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Reposted with permission from a recent Facebook post
You’re All You’ve Got - Apparently a Janis Joplin quote and something I've only just realised.
Every time I come across an artist that I like, I go through the same basic three-step emotional process:
1. This is great.
2. Why can’t I be great like this?
3. I’m not great.
I’m aware that it’s not the healthiest way to be, but I’m working on it. Back off. I’m also aware that what I’m about to talk about is not by any means a new revelation, or even a unique way to look at things. But it’s new to me. Back off. I’m also aware that people may completely disagree with me about this stuff. But I don’t disagree with me. Back off. Sorry. I love you.
Whether it’s a great song, a sketch, a drawing, a comic, TV or a movie, I always feel like there is some great secret that I’m not in on. Something that separates the real artists from the "try-hards" (because trying hard is lame). From all accounts, this doesn’t just go away - see Imposter Syndrome - but I find it very difficult to refute at my current level of output. I feel so frustrated because of this apparent disconnect between me and the artists I admire. What makes them real and me fake?Continue Reading
If you’ve taken an introductory improv class, odds are you’ve done some form of emotional expression exercise. If you’re like me, this generates two responses over time:
1. Abject fear (I never do this).
2. Surprising release (I never get to do this).
In doing this work, you’ve probably been limited by your teacher to a few “core” feelings. If you’re like me, maybe you responded in a further two ways:
1. Resistance: Why can’t I play “jealous” or “nervous?” That’s more fun.
2. Relief: Thank everything I don’t have to think hard about this.
Found the game yet? Learning often follows a pattern of resistance and release. Changing perspective makes inertia. I certainly felt (and feel) that whenever I do emotional work in scenes or with students.Continue Reading
Lots of people ask me why I do improv. They’re probably just making conversation, but given this one-time hobby now takes up so much of my life, I take the question seriously. Up until recently I really did wonder if it was impacting how I behave in ‘real life’. I could see I was getting better at improv, but were there any useful side effects?
I started being able to see what was going to happen next in sitcoms, but that’s not exactly a life skill. I learnt to ask people not what they ‘do’ but instead what they did outside of work that got them excited, and got rewarded with much more interesting conversations than your usual cocktail standards (watching a woman my age get excited about pottery was a sudden reality check of how bizarre I must seem when I talk about improv). Slowly I noticed my listening get a little better, as well as my memory, and observational skills. I was getting funnier too. I could make my friends laugh more and, because of the lack of inhibition developed from performing, I could make strangers laugh too. They didn’t expect me to go to places I felt perfectly comfortable to go to. To be honest, they probably didn’t expect me to talk to them at all.
But more recently, I’ve noticed some changes on a much more significant scale. Improv is helping me become my true authentic self.Continue Reading
As an Australian improviser who’s just returned from the US, let me tell you, the improv scenes in the cities I went to (LA, Chicago & NYC) are terrifying. It really makes you realise how new and sheltered our community is when whole Harold teams at iO Chicago are regularly cut after only three months and hundreds of UCB improvisers are spending years auditioning repeatedly after they’ve finished classes in the hopes of finally making it onto a Harold team (if you haven’t seen this documentary about UCB auditions, check it out. It’s pretty crazy seeing a current SNL cast member having to work so hard for opportunities ). As the Improv Conspiracy grows, it will likely become more and more like these more mature communities where official opportunities are harder to obtain and performers have to make more of their own.Continue Reading
In early improv classes we’re told that we’re all “artists, geniuses and poets” and that “improv is an art form”. It’s only been quite recently that I think I’ve actually started to understand this a bit more.
More and more, whenever I’m teaching, or in a scene, I’m looking for the truth. For me, it’s the truth of the character. It’s the truth of the scene. It’s the truth of the moment. It’s the “humanity” of the character, the sticky insides, the thing that makes them real, vulnerable. And I don’t mean vulnerable as in “weak”. Showing your underbelly isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength, of trust.
We’re told that as improvisers, as artists, we get to say the things that regular people can’t say in real life. We get to be honest. We get to tell the truth. And when we do, it’s the truth that resonates with an audience. It’s the truth, that makes an audience go “ah man, I’ve been in that position, I wish I could’ve said that”. It’s that moment in Scream when Sidney punches Gale Weathers. We want her to. Then she does. Then we cheer. Would we have done that in real life? Probably not. That’s why we love it so much. Sidney does the thing we wish we could do in real life. Resonating with an audience like that, immersing them so deeply they believe you, is the best.Continue Reading
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