I talked in a previous post about how improvisation can be pigeon-holed into a form of entertainment, and how people hold performers of improvisation in a certain reverence because it seems a skill that only a select few could have. As a teacher of improvisation, I have seen the most unlikely performers blossom under the spell of improv, and I have also seen learners struggle with it. That struggle is something I understand and it was a great learning tool for me some years back.
I had been attending improv workshops for about 2 months. I was painfully aware of how awkward I felt, and how blank my usually full mind went when called upon to be spontaneous. That was the whole point of course, but it felt so unnatural to me. One particular Monday evening we played the audience game. This game involved all players bar one sit as an audience and listen to the other’s attempt to "be funny". If they decided it wasn't funny, they got up and left the room. The game ended once the last audience member left the room.
I had struggled with my own perceptions of creativity since I started attending this workshops, and now, everyone would see my lack of humour and ideas. I was as far away from present as you can be when the exercise was explained to us. I wanted it over with, so I opted to be one of the first to try it. As I stood up in front of my su-peer-iors, one internal voice clearly warned me of my impending doom. Then another one simple spoke two words "f'!@k it".
I found the second voice to be the more calm-headed of the two so I decided to follow its advice. I began shooing my audience out, insulting them and basically telling them how much I no longer cared what they thought. I can honestly say in that moment I did that for myself and nobody else. Funnily enough, they laughed.
As I type this recollection, I clearly remember that moment, as that moment was a gift. We all gravitate to those whose authenticity is front and centre for all to see. Nobody wants to spend their precious time wading through the many veneers people may put up to shield their vulnerability. The “f!@k it” space allows people to make bold choices and do what it is they truly want to do. It sets us free.
Improv is a gift for many applications. It can bring much-needed play into any space, work or otherwise. It can also free us as individuals. That "f!@k it" mindset follows all performers onto the stage where audiences laugh at. This same mindset gives permission for all of us to express something authentic, individual and special. The reception may be laughter, but it is always an appreciative reception.
I write about teaching improv to children as they are the easy converts. They still hold onto their "f!@k it" bubble onto some way into their school life. Us adults are another story. A "f!@k it" bubble is a vital part of our mental health and yet we go out of our way to avoid it. Sad as it is, it can be the very thing we avoid that proves the one thing we really need.