Are you always late to your improv shows?

In the world of improv, we all, including myself, struggle with showing up on time. Improvisers are not known for their punctuality or their professionalism. I can’t tell you how many times students have run into class late, or how many times I’ve barely made it to a theater before I was supposed to go on.

This is not a good way of showing respect for yourself or the other people you are working with.

There are a million reasons why we are late, but what we may not realize is that being late sends all sorts of passive aggressive messages that people can misinterpret. Anything from “My time is more important than your time,” to “I really don’t want to be here,” or “I am scared,” “I am angry,” or my favorite, “Fuck you.”

I am late for all those reasons and more. One key reason I am always late is that I am addicted to shame. It’s mood altering, and it’s one of my favorite ways of not owning my power. I use it to sabotage myself. Noting puts me in my head faster than showing up to a show late. I end up using up all my energy rushing to get there on time that I am spent by the time I get there. That means I barely have anything to give to my improv scenes. I don’t do my best work, and I get angry at myself, which is what it is design to do, so I can continue to get high off the shame. Welcome to my world.

The sad part I am still doing it, especially with my own show: Improv Nerd Live.

This season we found a great new director in Sam Bowers. The guy is ball of positive energy and has great people skills. He makes everything work. He takes his job seriously, more than I do. As a director he made the call time 4:15 p.m. for a 5 p.m. taping.

For the first seven weeks of the show, I didn’t hit the 4:15 p.m. call time once, and instead waltzing in around 4:40 p.m. Consciously or subconsciously, I was undermining him, myself and the whole show.

Because I was walking in late. I thought I was the star and thought they should have everything under control. Instead I was saying “fuck you” to my own show, a team that I assembled. I was the problem.

I would put this in the self-sabotage category. Here is the thing I did not even realize until I pulled Sam aside a couple weeks ago and asked him if there was anything I could do to make his job easier.

Thank God he was not afraid of me. He said, “Yeah, show up on time.” He was right.
It was not easy to take. As my friend, Dave, says, “It was like I was just hit by a two-by-four across my forehead.”

I need to be on time to help make decisions. They needed some leadership. Me showing up late was not only a “fuck you” to the cast, it was also a “fuck you” to myself. I don’t need anyone to take away my authority. I am doing a pretty good job of that myself.

I am grateful Sam was honest with me and that he helped me keep learning a lesson I felt I had already learned. This past week, I tried my best to be on time. I made it there by 4:20 p.m., which is pretty good for me. I realized that things always go better when I show on time or early, because I am less stressed out and much more relaxed. With three live shows left this season, I hope Sam doesn’t have to tell me again.

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4 replies
  1. Joshua Boden
    Joshua Boden says:

    I was one of those folks who was always late for everything. Some time in my mid 30s I finally got my shit together. Now I am perpetually 45min early for everything. I hate being late. Since moving to Los Angeles I have found that time moves differently out here. Most of the population in this town is late, and it’s not because traffic sucks. It drives me bat shit! Respecting others is respecting yourself. Im not a control freak, I’m a respect freak. Respect is the most basic kindness you can give a person.

  2. Jonathan
    Jonathan says:

    As a person who is early everywhere he goes, I can confirm that people who show up late to shows make me feel disrespected and give off the impression that they don’t care about the show we’re about to do. It doesn’t just put themselves in their head, it puts ME in MY head, because I think, “well, if this person doesn’t take this seriously, it’s probably because we suck as a team.”

    I realize that showing up late is just one of those things that some people struggle with, but if you’re one of them, it really is worth the effort to show up on time. It takes two minutes to look up a route on Google Maps or set an alarm on your phone to know when you have to leave wherever you are. If nothing else, you’ll get to spend an extra few minutes with the me-equivalent in your group.

  3. Gregor
    Gregor says:

    Judge Judy says, “Practice Punctuality.”

    Don’t know about you, but currently, I do NOT own a yacht called Triumphant Lady (which is 152 feet long, has 5 cabins and accommodates 14 guests).

    Until I do, and even after I do, you can set your clock by my arrival: 5PM means 4:15, NOT 4:20.

  4. vicki
    vicki says:

    Bravo. Not only for improving your arrival time but listening to the feedback from Sam and then responding appropriately. Good job….that will go a long way in all your careers.


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