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Should I quit improv?

If you’re an improviser, you have probably thought about quitting hundreds of times. And that questioning probably won’t stop any time soon.

As fun as improv is, it can be pretty shitty at times. You are dealing with egos, jealousy and lots of disappointment. You are reliving high school. And some of us would rather quit and avoid the pain.

I have always been an instant gratification kind of guy — the least amount of work for the biggest result. I thought if you are talented, that’s how it’s supposed to go. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way in the arts or in life. Get used to it.

Over the last three years of doing Improv Nerd, I’ve wanted to quit many times. It is safe to say I have had that thought on a regular basis.

On so many different levels, Improv Nerd has been the best thing for me. It has made me a great interviewer and an even better improviser. I have met people that I would never have crossed paths with before from around the world. I have gotten to travel and had to reluctantly become a leader. But despite my successes, I get discouraged frequently – every time we have a small audience or a so-called “bad show” or experience some technical problems. It does not take much for me to want to call it quits.

Frankly, I’ve had thoughts about quitting almost as long as I’ve been improvising. The only difference today is that the feeling of wanting to quit doesn’t last as long as it used to. I bounce back quicker.  It can be a matter of hours, when it used to be days or weeks. I am also aware that sometimes the closer you are to reaching your vision, the louder the negative voices in your head become. The ones that scream things like “What are you doing with your life?” and “Why don’t you quit?”

I know if I had listened to the negative voices in my head, I would have stopped doing Improv Nerd and writing this blog months ago. If you have similar voices in your head that are telling you to quit the show or class you are in, or quit improv entirely, talk to someone before you do it, because these are the kind of thoughts that aren’t good if you keep them to yourself.

I have actor friends in L.A. who call me up ready to quit acting because they are tired of being broke and not being able to pay the rent. When I talk to them again a week later, they’ve booked six weeks on a movie or gotten some enormous residual check in the mail they weren’t expecting. After wanting to quit for 24 hours, they bounce back, forgetting about the conversation we had a week ago, until I remind them. I am always grateful that I get to talk to them on their darkest days. It gives me hope.

There is this incredible hokey saying, “Don’t quit before the miracle,” which really applies to everything, especially improv. In improv you never know the day, time, or year when you’re going to get good at it.

It happens slowly. And you’ll never know where it will lead you.

Like good improv, your dream or vision may morph into something completely different. Something even better than you imagined. That is what it’s supposed to do. And if you quit too soon, you will never give yourself the opportunity to know where it could have taken you. You will end up miserable for the rest of your life and you will criticize others who are doing what you like doing. You will be so bitter that nobody will want to be around you, and the worst part is you will not even know why you are this way.

So if you’ve been wanting to quit lately, here’s my advice for you: Keep persevering, keep showing up, be ready to play, and expect a miracle.