What are your hobbies? For awhile, whenever I was asked that question (not often, admittedly), my answers would be very internal activities like reading, writing, watching movies. I realized that my hobbies are mostly ways to retreat from the world – not engage in it. There’s nothing wrong with having internal hobbies, but lately I’ve wanted hobbies that connected me to other people and the world at large.
So, after hearing from friends for years that improv is a fun way to meet people and help with my writing, I signed up for a improv 101 class at UCB (Upright Citizens Brigade) here in Los Angeles. I’m five classes in, and I love it so far. Since you have to come up with comedic bits and scenes on the fly, you have no choice but to be completely present and living in the moment. In a way, it’s like meditation. What’s cool about it is that you constantly surprise yourself. I love that about improv.
Since I’m a comedy screenwriter primarily, the class has helped me become more free in my own writing. The exercises we did last week were especially helpful – they were the “monologues” part of the course. We basically do 1-2 minute comedic monologues on a subject that is suggested to us by the audience. I found that I was really good at the monologues and could make people laugh. I left the class feeling somewhat elated.
More than that, the class is making me curious about adding a new component to my writing career…stand-up comedy. Is the idea of me doing stand-up comedy crazy? Maybe. Maybe not. The thing is, people don’t immediately meet me and think I’m “funny.” They’d say I’m “down to earth” and “genuine.” And I know that I’m perceived as shy – especially when I meet people in groups. In fact, my UCLA classmate and friend who I’m taking the improv class with told me after class that he was really surprised how funny I was, because he always thought of me as “shy” and “quiet.” Kind of a back-handed compliment, but hearing that kind of thing always motivates me, to essentially “show them wrong.”
So that’s that. I’m going to try stand-up comedy in the next few moments. I’ve already started writing a few jokes down. I’ll start checking out some shows and then maybe try doing an open mic.
If you had asked me in my 20s if I’d ever do stand-up comedy, I’d have said no way. I’d have told you it was way too scary and miles and miles out of my comfort zone. But now, in my 30s, I feel more fearless than ever.