Have you ever gotten off stage after a so-called bad show and immediately started blaming your teammates in your head for what went wrong?
Even if you don’t tell them you’re blaming them, when you start to focus on other people as the problem, you run the risk of alienating them. Not a good move in an art form that is dependent on the trust and support of other people.
Blaming the audience doesn’t really help either.
We have all done this when the show doesn’t go the way we want it to go.
Unfortunately, I sometimes still do it, and when I do, here are three things that I’ve realized about it:
- I am usually filled with shame and just don’t realize it.
- I have cut myself off from an opportunity of learning and getting better.
- When I am blaming others, I am really blaming myself
With all my years of group therapy, reading self-help books and improvising, I’m well aware that when I’m blaming other people for my problems, that makes me the victim. But that doesn’t stop me.
Yes, I fully understand that you cannot get better and blame others at the same time, because you have no room to look at what your part might be.
For example, instead of blaming your teammates for having a bad show, maybe it went wrong because of something you did on stage. But it could also be more subtle — like maybe you were running around doing a hundred things before the show so you weren’t very present on stage, or maybe you stayed out at the bar until 3 a.m. the night before so you were tired, or any other version of not taking care of yourself.
And often, when a show didn’t go as well as I would have liked, it’s because I had expectations for how others should behave. The audience didn’t respond the way I would have liked them to or my teammate didn’t play the way I wanted him to play.
No matter what, if don’t use this time to look at myself, I am going to be stuck. My improv will hit a self-made plateau.
At this point, you can probably relate to the whole blaming nonsense, but you may be asking yourself: How can I stop it?
I am certainly not dumb enough to say, “Just stop blaming others.”
For me, when I am in my blame period, I try to be really nice to myself, go to the gym, work out, sit in the sauna, mediate, or call a friend. It is no different than when I have the flu. I let it run its course and when I am feeling better, I can gently look at my part.
Sometimes it will take me a couple of hours, sometimes days to let go of the blaming, and when I am ready, I can look at what I learned from that show. I will discuss my part with my therapist, my other improv friends or my wife, Lauren.
I am a fragile, over-sensitive artist with a slightly big ego. I can take improv and my life way too seriously at times. Yes, I need to get over myself – it’s improv for God’s sake. I am fully aware of this, and I am making progress and in my life and an improv. And that’s really all that matters.