Just say “yes” — a month of improv, comedy writing, & life changing at The Second City

Most people who know me would consider me a positive person. For most of my life I’ve been a “yes” person. I’d say “yes” to everything, often times to my own detriment. As I’ve grown I’ve learned to say “no” more and not overcommit myself or do things I don’t really want to do.

A series of events in my life spiraled me into a negative place. My cynicism skyrocketed. And that’s not the person I am. I am a glass half full, see the bright side of things kind of person. I needed to shake myself out of my rut.

In my mind I started wondering, how the hell do I get out of this place?!

Five years ago I wrote about why I love improv on my personal blog. None of that has changed. I still love improv and I feel very grateful to spend every day improvising in one way or another.

I’ve been improvising my entire life. 
We all have,
since nothing in life is certain.

I’ve been studying improv for over five years, from small theaters and group classes to The Second City intensive programs. And it has been with my improv training that I’ve come to realize more and more the application of improv theatre principles and their role in life outside of the auditorium.

When I revisited the power improv has played on my life it became very clear what I needed to do.

The first rule of improv is to agree.

Say “yes”. When the opportunity came up to train at The Second City in Chicago for improv and comedy writing this summer I did what any good improviser would do…

I said “yes.”

That’s what I’ve been doing. Starting in June I did a month of improv and comedy writing training at The Second City where I spent every day improvising and writing comedy. Improv and comedy writing by day and seeing shows, spending time with my classmates, and writing more comedy by night. Oh, and sleeping.

For those of you who have heard of Tina Fey and Steve Carell, they weren’t there.

But they used to be. The Second City has trained some of the world’s best improvisers and comedians. It was an honor to be among some of the best and brightest improvisers and writers I’ve ever met, and I’m sure I’ll see them again either in the limelight or for dinner, or hopefully they’ll come visit me and we can play improv games together for old time sake. They are some of the most amazing and inspiring people and we share a special bond and experience that no one can ever take from us.

These people ❤

It’s hard to capture everything I learned from my month in Chicago, but I’ll share 20lessons I learned from these amazing people, and mantras I will keep close beyond our month together:

  1. Capture the beauty of your day, perhaps in a photo, a handstand, or even just recording a one second memory (KA)
  2. Youthful energy and sisterhood (CB, TB)
  3. It’s never too late to try something new (NC)
  4. Smile and have fun (NT)
  5. Intelligence can be humorous (PP)
  6. Sometimes life hands you lemons, or a car break-in. Put one foot in front of the other and keep on. (GG)
  7. Empty your brains and say something (JB)
  8. Trust the process (K)
  9. When in doubt…eye contact (JN)
  10. All great work comes from discomfort (K)
  11. You can’t spell FUNNY without FUN, so if you’re not having fun writing your scene, it’s not funny (JS)
  12. Be vulnerable. Write about real shit.
  13. You want to write 5 blackouts? Write 50. (JS)
  14. No one will steal your idea. (JS)
  15. Physicality and emotion overcome any language barriers (GI)
  16. Life is uncertain. Embrace uncertainty and live without fear. (RF)
  17. Conflicted characters are more interesting than characters in conflict (PJ)
  18. “Steal the fuck out of everything” (PJ)
  19. “Hate yourself quietly” (LJ)
  20. Commit.

There are so many more. Thank you, all of you, for sharing your life, your experiences, your energy, your passion, and your inspiration ❤

Improv is a way of life

Life is in the moment.
Life is an improvisation.

Not everything goes as planned in life. In fact, most of the times we cannot plan for what life hands us. Sometimes we plan to meet someone and they have to cancel last minute and we’re faced with an extra hour or two in our day. If you live in California this happens to you more than the average person. In this case, I have an hour to spend elsewhere…not a wasted hour. Other times we may learn of an illness a friend or family member must face, that she/he did not plan to experience. This is life. Full of uncertainty.

Improv is one of the best ways to deal with uncertainty.

In my life I experience improvisations regularly…lots of meetings rescheduled, things happening to people that come unexpected, and news and life events that I did not anticipate. And I don’t want to try and anticipate all that could happen in life. That would be quite overwhelming and stressful. I like to roll with the punches…being prepared enough, but able to be flexible and react when something comes up that was unexpected. Don’t get me wrong, it’s hard, and I’m not always great with dealing with uncertainty. But improv has helped me more and more to roll with the punches and deal with the uncertainty of life.

How do we prepare for those times in life when we need to improvise? Improv of course!

In the past I’ve led improv workshops for entrepreneurs, job seekers, and for anyone who wants to learn the principles of improv to lead a better life. I’ll still do that. I’m open to sharing improv with anyone who wants to learn. Leave your email through the website and I’ll send you some actionable things you can do to incorporate more improv into your life. It’s changed my life and it maybe will change yours too.

m e l

so much fun ❤
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