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by Darren Held

I subbed for Darren’s Level 1 Improv Class last night, which was a BLAST. Obviously, you all know how much I love teaching improv, but it can be a little stressful to fill in for Darren because his students ADORE him and no matter how fabulous I might be, I’m not him.

Anyway, it was the last night of class and I made the usual last-night-of-class announcements about other upcoming classes and some awesome improv shows we’re doing in the next couple weeks. Then one of the students asked if he could make an announcement. I said sure. I’m nice like that.

He just wanted to thank his classmates for being so awesome. He said he’d taken classes at some famous schools in LA that were hyper-competitive, but that he learned so much from being in this Held2gether class that was the opposite of that – supportive and encouraging and NOT competitive. It was a great compliment to his amazing classmates, but I took it as a great compliment to Held2gether as well.

FYI, that supportive, encouraging, NOT competitive thing is our whole goal at H2G. Darren and I have done the competitive, cut-throat thing at other places… I’m not saying it’s bad. But it’s different, and it’s not how we roll here. We see improv as a team sport, where everyone supports everyone else, accepts everyone else and appreciates everyone else. And while people can certainly bond in stressful, competitive situations, the absence of competition removes the need to be “better than” or the stigma of being “worse than” and allows people to encourage each other wholeheartedly.

Improv requires honesty and vulnerability, and it’s hard to go to those scary places if you’re feeling judged and compared to others. Without the competitive thing, people are only compared to how they were last week – not to anybody else in class. So there’s no one to compete with, except your previous self.

So thank you for the compliment! And for those of you who have been on the fence about taking improv because it’s scary – come give it a try! The only person you have to be better than is the old you. And I know you can win that competition!

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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