|Did you ever notice how the cooler you play it the more stifled you get? The amount of energy that you put into acting like you have it all together, so you don’t show that you’re unsure or unable fills your brain with such a mega capacity of fear that it’s surprising that your brain doesn’t explode from overheating. We all do it. Sure, it ranges in severity, but if you’re breathing, you do it. We react. We blame, shame, or project on the first person we see, thinking that’s the secret ticket for hiding our mess ups or god forbid, our icky humanness. Our ego either flares up and out of protection throws our insecurities outward or boomerangs the nastiness back onto ourselves. Either way, big fat “L” on foreheads all around.
That’s why when I flew into my house after taking my weekly Saturday improv workshop and announced to my husband, Vic, “Improv will save the world,” I knew I was onto something. Now, being together for quite some time, Vic is used to me making big, passionate, declarative statements. But this time, I said it with such a grounded blend of joy and conviction that he stopped doing the dishes and listened. (Yes, doing the dishes and listening. We were having a very good day.)
“Okay, hear me out,” I said with controlled excitement. “Every single thing that makes any improv scene work is exactly what we need to be doing when we communicate with people. Being present; Listening hard; Giving and taking; Collaborating instead of controlling; Letting go of the outcome. Being okay with being wrong and having faith that the other person will be on your team to help you out and not call you out. They don’t even have to agree with you. They just have to hear you out. I know it’s not easy. I know. I know. But you know what else it isn’t? Being cool. You can’t be cool. No one can be cool doing improv, so ego is parked on the bench. If you play it cool, you look like a fool, and you ruin the game for everyone.”
He dried his hands, looked at me, and without missing a beat said, “So, pretty much the goal is to not act like Danny Zuko playing basketball.”
I threw my hands up in the air (if you know me, you know that I literally threw my hands up in the air) and shouted, “Yes! That is why I love you. Yes! Danny Zuko playing basketball is exactly how not to do improv.”
“Many people go to great lengths not to feel unsure. As a result, part of their identity is built around not feeling unsure. Then the human will go to great lengths to project confidence, for example – as a preventive against dreaded unsureness. Soon, we find ourselves navigating the world ( or a small part of it) through the lens of avoiding being unsure. Soon our actions, communications, and creativity start to become limited. Hanging out with UNSURE is a delicious f***ing place – your creativity needs some of this – because within unsure is limitless possibility.”
– Josh Pais, actor and founder of Committed Impulse