The DCH Diaries: Improv Changes Lives

Comfort Zone pendantLife begins at the end of your comfort zone. That’s the quote on my necklace, a recent acquisition. Until a few months ago, I was like most people: working, getting the kids through college, fending off throngs of ants hell-bent on invading the dogs’ food bowl. I was living the Middle American Dream.

It had been a crappy week. You know—the kind that starts with a loved one in the hospital and ends on a cold drizzly night in a hamburger joint because no one wanted to wait an hour-and-a-half for a table at a “nice” restaurant. It was my husband’s birthday weekend, and we needed to lighten our hearts. I consulted the interwebs and discovered the Dallas Comedy House (DCH). I bought tickets for a 9 p.m. show: improv troupes called Franzia and Roadside Couch (whatever THAT meant.)

Do I need to tell you that we laughed our asses off? Our little group had a great time. For me, however, there was something more. I was in awe of what I saw on the stage. How could these talented performers, with no script and no game plan, craft hilarious material off the top of their heads from a one-word suggestion. Yet, there they were.

That feeling gnawed at me for days. Something else did, too—the DCH improv classes. I was skeptical that anyone could actually teach comic reflexes. Five courses, over 100 hours of class time, plus advanced studies and sketch writing? Remarkable. Could these people show me—a middle-aged middle-class schlump—how to make people laugh?

I could not shake the feeling. I signed up for Level 1. Even if I cowered in the wings, stood mute on the stage or heard the audience groan every time I opened my mouth, I had to try.

You improvisers know what happened next.

1. I did step out of the wings.

2. I did not stand mute.

3. People laughed.

And my life changed.

comfort zone graphicHow is it that we have become addicted to this crack we call improv? Was it love at first sight or something more insidious? I don’t have all the answers, but I’m beginning to understand. That’s the focus of my part of the DCH blog. I intend to cover the class experience sprinkled with profiles of veteran improvisers and how DCH has impacted their lives. What’s your story? Let me know at or flag me down at the jam.

Next week: Level 1, Class 1

Carron Armstrong is currently in Level 3 and has been obsessed with improv and DCH ever since she discovered that someone can actually take classes to learn this stuff. Some people would recognize her as the lady who brings her step stool along to the jams because she can't just hop on up on that stage like the youngsters do. During the day, she's a lawyer.