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At about the age of eight, I developed an insidious trait – perfectionism. On the surface it sounds good. And it’s self-fulfilling – perfectionists tend to be pretty good at a lot of stuff, in my experience.
It probably had something to do with some mean school yard kids. To protect myself, I found a source of constant approval where no one could tease you – getting everything right. And I found another trick – avoid the things you get wrong. Then they can never say anything bad about you. Ever.
This carried me all throughout school, where my perfectionism was rewarded again and again, ultimately with a very high score (that, meanwhile, was well beyond the score I needed for the course I wanted to get into, but never mind). It continued into adulthood; at work, performance reviews were rarely negative. In retrospect, perhaps my managers sensed the need to limit negative feedback with me. Nonetheless, the feedback loop favouring perfectionism continued and I built my self-esteem and self-worth on ongoing and unblemished success. I loved hearing about athletes who had never lost a race, actors who only chose good movies. This was the sign of a great human. People who were always getting it right. These were the people to be.Continue Reading
This week (5 – 12 October) is Mental Health Week, and it got me thinking about improv and my mental health, and how the two are connected.
They say that one of the best things for improving your mental health is to exercise. Well, ok, but I don't really like exercise because it usually involves sports. Or lycra. What I DO like is improvising! Fortunately it seems to be good for me and as a bonus there's zero lycra involved.
Sure, when I first started improvising I probably went backwards anxiety-wise, because I was so hung up on whether I was doing a good job, being an idiot (read: myself) in front of a room full of strangers, and most of all I was terrified of letting go of control.Continue Reading
I used to watch a lot of television in the mid-2000s. I mean, a lot. I'd come home from work around 6pm, turn the TV, and keep it on until going to bed around midnight. I can't remember most of the shows I watched, but I can certainly remember the feeling of being glued to the couch like some sort of solitary slug-person. The entertainment wasn't memorable in the slightest, but I suppose it did a decent job of passing the time and prevented me from dwelling on the fact that I wanted more out of life.
Cut to one day in 2006: a friend dragged me out to my first improv comedy show. It blew my mind with its sheer awesomeness, and I promptly attended a second, and a third. Hip, hilarious and extremely quotable, these shows struck me as more entertaining than anything I'd ever seen on my 42" LCD. Before too long I was taking improv classes and attending live comedy shows four or five nights every week. As my improv addiction grew, my DVR started to fill up with all of the shows I was missing at home. Questions like "should I catch up on Law & Order tonight, or go see ASSSSCAT at UCB and then have drinks with my classmates?" got easier and easier to answer every week. Eventually I got rid of the TV and DVR entirely: the slug had somehow transformed into a social butterfly, preferring to spend his free time out in the real world, sharing real laughs with real friends.
My transformation was life-changing, and I thank the Los Angeles comedy community for having so much on offer that people like me could attend great improv shows every single night of the week and feel like a part of something truly special.
With my origin story in place, I'm thrilled to announce another step towards recreating that magic here in Melbourne. Starting immediately we're launching our second weekly night of entertainment at the Dan O'Connell Hotel: Improv Conspiracy Sundays. Paired with Harold Night on Wednesdays, you'll now have two opportunities each week to see Australia's best Chicago-style improvised comedy.Continue Reading
23 July 2013
Sign up to take a Level 1 workshop with The Improv Conspiracy. I figure it would be a good way to get more comfortable interacting with strangers - I'm good with my close friends, but quite timid once that circle expands. At worst, I'll run into someone I can talk comedy podcasts to - surely someone else listens to improv4humans?
27 July 2013
First L1 class has just finished. Andrew, the teacher is jovial, energetic, and in-your-face. I'm really nervous before, during, and after class. We do this activity called Alien Soul-Mate where one person jumps into a circle performing an action and a noise. A second person joins them taking on action and noise, then transforming them into a new action and noise. People in the class were laughing but I'm not sure what they're laughing at. We do a bunch of other activities, the names of which I forget but it's clear that there are two groups of people in class - the actors and the act-nots. I'm in the latter.
19 August 2013
Still getting nervous before class, but when we get in we "shake it out" and those nerves dissipate. Do a scene with James based off the suggestion salt. I'm eating a meal and James is a waiter. I ask the waiter for a drinks menu and he recommends the salt scotch. I struggle not to laugh at the absurdity of salt scotch. The scene ends up being about my character's struggle with a heart problem and ends up being the first scene where I come away thinking "I'm not completely horrible at this." [Postscript Note: Almost a year later, "salt scotch" still makes me laugh].
26 August 2013
Andrew urges us to all go down to the pub after class, and a few of us make it along. I find out that I'm the only person without a performance background - everyone else has either taking previous improv courses elsewhere or acting training. I have no performance ambitions - I am curious about how improv works because I enjoy comedy, but that's about it. The last time I performed was when I took drama in Year 8. Blerk. But that doesn't matter - the people in my class are warm and welcoming and I enjoy the experience.Continue Reading
Conspirator Hayley Tantau runs a blog over at TheTheatricalJournalist.com where she has been posting some great content about her continuing adventures with improv. With her permission, we'll be republishing some of her best posts in their entirety. Today's post: Not Sure If: Improv Notes or Life Advice (part 2)
This new edition of ‘Not Sure If: Improv Notes or Life Advice’ is brought to you by the help of Heal Yourself, Skeletor - a meme featuring He-Man’s Skeletor and positive life affirmations. Since I found it, it has become my favourite thing as it combines humour with annoying-yet-true life affirmations. Also, I can relate every single image and quote to improvisation. Also-also, I really just wanted an excuse to use this meme.
Life affirmation: “My mind is open to new ideas”
Improv: Before you step into training or a performance, or even before you take improv classes, you need to open your mind and prepare it for the forthcoming possibilities of which you can’t control. Planning out an entire scene in your head is toxic! If you initiate a scene idea, you need to know that you’re not solely responsible for how the scene is going to go, nor are you entitled to own the scene. It’s a collaborative process.
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