Observations From a Professional Watcher

audience I have searched for many ways over the years to find a creative outlet in my life. At some points, it was exercise. There was a time when it was drinking and staying out too late. I spent many a Saturday morning searching for the perfect garage sale. And there was a small 18-month period I decided that reading books was the way to go. I can’t tell you what any of these hobbies got me. I am sure somewhere in my mind I sense that running sucks and not to spend $10 on a broken record player that I can someday fix and to realize that I will never finish a book series (Why make a trilogy? Just tell the damn story in 180 pages and move on).

The one thing I have uncovered in my life that I thoroughly enjoy is watching improv. Being in an audience. Being in a room with people who all have a different sense of taste in the funny. Grabbing a drink and sitting back for an hour to escape the world and watch some make-em-ups. After an hour, thinking about each moment that made me laugh. Not the out-loud belly laughs, but the, “I didn’t know I would think that was funny laughs.” Improv watching has become my joy and happiness.  

But I have been wondering lately, what does being a fan of watching improv get you? Do you gain confidence? Self-esteem? Ability to think on your feet and always say, “Yes and”? The answer to those questions is "no." But what improv does provide an audience member like me is something so much more valuable. The ability to be in the most awkward situations in this world and find calmness, patience, and humor, which makes life that much more interesting.

A situation happened to me not too long ago. I walked into a place of business. A ton of commotion was taking place with customers coming in and out. I saw a man sitting in a chair off to the side and didn’t think anything of it. I walked to the counter and was promptly asked by an employee, “How can I help you?” Without thinking, I stated what I wanted. At that moment, the gentleman who was sitting in the chair started off on his tirade: “I can’t believe I have not been helped.” “Have you not seen me sitting here for 10 minutes?” “I guess customer service is lost in this place,” and on and on and on. He promptly stood up, grabbed his cowboy hat, and slung the door open to get in his 1987 Chevrolet truck, which was parked six feet in front of the door to the business.

Typically in the pre-improv professional watcher phase of my life, this situation would have mortified me. I would have backed into a corner and hid. Felt it was all my fault. Decided that I didn’t need to be at this business and decide to slink out the back door. But no, that is not what watching a 27-minute set has taught me. Enjoy the moment is what I kept thinking in my head. Enjoy the fact that a simple misunderstanding has caused a gentleman, who was comfortable sitting in his chair, turn on a dime at the thought that someone cut in front of him in line. Find humor in his tone, cowboy hat, and the closeness of his parking space. Enjoy the reality that this situation does not happen every day and will not happen again. All made up on the spot, as the host would say.  

Ghost Watcher is a regular, DCH audience member.

(Image: Jason Hensel)