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by Darren Held

Ever since I was little and my dad tried to teach me my multiplication tables, feeling stupid has made me frustrated and CRANKY. I’m a reasonably intelligent person (no, really – I can multiply up to my nines!) and I can do a lot of pretty diverse things, which is cool. But my learning curve typically involves a lot of frustration, swearing, tears and cranky-ass moods until I get to the part where I no longer feel like a moron.

I’m sorry, I’ll get to the part where this is about improv in a sec. But first, more about me.

Just because someone doesn’t know something or know how to do something doesn’t make them stupid, obviously. Unless the someone is me. In my world, I should be able to do whatever I decide to do – instantly, perfectly and without having to look at YouTube videos of how it’s done first. We’re talking about anything from Sudoku to brain surgery.

This week has been tough – I’ve been having to switch between a lot of different types of work, which I enjoy… except for the fact that one of the things I’m working on is formatting and proofreading a doctoral dissertation in some kind of fancy-ass engineering. Um, yeah. There’s all these equations and figures and tables, and Word only gets along with MathType when it’s damn good and ready to, and it’s literally all Greek to me, so the proofreading goes like this: “Upside down triangle? Upside down triangle! Check! Squiggly equals sign? Squiggly equals sign! Check! Vodka? Vodka! Check!” I’m pretty sure I could learn brain surgery easier.

Oh. Improv. Right. Naturally, I thought I should be perfect at improv too. And I have certainly had my share of struggles and frustration and tears and cranky-ass moods along the way. But interestingly, by learning improv you are also learning how to learn better. By staying in the moment, you aren’t spinning out into the whole “I’ll never learn how to do this, I’m an idiot” scenario that just makes it that much harder to learn. By listening, you can take in advice and instruction better. By agreeing, you save all that time arguing the point that it just doesn’t make sense.

I’m not saying improv makes you learn everything effortlessly or without crankiness. My computer heard some new swearwords this week. Well, really swearphrases. But my crankiness only came out in short spurts because after a few minutes I would remember to just focus on the one equation in front of me and not worry about the 362 others that I had to figure out how to format.

Now I’m gonna go do something I’m good at. Fatburger, anyone?

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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