Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Improv, At Provo

Maestro Show, March 2011

"Whose Line Is it Anyway?" is going down as one of the top three most influential TV shows of my childhood. At ten years old,  I remember tuning in religiously to watch the transformation of these seemingly ordinary men into gods of comedy using only their imaginations and guts.

It struck me as such a strange and beautiful thing to do: to *willingly* go on stage without any preconceived idea of what you would be doing but only the vague goal of being funny. The thought would make mere mortals quiver.

No question I wanted to be just like them, but during my more insecure years, I wouldn't have admitted it.  It seemed to me like the only thing scarier than going on stage and being expected to make people laugh would be declaring my desire to do exactly that.  "Hi. My name's Ruthy and I think I am funny enough to deserve your attention." Just about stained my pants thinking of it.

Prop Show, April 2011. Photo by Jason Hansen

For that reason, I have to give thanks to my big brother David for pioneering the way for me and making it seem possible. By joining BYU's Improv comedy club, Laugh Out Loud,  while he was going to BYU, he awakened a glimmer of hope in me. "Hey--we're cut from the same cloth," I began to think "If he can do improv comedy well, maybe I can do it passably."

So, last November I finally mustered the moxy to start participating in the club, and I was surprised with two things: first off, that it was even more fun than it looked on TV. It made me feel all of the exhilaration and long-awaited fulfillment of an ADD six year old on Christmas morning.

Prop show, April 2011. Photo by Jason Hansen

I can only speak for myself, but to me, improv comedy was the thing I had unknowingly been missing for so long. I'm not being melodramatic when I say that it was very much like falling in love - right down to the sweaty palms, racing heart, and the sense of being impassioned, emboldened, and alive.

The other thing that surprised me about this whole improv comedy business was how quickly I began to receive positive feedback from the club leadership and  actually be cast in shows. Like. To perform. For real people. Who paid to be there.

The members of the club have given me much-needed criticism as well. With their help, I hope that I'm continuing to get better. For the past few moths, I've loved practicing with my new friends every Thursday evening. And that's arguably the best part of the whole deal: just getting to know and play with some truly  hilarious people. I feel like a more interesting person just for spending time in the same room as these talents.

Anyway, last night was a particularly good night for me. I was cast in our annual Audience Appreciation Show, and lucky enough to have some good friends attend the show to support me. To be honest, it wasn't the best performance of my life. Overall the show was good--not great, and I know I'm largely to blame.

The thing that made the evening wonderful, was that after the show, the club leadership somehow saw fit to invite me to join Laugh Out Loud as an official, permanent cast member (or "Player" as they call it).

If there's one thing I can't get enough of it's validation. So thanks, Laugh Out Loud, for making me feel great and teaching me so much. I hope to prove worthy of it.

And now for a few photos by the hilarious Jason Hansen: 

(By the way, the other two most influential shows of my childhood were The Simpsons and Ren and Stimpy. Honorable mentions: Scooby Doo and Animaniacs.)

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