Growing up as a fat, awkward and insecure teenager, I had a dream of performing stand-up comedy. Over the last 33 years, I’ve gotten sidetracked from that by this thing called improvising.
But recently I had been so burnt out on teaching improv that I knew I had to get back to doing something that the little boy inside of me would be ecstatic about, something that was just purely fun.
So a month ago, my wife, Lauren, suggested I take a stand-up class. I liked the idea, not only because I wanted to re-charge by batteries, but also because I have not taken a class of any kind in several years.
I didn’t know where to study, so I did what most people do: I posted it on Facebook and waited for advice.
As soon as I posted the question, I got responses like, “Why should you take a stand-up class? You should be teaching them,” and “Jimmy, you had successful one-man shows that were funny as shit. You should already know how to do this.”
The comments were great for my ego, but not so good for my art. Artists need humility, and nothing is more humbling than taking a class. When you take a class, you are saying, “I don’t know, so teach me something new.”
It is important to keep taking classes and workshops because we are never finished learning. Learning is exciting and it pulls your brain into a different direction and makes your mind work in ways you didn’t think were possible. It’s also scary and frustrating, but I know that if I am frustrated with something, it is just a sign that I’m learning something new.
So, despite the lack of help I got on Facebook, I found a stand-up class at the Lincoln Lodge and signed up, and I have to tell you that taking this class is one of the most liberating things I’ve done in years.
Last week, we had to present three minutes of stand-up to the class, and even though I was the oldest person in the class by 20 years and had the most stage experience, I was terrified. That’s why I love it: I am out of my comfort zone on so many different levels. It’s like I have to re-learn how to speak or walk, and even though it’s awkward, I feel free.
There’s also a part of me that feels sad and regretful, like I should have done this earlier, but at least I am doing it now, and there is something to be said for that.
Often, when I go to different cities across the country to teach improv workshops, the organizer will tell me that there are a group of improvisers who won’t take any workshops, regardless of who they bring in because they think they are above it.
I used to get angry at those people who didn’t want to learn something new, but now I just feel sad for what they are missing out on and what I’ve been missing out on, too.
The goal in this art form is to always being getting better. There are a lot of different ways to do that, but if we don’t come from a place where we can learn something new, we are dead. We are killing our creative soul. Our inspiration dries up and our art suffers. I am so glad I found a class just in time.