I think sometimes as improvisers we forget how brave we are.
We were not born that way. We’ve become brave though years of training. Years of falling flat on our face. Years of persevering in spite of self-doubt. There is no other way.
We often do not give ourselves enough credit for what we do. After a couple of years of taking improv classes and being in shows, the novelty wears off, and we start taking for granted what we can do. We think anyone can do what we can do. That is not true. If one of people’s biggest fears in life is public speaking, we not only surpass that, but we also get up in front of a paying audience who has an expectation that we will entertain them. We have a big responsibility: to make them feel or think, or God wiling, make them laugh, and we do this without a net.
We fail much more than we succeed, and we do it because that is how we learn. That is how we get better. We are in an art form that encourages us to fail. Think about that. NO, REALLY THINK ABOUT IT. It’s pretty much the opposite of how the rest of the world’s brains are wired. We are taught that failure is good, because we know what won’t kill us only makes us more creative. We understand that failure is not part of the process, it’s the whole process. We are willing to make mistakes because mistakes are gifts in our altered universe.
We’re brave because we are asked to be vulnerable. To exposed our naked truths. We stand up in front of complete strangers in shows or in classes or in rehearsals and reveal ourselves, never knowing what will come out of our mouths — the good, the bad, and the ugly.
We have taken so many of these types of risks, we stopped counting. We constantly face rejection and jealously. The longer we stay around, the harder it gets. We have to learn how to deal with other people’s successes and yet we keep going. Our team may get broken up, or we may not make a team at all, and that rejection becomes part of our DNA, always reinforcing the fact that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger improvisers.
All of that makes us the fortunate ones. We are blessed with the gift of being able to create something out of nothing. Out of thin air. Without a script. That is amazing when you stop to think about it. I don’t think improvisers take the time to realize just how amazing it truly is.
We’re also fortunate because we know our super powers come from other people. We cannot create all alone. We are dependent on them for our creativity, because we understand that we are part of something larger than ourselves. That together we will create something better than if we were just acting alone. If that sounds too spiritual, too bad. It’s true.
Improvisers don’t get the respect we deserve for all of that talent and bravery, but that’s not what drives us. That’s not what keeps us going. It’s certainly not money. It’s our heart. It’s our passion. Not everyone can do what we have chosen to do and make the sacrifices we have made. Don’t forget it. Don’t minimize it.
Remember, in a world that feels like it’s going to shit, we are in demand. Right now, people need us to make them laugh. Laughter is the always the best medicine for uncertain times. And you are being called upon to use your gifts as a healer. If that’s too spiritual, too, I don’t care, it’s true.
Making people laugh is one of the ways we can make a difference, in our tiny corner of the world. We are better equipped than most since we have been trained on how to adapt to any circumstance. We can use the anger, the fear and the ridiculousness that are flying around in the media and on social media and use it to make people laugh. We are prepared to do so. Why? Because we are brave. Don’t ever forget it.