Last year I took improv comedy courses at the Bovine Metropolis Theater. The course structure at The Bovine consists of 5 levels of classes which culminate in a graduation show. The grad show involves 4 separate performances spread out over a month’s time. Each weekend an audience of 70 (comprised of friends, family members, and random people looking for something fun to do) awaits an entirely improvised show.
It’s terrifying and liberating at the same time. The terror takes on many voices. What if I say something really stupid. What if we completely bomb. What if no one shows up. What if it’s so bad that they make posters with my face next to the words ‘this person should be banished from all theaters, forever.’ I can get pretty catastrophic with my fears.
While the fear can initially be overwhelming, it’s a bit easier when you realize that improv is basically just playtime for adults. When you can really let go, you allow your inner child delight in the world of possibility. For me, diving into improv changed the way I work and interact with others on a daily basis, and I recommend that anyone with an inkling of interest pursue their curiosity about it further.
One thing I absolutely love about The Bovine is their philosophy on improv. Rather than trying to get laugh, the performers aim is to be genuine, to let the scene grow organically, and to support their teammates. The art form involves uncovering real characters, and building believable relationships, however outlandish the scene’s constructs might be. The laughter is simply an enjoyable byproduct that occurs when characters react in ways that are true to themselves and their story.
Eric Farone, the owner and instructor, shared a metaphor that stuck with me. For me, it captures what was so personally therapeutic about improv. He said, “imagine that you and your scene partner are falling. Your impulse is going to be to freak out. Instead, see if you can stay present to the exhilaration of falling, and offer something from this place. If your partner can receive this gift without freaking out, they can stay present enough to offer something back. Now, you are falling in tandem. As you learn to trust each other more, you realize you are no longer falling, but that you are skydiving. When the scene ends, you pull the ripcord, and get out safely. If you pull it too early, fear probably took over. If you pull it too late…well, you learn from that.”