Confessions of a Comedy-holic is a weekly blog series that features performers of the Dallas Comedy House (DCH). What does it take to be funny? What make someone a great comedian? What brought them to DCH, what kept them staying, and how has it changed their own lives. Celebrities of DCH speak about their journeys in comedy. Local comedians share their story. Don’t Think: Feel.
After spending about four months at DCH, and looking back at myself at the beginning of Level 1, I'm thinking about what I have learned/gained from improv. And not just me, but my fantastic classmates, as well. Because I wasn't in it just by myself, but with all these awesome people. So I just asked them some questions, and I'm happy to share their responses.
What was your goal/reason for taking improv? Please be specific.
Eduardo Rocha I work in advertising, so I wanted to improve my thinking on the fly and become more comfortable in front of people.
Colin Jamerson I wanted to become more comfortable speaking in front of people and thinking on my feet. I also wanted to push myself by trying something difficult.
Bianca Kirkpatrick To be honest, my only goal at first was to give improv a chance and to be a ham full time. I felt that improv was a great step into developing who you are on stage, as well as taking the time to discover what kind of performer you are. Most of the comedians/actors I admire either started/were involved with improv, so I took a risk!
Erica Harris My goal/reason in attempting improv was to see if I could pick up a new skill and really land it!
Charles Castillo My initial goal for improv was to be more comfortable as a performer. This summer, I was wanting to try stand-up a little bit and thought it might help. Two terms in, my reason is 100 percent that I just love comedy in general, and improv is the funnest thing imaginable.
Michael Bruner I wanted to take improv because it gave me a chance to explore a side of myself that I had always been afraid of. This was an opportunity for me to escape self doubt and do something that exposed insecurity and made a conscious effort to face my confidence head on.
Alok Pandya My goal was to put myself out there and have an experience of not knowing exactly what I was going. The fuel behind it all is that my passion is to go into inspirational and motivational speaking, and I figured improv classes were the best way to get out there and get inspired!
KC Ryan I've been an actress and performer on-again and off-again for the last decade or more, and improv is a skill set that I've always admired but never had the chance to indulge in. It opens up avenues to be creative in the truest sense of the word, having a small and simple idea at the beginning of your scene and expanding on it with a collaborator. And in this way, as we're experimenting in performance and making ourselves vulnerable, we build a pretty tight-knit community with the people we work with.
Name the most important thing that you have learned taking improv so far?
Eduardo Rocha How to work with others and not get too stressed out if my ideas change with other people’ input.
Colin Jamerson That listening closely to your scene partner is the key to a good scene.
Bianca Kirkpatrick I've learned that it's OK to be vulnerable in a scene, as well as the importance of building up your scene partner. Outside of improv, I've always been an A+ people watcher, but now I have even more of a motive to watch how others interact and observe situations. They can come in handy.
Erica Harris The most important thing I have learned is to respond to others’ feelings, not the surrounding “stuff” in the scene and/or conversation.
Michael Bruner The most important thing is to enjoy yourself. Anxiety around performance is one of the main debilitating factors in holding people back from letting go and giving it their all. It's that realization that the show/performance doesn't create the anxiety, but it is an internal battle. That is part of turning the tide of performance anxiety.
Lisa Blecher Improv creates an amazing environment of support. The whole backbone of the form consists of treating what your fellow improvisers say as brilliant and true and then adding on to their contributions. This applies no matter what might come up and no matter what style your co-improviser uses. This support extends to interactions beyond the stage, forming a culture of individuals who not only accept each others' unique qualities, but who embrace them.
Alok Pandya The biggest thing that improv has taught me is that it is OK to fail. Improv is about an experience of connecting with people and trusting another human being. I learned that it's OK for a scene to not go well or a scene to not have any laughs. I come from a world of business where you are always on or a world of constantly entertaining people. Improv has taught me to just have fun and not worry about the way things are going to end up, but more so enjoy the ride and the journey getting there.
Charles Castillo One thing I've learned about improv is that literally anyone can do it, which gives me confidence because if I'm ever struggling, I can just say "this is easy" and move on.
How did improv change you as a person? Did it affect your life in general? Or your life decisions? If so, why and how?
Michael Bruner It is a continual growing process. I feel a more confident person emerging, but every time I feel that anxiety and frustration building, I know I have a long way to go. It changes the way I approach my day-to-day feelings, as I am constantly having to bring them to life in improv.
Eduardo Rocha I've become a better listener.
Colin Jamerson I feel more confident speaking my thoughts confidently without over-thinking every word I say.
Samantha Seaman I would like to say that DCH has been such an eye-opening experience for me. I'm from Dallas and was completely oblivious to the club just a couple months ago, and now I feel like a family member. The level of support here is unreal, and I'm lucky to be a part of it.
Alok Pandya Improv opened me up to a world of active listening and really understanding people in my day-to-day life. I have been so used to doing things my way in business that I wasn't truly listening and feeling those around me that I work with. It has brought on connections with people that are so familiar that it's crazy that I've only known them for a few months. I've learned to add to ideas in my personal and professional life as opposed to just listening and acknowledging someone else's ideas. I've also noticed that I am taking more initiative in my life just like taking initiative on the improv stage. I overthink things less and just jump into work and social situations and then figure out the rest, which has been great. It's lead to some really great solutions and experiences as well as some great and funny stories.
Bianca Kirkpatrick Improv will continue to enlighten my surroundings, but it's already impacted my view on life after college (only been three years). Corporate America can make you feel like a real weasel and will encourage you to only focus on your job. Becoming involved in improv has helped me balance that stress and awaken that drive of creativity inside of me again.
Erica Harris It definitely has affected my life in a positive way in the sense that I have learned to self-edit “scenes” in my life. Focusing on my feelings and responding to those feelings has been a great lesson in how to improve my relationships with others.
Iryna Spitzer is a writer and improviser. She is currently in Level 2 at DCH. Besides comedy, she likes drama (to balance it out), also flowers, children, animals, and world peace!
(Image: Michael Bruner)