A gorgeous saleswoman came to my door yesterday to sell a home security system to me. Seriously, whoever hired her is very wise. She could sell a ketchup popsicle to an eskimo. That’s not the point of the story, just an interesting side note. As part of her pitch, she asked me what I do for a living and without missing a beat, I said I’m a writer and a performer. Never mind that I hardly earn enough at either of these pursuits to buy more than a pack of gum every couple of months. It’s how I define myself. ” art is why I get up in the morning/but my definition ends there, you know it doesn’t seem fair/I’m living for something I can’t even define-“ani difranco.
How fortunate I am to be able to perform with eight of the funniest and smartest artists in the Roanoke valley as a member of the comedy improv troupe, the Big Lick Conspiracy. For those of you who don’t know what improv is, it’s not stand up comedy, it’s not sketch comedy. Improvisation is scenes made up on the spot for your enjoyment. We rehearse improv. What!? How do you rehearse something that is made up on the spot? We hone the skills that we will later use in the pursuit of creating magic. We are chasing down our 10,000 hours.
Improvisation has proved to be a fantastic outlet for creativity, a lesson in nurturing meaningful adult friendships and an opportunity to develop communication skills. Improvisation is about listening, being in the moment and getting out of your head. Just try creating a scene on the spot while two people try to push through their funny idea. Likewise try having a meaningful conversation while two people have their own agenda. Get out of your head and into the moment. Staying present is key to performing and communication and relationship. Improvisation forces you to be vulnerable. Because the audience shares your emotions they feel your anxiety. Comedy and anxiety are not necessarily good companions. So in improvisation the more fearless you are, no matter how ridiculous, the more the audience is with you. Then you’re able to take a journey together. That’s when things get awesome. Performers open and vulnerable with their audience and in the moment with their scene partner equals magic.
To answer the burning question I know you have….yes, I bought the home security system. On stage and with my people:vulnerability, with everything else: security. Plus it has an iPhone app. I can lock my doors remotely, I can turn on a light in the kitchen no matter where I am in the world. I have a cat camera now. Sometimes I don’t know where life stops and art begins.