Bethany Ruhe, author of the blog Unstable Table who is known for her sharp wit, is blogging about her experience of taking an improv class at Arcade Comedy Theater, long on her bucket list. Whether that’s on your list or whether you just want to laugh along with her, we suggest you sit back and enjoy the ride. Here’s part one.
I finally did it. I said I was going to do it, and I did it. I finally signed up for an improv class.
The motivation for this, as for so many other things in my life, came to me as I sat sipping wine. We had just rolled over to 2016, and I was feeling like I needed to Shake Things Up, as I Wasn’t Getting Any Younger.
This wave of optimism carried me to my purse to get my credit card. I was downright smiling as I signed up for the eight-week course. I felt a surge of power when I hit “Purchase.” Look at me! Doing things I said I wanted to do! This is going to be my year, I can feel it!
I was so proud of myself for the act of signing up, I told everyone I possibly could about my new adventure.
“Perhaps you didn’t know this, but I signed up for an improv class,” me, to my son’s kindergarten teacher.
“Well, you know, I had been saying for some time now that I wanted to do it, and it just felt like the right time. I’m talking about my improv class,” me, to the cashier at Target.
“I don’t know what you’re doing for the next eight Wednesday nights, but I’m taking an improv class,” me, to my five-year-old.
The euphoric feeling that I was doing something really, really good lasted all the way until the day of class. Then panic set in. What in the hell was I doing?
I am a 40-year-old mother of two. Was I going to try to hang with the young’uns and show them just how hilarious middle age was? I was going to get laughs all right, but not because I was funny.
I decided the only way I could possibly go is if I was dressed in head-to-toe Target, in an attempt to be cool and fit in. Beanie hat? Check. Infinity scarf? Check. Denim vest? You betcha. Skinny jeans? Hell yes. And, for good measure, let’s get a coffee to hold as a prop. Maybe even put on your fingerless gloves. There you go.
I was ready. I walked into the Arcade Comedy Theater, fully in character, had my character been Older Woman Trying Too Hard. The lobby was bustling with people who all seemed to know each other and who were also all wearing beanie hats. But their beanie hats sat effortlessly on their 20-year-old heads. They looked worn and broken in, like they belonged. Mine still had the tags on and was ruining my blowout.
I was beginning to think that I made a mistake and perhaps I should just go home and drink wine when Kristy, our instructor, came out and directed us to our classroom space. The class was full of all sorts of people. Older, younger, male, female, some in beanie hats, some not. I started to relax a little.
We jumped right in. The first exercise was standing in a circle clapping at each other. If that sounds a bit ridiculous, that’s because it is. And thankfully so. Our very first lesson was how to look silly and be okay with it. Well, that’s not quite what Kristy said. She said it was to learn to watch people and react, but I think that underneath that it was also to look silly.
Once you look silly in front of someone, and vice versa, and you’ve all had a hearty laugh about it, your anxiety falls away. What’s the worst that can happen? You’ve already looked silly! This was a class of real people, probably nervous like me, clapping and laughing and you could feel the tension drain out of the room.