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by Darren Held

I’m in a mood. Which is fine for today because I’m doing the “I’m a freelance writer and I don’t have to talk to anyone about anything” thing. But by 7 p.m., I have to be ready to do the “I’m excited to have human interaction” thing because that’s when long form improv class starts.

One of the reasons I started taking improv classes in the first place was to overcome shyness. But even more than that, I had become sort of a hermit. I would do my best to avoid humans if at all possible, and since I work alone at home it wasn’t too hard to go days on end without having a conversation that consisted of anything more than, “Cheeseburger, no onions, fries and a lemonade.” Oh, okay, sometimes it was two orders of fries.

I honestly didn’t know what to expect in an improv class, but I had the very strong notion that I had to go. I didn’t know anyone in the class (hermits don’t know very many people), and I’d had a shitty day before my first class started. But I felt this overwhelming sense of relief when I walked into the Rec Park social hall, and I remember thinking, “These are my people,” as if I’d finally landed on my home planet after spending ages wandering the galaxy.

Of course, I learned a bazillion different skills involving communication, listening, agreeing, accepting, committing and the like. But the most important thing I learned was that groups of people could get together and support one another totally without judgment. I don’t know about you, but I wasn’t even aware that was possible.

And it wasn’t just that there was something mystical and magical about that particular group of people; I’ve seen it over and over and over and over in H2G improv classes, and new students are always commenting on it. It sounds silly and sappy, but improv completely restored my faith in humanity.

So now, I occasionally have a day like today where I’m a little cranky and my natural defense mechanism is to hermit myself in my house. But the prospect of doing improv later reminds me of everything there is to love about people, and the hermit instinct fades quickly. And by 7, I’ll be anxious to see my classmates and play games and struggle and laugh with them.

Wouldn’t the world be an awesome place if everyone did improv?

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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