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by Darren Held

By Sonnjea Blackwell

I read this on Facebook this morning:

Apathy is a natural, human instinct, common to us all, that consistently encourages us to seek a comfort zone in which nothing ever changes.

And I thought, “Eh, whatever.”

Okay, what I really thought was, “Hey! A blog topic! Thank you Facebook!”

See, in improv, apathy = death. If the improvisor doesn’t care, the audience doesn’t care. I mean, if you’re okay with everything, why would the audience get worked up in any direction? And the truth is, the audience wants to be worked up… they want something that’s going to surprise them and make them laugh or groan or whatever. “Oh, he just told her he’s secretly been in love with her cat for the past 3 years, that’s gonna be HUGE!” And it should be huge. But that whole apathy/comfort zone/status quo thing sometimes makes us as improvisors respond to the cat confession with, “Oh. Well, okay, I guess I can see that. She is a very fluffy cat.”

Um, what? The audience was on the edge of their seats, dying to be in it with you, and you bailed. So all they can do is let out a big sigh and wait for the next big revelation. But there might not be another revelation. So what we learn in H2G improv classes is to jump on that first bit of information. And it doesn’t have to be as big as interspecies love affairs. It could be, “You know, I’m tired of you stealing my pencil.” Which is actually funnier because the audience is like, “What? It’s a pencil, who cares!” But when you react and care about that pencil-stealing accusation, they’re surprised and caught off guard and then they’re in it with you.

That’s a good thing, fyi.

Okay, you all know how I roll by now, so you won’t be surprised that I’m going to tie this little nugget in with real life. In life, we want to stay in our comfort zone, avoid change and maintain the status quo. Why? Because the opposite is scary as hell. Duh. But life is so much more interesting when you choose to care. Be happy. Be mad. Change directions mid-stream when you realize things aren’t the way they oughtta be. It’s hard to fight that natural human instinct towards comfort, and harder still to fight society’s idea that we should go with the flow and make peace and all that. I won’t go so far as to say that in life, apathy = death. But in the same way that a scene can’t grow and flourish if you don’t push and react and change, your life won’t grow and flourish if you don’t push and react and change.

We all resist change to a certain extent. Evidently, that whole inertia concept has some merit. But staying the same means you can never get better. And at Held2gether, we want to help you get better. Not that you’re not already good. You are. We’re sure of it. But a little push outside the comfort zone couldn’t hurt, right?

Now could you please return my pencil?

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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