Truth in Comedy
A few months ago, I completed my second 401 improv class at The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in New York and by our final show I was totally broken as a comedian, an artist, and (sadly) a person. I was emotionally drained and felt like I could never advance further than my “Pattern Game” Harold class. There was too much pressure to make my teacher laugh so I could “pass” the class, that I lost sight of simply being me. My ego had never been more in control over me than it was in my second 401 class.
I considered diving into the world of sketch writing, however I love performing more than anything. It so happened that a Character 101 class became available at UCBT. I enrolled immediately. Best decision I have made since moving from my Southern California beach home to a tiny studio in cold Manhattan, New York.
During my character class, I was challenged in ways so foreign to me. I worked incredibly hard to create interesting characters. Many nights before class, I would literally get no more than three hours of sleep. I even took a day off from work just so I could have more time to write and rehearse my creations. Yet, my performed material was still so infantile and hardly presentable. However, I had the right ingredients.
My character class forced me to be the versions of myself that no one except me was familiar with. As terrified as I was, I managed to sing and play my guitar in front of a room full of people…. Multiple times and the best part about it was that I didn’t die! Which is how I always felt. It is hard enough being myself on stage. So being someone else, being my interpretation of things within and outside of me, was indescribably nerve wrecking.
I knew that this class had provided me with the fuel I needed to get past my artist’s block when I found myself in a massive warehouse full of boxes and Styrofoam heads and was asking a short friendly hispanic man if he had any Whoopi Goldberg wigs.
After my character class ended, I built up the courage to perform a set as Whoopi Goldberg on the Triple Crown basement stage. I did okay, but now all I want to do is introduce my characters and impressions to the world.
Never would I have gained this new appetite I have for comedy if I had just taken another improv class.
My characters and impressions a far from being great, however they can be great. Kristen Wiig great! As exhausting as it was, I enjoyed every moment of my character class. I can not say I have felt even mildly accomplished at the end of my improv classes.
Long story short, what I learned about myself in Character 101 class is that the only thing that has ever held me back from achieving anything, is my dumb fear of not being perfect and my never ending concern of what others think of me and my actions.
This class forced me to let go of all my fears, all my frustrations, all my nerves, all my judgements, and just do it. Just stand in front of a room of awesome and talented writers and actors and expose my thoughts to them. No one persecuted me when I was done. The firing squad in my mind vanished.
As artists we have to realize that our work will never be perfect, we could have always done better, and certain people just wont like it. We have to be okay with this.
I have spent so much time doing nothing because I have been worried that each move might be wrong. It reminds me of the game Operation where you have to remove the organs and bones from the patient without touching the wrong thing.
I hated that game.
What I have learned is that we just have to make a move. That annoying buzzing sound may go off and we might lose a turn. But the more often we try, we chip away at that stupid feeling of failure and gain some odd confidence that was buried underneath.
The people that succeed are the ones who never stopped trying.
I guess this is true for life in general. Not just in the world of art.
Of all the silly commercials and weird advertising, I think the only one that got it right is Nike….. Just do it.
We’ll get somewhere in the end.