she was young. It led her to SNL and her entire career. I discovered improv in my mid-40s. I’ve never studied acting. Hell, I’d never been on stage before except the 5th grade play, in which I was a tree. I don’t have a lot of confidence. I’m ridiculously shy.

Awwww, poor Sonnjea. But one thing we learn in Held2gether improv classes is to label everything – ourselves, our partners, what’s going on in the scene. Once a lady who was older than the other students in the class got mad because everyone kept labeling her the mom. Darren said, “Well, then, label yourself first. This is your chance to be God – label yourself whatever you want to be.”

So I can accept the labels that I’m too old for improv, or too shy or too quiet or not confident enough. Or I can label myself: loud, outgoing, brash, confident, funny, smart, sexy, goofy, charming, whatever. Sure, labeling is easy and actually following through is harder. But realizing that you are in charge of you is an important first step. It’s easy to hide behind the labels of too shy or too old or whatever and use those as excuses for not living up to your potential in any area of life. But why let some random bit of information define you if it’s not how you truly want to be defined?

I’m pretty sure Tina Fey wouldn’t stand for that crap.

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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