In level 1 improv classes, the most common question that everybody asks their new classmates is ‘why are you doing improv?’. This is a good question, mostly because the entire concept of improv is remarkably silly and should possibly be renamed ‘Make-Believe Funtime for Grown Humans Tralalalala’. It’s also a good question, because everybody has different reasons, like wanting to be an actor, or wanting to be more confident, but everybody has similar motivations i think. I started improv for a variety of reasons – I like to kill many birds with one stone – such as learning more about the mechanics of comedy for my writing, feeling more comfortable on stage, doing stuff outside a pokey office or my house, etc etc. At UCB the first thing we had to do was come up with a name for ourselves and pass it around the circle, as a way of learning everyone’s names and breaking the ice and being silly. People chose things like Strong Peter and Kooky Courtney and I chose Intercontinental Patrick because at that point it’s kinda all I felt that I was, a floating tourist blob.
Improv intensives at UCB go from 9-5, and on the lunch break on our first day I went for a stroll down the city Highline with Jovial Jason. Jason is jovial, he chose well, that kind of calm, warm person who feels comfortable approaching a stranger and asking him to go for a walk. Jason grew up in NYC, and studied engineering for a time, so as we walk, he tells me about different amazing building projects, such as an entire portion of the city that will be built on pylons above what is essentially a train depot. He also tells me about his life, and all the travel that he’s done. He tells me that he would hate to travel alone, and I say in a flash of epiphany that I’m not particularly great at it either. Jason says that he loves to have someone to chat with and share experiences with when travelling, and considering he just gave me a super interesting tour of the highline, I can see how that would work. I realise that now that I’m seeing people everyday, that I’m buttressed with silly improv routine and structure and weird people, my inner monologue has gone back to a weird chirpy bird-thing, whereas last week, when I barely saw anyone, it felt more like a soliloquy from Galadriel’s weird scary Lord of the Rings telepathy voice.
I want to be clear that I am having a great time – I just don’t believe in whitewashing over the fears and doubts I have along the way with a kind of stock-image Instagram photo where I’m smiling next to a famous landmark. Travel is a lot like improv I think, where sometimes during it you’re thinking ‘fuuuuuuck, this is stupid dumb’ but then a little while later it’s hilarious and great and you feel so goddamn alive you want to do it again.