I’ve always tried to not ascribe to cliches, and I usually roll my eyes when people say them and spend the rest of the conversation retweeting Nietzsche. Well, that’s what I would do if I had a smart phone and if improv hadn’t made me a better person. Guys and gals, improv making people better at empathizing with the human condition is a cliche I can super get behind. I almost never write about what I spend a majority of my free time doing, so I thought I’d give it a go.
Improv made me realize we, as humans, are all pretty weak in the listening department. I’m not just talking hearing words, but also feeling them via body language, eye contact and subtle inflection. Listening is asking a friend if they are stretched too thin because you noticed they’ve been drinking a lot of Red Bull. That might sound creepier than it is, but truly listening and empathizing with people is a beautiful thing because it shows that you genuinely care and are actively trying to understand and support the people in the world around you. It’s also an act of just being present.
One of my go-tos in improv scenes is a hug because I feel like it shows the vulnerability of the characters we are playing. Plus, there is so much comedy in hugs. I did a scene with two hunchbacks who were tired of being rejected. Sad, but little is more funny than the tension the audience experiences when they are watching two severely hunched over players trying to hug and maintain their physicality. Can they do it? Yes, but it might be the most awkward hug you’ll ever see. That point being that Improv taught me to be so attuned with other people that I know when a completely made up character needs a hug, which really helps you figure out when your real friends might need one with utmost accuracy.
I have so much more to say on this topic, but I’ll save it for another time.
In other news, I was watching Bill Cunningham: New York last night and I found it very touching to see someone dedicate his life to his passion without thinking twice about the things he might be missing out on. His confidence in feeling like he is doing the right thing for him despite his unconventional lifestyle is the most beautiful thing i’ve seen in awhile. I also respect anyone with that strong a sense of ethics and humility. It reminded me that art is at its most powerful when it’s actually about the art and not the artist.