The first time I walked into a drop-in improv class, my life was forever changed. I learned the fundamentals of improv, and more importantly how to live in the moment. After reflecting on my class experience, I realized that I’ve been improvising my entire life. I’d never realized it, but the more I thought about it, I realized that we all are improvising our way through life in one way or another, on a regular basis.
When I tell people about my passion for improv, they almost always say that it sounds really difficult and stressful, and that they would be much too scared to try it. If that isn’t their response, it’s to say that improv is all about being funny. If only comedy was that easy.
I began speaking the language of humor when I was very young. It was my defense mechanism for the horrors of mental illness my family was forced to endure. When I improvise, it is very real to me. The truth can be very funny.
I remember exiting my dad’s hospital room after watching him die, his spirit gone. Tubes coming out, cold and lifeless. A Long Island County police officer approached me on the way to the pay phone. I had finally stopped shaking and was composing myself, getting ready to call my sister at 3 a.m. to tell her our father was dead. She was on a business trip in the Midwest.
The officer kept repeating that my father’s body had to stay in the hospital until they could arrange for an autopsy. He needed to make sure I understood.
I knew that it was standard operating procedure, and I wanted to know why he passed anyway. He was 65 years old and healthy. But I was sick of hearing it, and I instinctively responded with, “It’s ok! You can have him! I don’t want him any more. What do you think? I’m going to put him in the passenger seat and go home?”
The officer didn’t approach me again.
We all have control over our behavior, actions, words. But so many choices to make can be daunting. Obvious choices are always the best ones, as long as they’re positive. My choice was to make light of it, but with bit of a “Yes and…” attitude, to make it perfectly clear that I understood. Some people associate improvisation with that phrase, “Yes and…”, and that scene was a glimpse of this concept before I even knew it existed.