Ode to Improv

Days can only get better when they include improv comedy.

I started doing improv comedy while studying at Sarah Lawrence College. One of the notes that really stuck with me from our classes was “play at the height of your intelligence”. Why just read a “book” when you could be reading “Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being”? And wouldn’t it be more interesting to hand your scene partner “a fair trade banana from Colombia” than just a “banana”? A whole new world was discovered – or gently thrown at me for that matter.

Upon graduation I ventured to the Upright Citizens Brigade theatre in NYC. Despite often being mildly paralyzed by fear (just the right leg, below the knee cap), we tried to find the odd features in our scenes to create a game. I received the valuable note to “know when the partner needs you to play the straight man and not another crazy fellow in the scene”. This, I think, is a very applicable note to life in general.

I recently took classes at the Magnet Theatre in Manhattan. I had been told that The Magnet improvisers did “emotional improv”. I couldn’t wait to see everyone weep on stage.* After a few classes, “emotional” for me was quickly redefined as relationship-focused improv. Instead of focusing on the classic rules of “don’t ask any questions”, “don’t do transaction scenes” and “certainly don’t teach your scene partner to dance”, we tried to find an honest relationship between the characters. In the process we could let go of the idea that “this isn’t supposed to be funny, it started with a question”.

My most recent discovery is that there is a very vibrant improv scene in Finland. This makes me tremendously happy since improv really is the best thing to happen to a person after a 60 minute sports massage.


 *Clownery crying is actually one of funniest exercises I’ve ever witnessed; sit three people in a row and ask each to weep louder than the last, all while looking at each other. I think I cried too, from laughing.



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