Life is a Series of Improv Stunts
Have you ever felt you were not born with sufficient talent for a particular activity? That ‘s how I felt after trying improv comedy for the first time. My initial energy dissipated quickly. I was not sharp and quick with funny lines as my fellow performers. I felt like I was forced to perform a series of stunts in front of a live audience. OMG!
My nose was sullied and bloodied. I came up short, over and over. Each time I reached for the microphone, I felt my intestines rumbling and colliding violently against one another in fear. As the night wore on, my excitement gave way to self-pity, and self-pity gave way to lots of gaffes and goofs on stage.
Thank God, I had 3 good laughs! The only session in which I brought down the house was the “Ask the Experts” segment in which I performed with Mr. Liam McDonald. Liam was kind enough to let me ride the wave of a race-steeped joke; the audience roared in approval. That was my moon-landing!
As I walked back home after the show, I heard this voice in my head that said. “Gideon, improv comedy is not for you, stop messing with it!” Yep, I crashed and burned on stage at Singapore ‘s increasingly famous “Fight Comic”. It my first attempt and it was bruising and brutal debut!
Looking back, I say. deja-vu! The first time I tried my hand at an open mic comedy at Great Basin Brewery, in Sparks, Nevada, I also heard a similar voice. “Comedy is not for you!” Well, back then, I watered down that voice with a beer. My friend Sam O’brien and the other fellow comics also encouraged me, so I silenced the voice. At fight comic, I struggled even more and the voice was even LOUDER!
Big Failure, Big Lessons
Now, I don’t have Sam O’brien in Singapore. Sam is today one of Reno ‘s leading Improv Performers. I wish he were here to quell this nagging voice. I can’t write to my pal Sam seeking therapy in this area, but I can certainly be inspired by other failures I have had in my life. Lots of them!
After reflecting about the laughs, the goofs and gaffes of my first improv attempt, it dawn on me that performing improv games or stunts is just like living the game of life. It has its many scenes, surprises, and its fair share of smiles and laughs.
Improv therefore, is life at its simplest. It forces you to think, speak and take a chance. Sometimes, you win, most times you lose. Sometimes you get a laugh, most often you get a chuckle, a nod or if you are lucky, a boo. You never know what is coming. Here are my lessons and recollections on improv as a series of improv stunts.
Don’t be uptight
During recess, Samuel See, one of the co-host of Fight Comic, offered me some advice. “I know you are a trainer and speaker,” he said. “To do well in improve, don’t be in the speaker mode… don’t try to be too logical.” Sam was right! Sometimes in life, we need to change our mode (frequency) or be more adaptable. In other words, we need to learn to be less uptight.
Multiple points of view
In the “News Rant,” segment, I did so badly. I paid the price for not looking at the issues from multiple angles. How relevant is this? In life, we also need to look at things through the view point of other stakeholders. My fellow fight comics give endless perspectives on the same mundane news issue, enlisting good laughs. It was a good reminder that in life I must examine issues from all angles.
All night I was “booming.” My punchlines were few and far between. By my count, I had 3 good punchlines and one hilarious drawn-out laughter moment from God. It propelled me and gave me the warmest feeling of the night. It taught me that in life, even though we do not have high moments very often, we must keep our pursuit and treasure these moments, when they come.
4. Prep like a Pro
During the News Rant segment, it dawned on me that my fellow fight comics had prepared very well. I did not prep as much as them. It earned me no laughs. My performance was miserable! On the contrary my fellow comics did well and earned audience laughter. It taught me an important lesson – prior preparation earns you audience adoration.
Nothing ‘s lower
Yes, I was disqualified in the first round. How worse could it get? Not only was it humbling but it was also instructive. Should I give up or follow up? I recall the words of Mohamed Ali, “Only a man who knows what is like to fail, can down to the bottom of his soul to come up with an extra ounce of energy it takes to when when the game is tied.”
On that note I conclude that improv is a rough and tough game of life. It is like a series of live stunts. Like in life, I will keep trying to perform these stunts, someday, not only will I share a better report with you, I hope I may as well get or earn your laugh.