Thanks to a timely tweet back in February, I took a risk and joined my first ever improv class at Laugh Masters Academy. Having only 20 minutes to run to the theatre, I came in late, sweaty and out of breath. In front of me were 12 friendly strangers waiting to be introduced to one another. We quickly did a few exercises to break the ice. It was exhilarating, interesting and I was scared.
We’ve all been there. Scared of not being funny, of not being liked. Scared to say something wrong, or telling a story that falls flat. Scared of the judgement of others, the mean crowd. You don’t know these people who are watching you. What if they’re cool? Not “friendly” cool. More “better than you in high school and silently judging you” cool. (Spoiler Alert: Improv people are the friendliest of cool. They are cinnamon rolls too pure for this world. They will support you through thick and thin.) So many questions and doubts are crossing through your brain during that first class. Two hours of class later, I came out an improv convert. During that time, my teacher, Sophie Long, successfully eased my fears and I managed to have a hell of a good time.
“Why do you do Improv?” – Everybody
All of my friends asked me: “why are you doing it”? With some conviction, I have always answered: “Because it’s just so much fun, and it makes me feel like a kid again.” While that’s technically true, it’s not the real reason I do it. Some actors do it to hone their skills, some comedians to expand their range. Regular people do it to face their fear of speaking in public. It took me months to figure it out, but I’ll tell the truth now: I do it because it forces me to face my demons. When you’re performing in front of people, you can’t hide the way you are. You reveal your true authentic self. No filter. It allows you to accept and embrace your flaws. It’s always been about giving up control.
But I Want to be in Control
Whether it’s control of my life, emotions, relationships or finances, I walk that fine line where I never lose control. You’ll never see me angry, or mad or sad. When showing emotions to people, I highly prefer showing the “happy” me. This works great in 99% of social situations. The other 1% is improv, the great truth in comedy. You have to inhabit characters, create crazy scenarios, and most of all you have to be truthful. Commitment makes a scene great. Performers have to be completely honest for the scene to work.
Showing Emotion is Hard
I don’t even show my angry side to people I know well, so how could I show it to an entire audience of strangers? Showing emotions means accepting the audience will see it and love you no matter what. It also means that the scene will be interesting, touching and true. True emotions will captivate an audience while moving the story forward. At the end of the day, the audience members will not remember the joke but will remember how you made them feel.
*And the truth is, vulnerability, on stage, and for most part, in life, doesn’t suck at all.
“When we want mood experiences, we go to concerts or museums. When we want meaningful emotional experience, we go to the storyteller.”
― Robert McKee
By Flavie Laliberte, LMA student Level 3