Believe it or not, there was a time in my childhood when I was unafraid to unleash impressions and zingers onto a crowd of strangers. I did stand-up twice when I was in elementary school for the talent show. People laughed and said nice things to me afterwards.
Then puberty struck. The idea of being in front of people didn't interest me. I was incredibly self-conscious and often over-thought things. And I didn't think I was very funny.
There were times when teachers said I should be on stage acting. My experience with acting in plays wasn't the most pleasant, and when I did take a theater class, I asked to be a background player. I couldn't sing or dance and I was afraid I'd forget my lines.
As I grew older and graduated college, I knew a few people who did improv and stand-up. From time to time they made me laugh with their material, but I didn't think my kind of humor would work with what they were doing. Seems like stand-up is about killing or not killing and no in-between. Add the idea that one exaggerates his or hers own life for laughs. To which I still say, "No thanks."
But with improv in a group setting, that's interested me for a while. Once again, I wasn't sure my humor would fit with others. Seemed like people filled with cynicism and irony were the only ones who did it. Any attempt to be goofy or have a degree of sincerity was not welcome. But my friend Jason invited me to a free jam improv session at the Dallas Comedy House in early January, and I've been back almost every week since.
While I like to make people laugh, my intentions for doing live improv are much more personal. Hoping to gain some mental benefits from it, I'm happy to say I have gained many. People encourage each other in this setting, and they encourage people to be in the moment and go with whatever comes in your mind. That sure beats the kind of second-guessing I've experienced in job hunting. The spontaneous nature helps me carry that over to my everyday life. It helps me all week and I always look forward to the next one.
In doing this on a regular basis, I'm able to make fun of demons and ghosts from my past. Since major tenets of comedy are enjoying and mocking, I've found it easier to let go of those demons and ghosts. I can be rather intense at times, but I try to keep the comedy intact. I have to remind myself that this is comedy, not primal scream therapy.
Another big plus is the group nature of improv. By trusting my scene partners and working with experienced players, improvement happens every week. I trust them and they seem to trust me.
I admit it's a lot of fun being in front of people and not knowing if anything I do will work. I'm out of my comfort zone on the stage, but not so far away from the zone where I feel uncomfortable. If my life now is about successfully rebuilding and trying new things, I'd be foolish to stop.