Improv Nerd team

What I'm Thankful For in Improv

Thanksgiving is a hard holiday. You can feel like this whole gratitude thing is being shoved down your throat. And what if you have nothing to be grateful for? Maybe you aren’t as far as you would like to be in your career or you think people you started out with are passing you by. You may have hit a slump in improv or didn’t make a team/group, or your team/group got broken up. You may feel like the worst one in the class you’re taking right now and you want to quit. How can you find something to be grateful for?

Then an idiot like myself comes along and says something stupid like “Why don’t you make a list of all things you are grateful for in improv?” When you hear this, you go off the handle and call me all sorts of names. You are angry, and you stop reading this blog.

Often in my improv classes, I will say to the class after 20 minutes of some brilliant long form, “What did you guys do well?”

The question is usually met with silence, like I am asking them a trick question. The tension is broken when someone sheepishly answers my question with a question: “I thought our editing was pretty good?”

It lands flat, followed by some more uncomfortable silence.

When I ask the next question, “What do you think you need to work on?”, they come alive. Their faces light up and their voices get strong. “We weren’t listening to each other. We had too many walk-ons. I think we had too many of the same kind of scenes.”

This is how we are wired. We gladly take in the negative and dismiss the positive. Like the two cannot exist at the same time. We are committed to not doing anything right, so we never feel grateful because as improvisers, we think we are pieces of shit.

I am no different. I wish I could say I was. I am working on this, and I want to get better today — right now. Because not being able to look at the positive affects my improv as much as my life.

My favorite story of focusing on the negative was when I was doing one of my many solo shows, and the show had sold out. Instead of being excited that I had a packed house, my attention was focused on my older brother and my sister-in-law, who were not there yet. I did not see anybody else in the theater except the two empty seats that I had saved for them in the front row.

That is called ungratefulness. They ended up show up, but it didn’t matter. I was still angry for days. What the fuck? I could not find the gratitude in a sold out show? God help me.

You don’t want to be that person. I don’t want to be that person. Let’s commit to each other just for today that we are not going to be those kind of people. I will go first. I am going to take no more than two minutes to write ten things I am grateful for. Here I go…

10 Things I Am Grateful For:

  1. I got to travel to a lot of great cities this year, where I taught and did Improv Nerd Live.
  2. I released my latest e-book, Improv Therapy, and it’s been well received.
  3. I had a great team of people working on Improv Nerd this season. A great team!
  4. Stage 773 is an awesome space for the show and they are extremely nice to us. Good People.
  5. I have improved as an improviser.
  6. I have improved as an interviewer.
  7. I get e-mails from people all over the world who listen to the Improv Nerd podcast and read this blog.
  8. My wife, Lauren, who keeps Improv Nerd going
  9. My assistant Chloe, who is amazing at social media and keeps me focused.
  10. My amazing improv students over the past year. You made teaching fun.

Ok, now it’s your turn. You may feel angry and want to scream at me, I don’t care. Just give it a try and see how you feel. I promise I will not ask you to do again until next Thanksgiving.

Hurry! Jimmy Carrane’s Next Art of Slow Comedy class starts Jan. 7! Get in on the ground floor to take all three levels. Pay only $249 now until Dec. 24 ($279 after). Or, sign up for Jimmy’s Two-Person Scene Tune Up Workshop on Jan. 3. Sign up today! 

5 replies
  1. Gregor
    Gregor says:

    #1) I’m grateful for this moment to reflect

    #2) I’m grateful to all of the UCB Improvisers who codified Game Of The Scene and inspired me to say, “I want to do that”

    #3) I’m grateful to all of the Improv Students who showed-up for my “Art Of Slow Comedy Class” last year in the middle of the Polar Vortex

    #4) I’m grateful to Jennifer Estlin & Mick Napier for giving The Annoyance Theatre a home worthy of their heart

    #5) I’m grateful to Noah Gregoropolous for allowing me to bomb at IO in his Level 5B (not once but twice)

    #6) I’m grateful to Under The Gun Theatre for bringing the NYC Style of Improv to Chicago

    #7) I’m grateful to “The League” for bringing all of my Secret Improv Crushes from my earliest days of YES AND to Episodic TV on FXX

    #8) I’m grateful to Theatre Building Chicago (AKA Stage 773), The Bailiwick (AKA Theatre Wit) as well as the entire neighborhood on Belmont between Southport & Racine for giving me my manhood

    #9) I’m grateful to Fahlstrom’s Fresh Fish Market for breathing new life into 1258 West Belmont, my Shawshank, the place where my New York City Persona died and my Gorgeous Chicago Life began taking shape

    #10) I’m grateful to Jimmy Carrane for daring me to cast-off the shackles of corniness and be grateful – Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. David Patrick
    David Patrick says:

    1) My beautiful wife Monica and two beautiful daughters.
    2) I get to teach improv to kids and try to impart some wisdom and experience that so many wonderful teachers gave me in the ’90’s in Chicago.
    3) I gave improv/acting a shot over 20 years ago because I wanted to never regret not trying.
    4) I got to perform with many of my students in a musical this month and my daughter got to see it.
    5) Mild winters in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area.
    6) I came home.
    7) The world wide web so I can keep in touch with improv friends from back in the day as well as learn from new ones.
    8) I get to be a stay-at-home dad.
    9) Healthy and supportive parents.
    10) Good relationships with my brothers and sister.

  3. Bread
    Bread says:

    1. That I’m home for Thanksgiving
    2. To have made so many friends from improv.
    3. Being on a supportive and hilarious improv team.
    4. For the shows I’ve been in.
    5. For the laughs I’ve heard from the audience.
    6. For video games.
    7. Getting to see my family tomorrow.
    8. That I can get through my classes.
    9. For a beautiful warm day.
    10. For the friends I’ll be seeing over the weekend.

  4. Jordan Weimer
    Jordan Weimer says:

    1 – I’m grateful for this blog.
    2 – I’m grateful for walking into orientation for the SCTC five years ago and learning that failure doesn’t exist, even if it’s a denial. No false idea deserves to be validated more than that idea.
    3 – I’m grateful for the moments without self critical consciousness that have occurred since then.
    4 – I’m grateful for knowing there are people who fucking get it and are ready to play.
    5 – I’m grateful for the great teachers.
    6 – I’m grateful for laughter
    7 – I’m grateful for the few moments I’ve spent on stage sharing an experience.
    8 – I’m grateful for having the resources to work how I choose.
    9 – I’m grateful for the support of family members even if they have no idea what they’re supporting.
    10 – I’m grateful for improv for breaking the rusted lock of fear and self judgement off of my creativity.


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