The Things I Learned from Improv

The Things I Learned from Improv | imshayshay.blogspot.com

I'm writing this post on the heels of my own personal worst improv performance to date. Side note: I've performed improv on a stage a grand total of 5 times (class shows, no less), so I know I'm making a crap out of a tiny crap, but I sure felt like crap after this last one. Suffice to say, it involved me falling into a familiar brain freeze fear hole that I promised myself I wouldn't fall into again. I'm not going to rehash why I felt I did poorly but rather what I learned from it and where I find myself now. The real purpose of this post is as a follow-up to the new actor post I (initially) wrote almost a year ago. This is not a post for actors necessarily. More of a "I'm having a reflective moment, I'm in touch with my chi and seeing the big picture" kind of deal. So here it is.

I'm a big-time rule follower. When something is thrown in my path and interrupts the rules (both self imposed and those perceived to be universal) I have a little aneurism in my brain. That new actor post, while still relevant to the biz and ways to navigate it, has a lot of rules in it. What I've learned this last year is that the rules don't really mean squat. Make your own rules! Anarchy! Suck it!

That said, I have seen some patterns that go hand in hand with success. These are my "spring resolutions" because I've apparently been asleep for the past 3 months and I missed New Years:

  • luck favors the very busy, so stop wasting time
  • my creations are my mind babies and I will no longer beat my own babies
  • risk then commit, hard
  • stop living in fear, insecurity benefits no one
  • when you make a mistake, apologize if the situation warrants it, otherwise move on. excuses are for jerks.

Speaking of jerks, there are a few out here in Hollywood. And by jerks, I mean flakes and phonies. When I first moved down here, I thought the ones to avoid would be the oily d-bag variety. It turns out my sleaze meter is pretty accurate, but my fake meter is in need of some calibrating. The biggest assholes are the ones who pretend to be bigger than they are, then suck you dry.

To clarify, there is nothing wrong with paying your dues, in fact it's expected. Just make sure you have a firm grasp on reality: figure out who is deserving of your hard work, good nature, and loyalty and who is taking you for a ride. 

I don't want to be a downer because I'm not actually depressed or angry at all, really. I've been taking improv at the Upright Citizen's Brigade theatre and I've met some lovely folks and learned that improv is like some kind of drug or cult or something. I seriously love it and encourage non-actors to give it a shot because it changes the way you look at things and interact with people. It did for me at least. I suppose thats why it's so devastating for me when I feel I've done shitty improv, but in the words of Eugene Cordero (a fabulous improviser and teacher, by the way) "Who care's what people think? I'm making this stuff up!" 

On that note, I'm going to post this without rehashing it 10 times. I guess that's spring resolution number 6: Stop over-analyzing! You're gonna give yourself a stroke!

Image Credit: Stage lights 3 Dan Brady (CC BY 2.0)


  1. Love you, Shay! Wish I lived closer so that I could come support you at all your shows! You have such a great attitude about "the biz." I'm a rule follower, too. Thanks for the encouragement to make my own. :)

  2. I'm coming to LA soon - and trying not to get sucked in by Hollywood jerks! I just want to do my thing :p


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