Improv is considered a young person’s game. Improv classes at iO and Second City are often overrun with 20-somethings just starting out in life trying to make it big in comedy someday. But what if you are over 35 and you’ve just gotten into improv? You know you are never going to audition for SNL or write for Key and Peele – it’s just not going to happen. So, often, you are filled with self-doubt and wonder why you’re wasting your time doing this at all.
If this is you, I want you to you know that you are no different than the 20-something person who is fresh out of college with stars in their eyes. Don’t kid yourself — they have the same self-doubts as you do, they difference is they can justify theirs. Youth will do that.
You, on the other hand, have a harder time doing so. You are an adult, and you tell yourself that adults are not supposed to be silly. They’re not supposed to play. Your childhood was over a long time ago. This makes it hard for you to sneak out of work early or leave the kids with a babysitter for a couple of hours so you can play. You feel guilty because you are “wasting time” with no chance of a big pay-off.
And the more fun you have, the more you start asking yourself: “Why am I doing this? Why am I spending all this time and money? Where is this going to lead me? Am I too old to get good at this?”
If these thoughts have been plaguing you, know this: These are just negative voices in your head that are trying to prevent you from having any joy. The truth is, you are having more fun than you would ever admit. YOU ARE HAVING FUN. That’s what matters. And that is worth something.
Sure, you may never become famous or be on a TV show, but who cares? You are doing what most adults only wished they could do, and that is not act like an adult for a couple of hours a week.
No, you are not going to be on SNL or write for late night talk show. Yes, that is the reality, but who gives a shit? Let those kids in the skinny jeans and untucked flannel shirts worry about being famous. That is not how you are going to measure your success. If you do, you will lose.
If you are comparing yourself to the younger people in your improv class, it will only be a matter of time before you’re going to want to quit. You’re going to start coming up with excuses like “I need to focus on my job,” or “My partner does it like it,” or my all-time favorite, “I can’t afford it.” (This is the lamest because it’s never about the money.)
No, these excuses won’t work with me. You can only quit if you are truly not having any fun doing it anymore. So don’t you dare try to twist my words or find a loop hole on this. I won’t let you get away with it.
If you are an older improviser, here’s what I want you to do. I want you to redefine what success in improv means to you, right now, while I am talking to you in this blog. Is it completing a program, starting your own group, getting a commercial or a part in a play? Decide what it is for YOU.