Improv-e

So in my quest to Get Out More, Meet New People, and generally Be a Cooler Person Like I Was In Japan, I enrolled myself in a few classes. One was Improv 101 with the Upright Citizens Brigade. I did improv for a stint in Pittsburgh a few years ago, but let’s just say that the conditions were less than ideal…five people in the audience, comedy power struggles, being a token owner of female anatomy.
It’s been great fun, and I hope I continue to learn a lot and eventually get much better. The one good thing about it is, unlike my stand-up, where I used to arrive 3 hours early to the venue to recite my act over and over and over, you literally cannot prepare for improv. You’re funny and focused or you’re not. My mom actually can’t even watch “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” because she says she gets too nervous that they won’t come up with something, when they’re the LAST people who need to be worried about.
Anyway, so as part of perfecting the craft, we’re required to see a few professional shows at the UCB theater throughout the course to see how it should be done, and a friend from class and I caught the late show tonight that included our teacher. It was very humbling and very funny, and totally worth the zero dollars it cost to get in with my student ID. Okay, that sounds backhanded. It seriously was awesome.
Anyway, so I’m walking out of the theater, and I see the teacher surrounded by audience members — some regulars, someone I assumed was a girlfriend, other miscellaneous friends who caught the show. Let me just let you all into a little internal monologue as I was walking out.
*Oh, there’s David! Should I say hi? Nah, he’s probably busy with everyone congratulating him. But what if he saw me when the lights came up? Oh, and I said on Sunday I was coming to the show. I don’t want him to think I’m some liar or a kiss-ass. Well, maybe a kiss-ass is okay, because when I was a teacher in Japan, I loved the kiss-asses. They tried the hardest! To gain my approval! Oh, he saw me.*
Dave: Hey!
Lauren: Hey, great show.
Dave: Thanks. It’s Lauren and Aaron, right?
Lauren: That’s us.
(He turns to his girlfriend.)
Dave: They’re from the Thursday class.
*Thursday? Today’s Thursday. Our class is Sunday. Should I correct him? WAIT, was it a joke? Improv people are always making jokes. Should I laugh? Too late to laugh now. Why didn’t Aaron correct him? Is he wondering why *I* didn’t correct him? God, this silence is excruciating. Think of something. COME ON.*
Dave: Yeah, the last class was great. Sunday.
*Is he correcting himself? Is this a joke too? AH, what to say? A humorous reference to class? To his show? To topical pop culture?*
Dave: (to girlfriend) So…where did you park?
Lauren: I guess I’m off. Great job again!
(Dave shakes hands with Aaron, and waves to me. I instinctively put my hand out, too, and he shakes it after a millisecond of hesitation.)
Lauren: Are girls supposed to shake hands? I don’t know what we do. Salute?
(Awkward chuckle.)
Dave: I don’t know.
(I salute him.)
And then I walked away feeling like that old Chris Farley sketch where he interviews cool people and acts dumb the whole time, and then ends up hitting himself in the head and saying, “Stupid, stupid, stupid!” I want to stress that I have no reason to feel awkward. He is really funny, but I’ve been in the presence of funny before. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I guess I was caught up in trying to be a humble audience member, improv comedian in training, student meeting teacher outside of class, don’t try too hard to be jokey, but don’t be boring either, and instead of juggling these things, I just kind of watched them splat around me.
As I was opening my car door, I did realize the upside to all this. I think I feel more comfortable on stage doing improv, than actually having a normal conversation with another human. That’s something, right?

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