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by Darren Held

After our improv show the other night, a lady who has been to a bunch of our shows came up and told us how much better we’ve gotten. She went on to say, “And it’s so great that you swear, now, Sonnjea. It’s fun to see you come out of your shell.”

WTF? Seriously, I don’t even know how to respond to comments like that. I mean, I appreciate the intended compliment, and I like that people think I’m getting out of my shell, but the swearing thing is ludicrous. I have no idea how she has been to a bunch of our shows and thinks I’ve suddenly taken up swearing. I’m guessing deafness or amnesia. Darren is thrilled I don’t perform with the Friday Company anymore, because if anybody was gonna drop an unintentional f-bomb (or 6) in a family-friendly show, it would be me. At Toastmasters, instead of the “um” counter, I need a profanity counter.

I’ve mentioned this before, but it frustrates me when people don’t see me the way I am. Yesterday at the gym, a trainer there said, “Don’t lose any more weight! I mean, you look great, but don’t lose any more!”

I haven’t lost any weight. Not one pound.

The fact is, I’m a skinny chick who swears like a sailor. These are not things that are subject to interpretation; they are facts. And yet, people still see the facts of any situation through their own filters. So even things that seem cut-and-dried, black-and-white will be interpreted differently by different people.

Yes, my friends, I have a point. The point is, although it may be difficult in real life to force people to see you the way you are, in improv you get to call out exactly what you want people to see. Label yourself fat, or thin, or a prude or a mean-ass truck-driving bitch, or whatever. It’s all imaginary, so the audience depends on you to label everything. Then they see what you want them to see, and not their own vague interpretation of what might be happening. And then hilarity ensues.

And if the improv labels run counter to what people insist is your “type,” even more hilarity ensues. If the big burly guy says fuck a lot, it’s not that interesting. But if the soccer-mom-looking girl is mean and calls somebody a bitch, it gets a huge laugh. So let people have their misguided image of you, and use it to your advantage.

And if that means dropping a few f-bombs, I say just fucking do it.

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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