BRENT STOLLER

Writer. Advice giver. Peanut butter and chocolate enthusiast.

The Importance of Commitment

For the last 10 months, I’ve been taking improv comedy classes.

Improv was always one of those things that scared the hell out of me — yet I knew I had to find the nerve to do.

And last summer, I did.

It’s been a long, stressful journey full of brain freezes and bouts of inadequacy through four levels of classes and four recitals.

The other night I began Level 5, the final frontier. With the completion of this two-month course, I will “graduate” from my theater’s curriculum.

To this point, our focus has been on learning the rules of improv, things like, “Yes, and…” and, “If this, then what?” as well as the different forms of performances (the Armando, the Harold, etc.).

And while we have far from mastered those mechanics, our focus now shifts more to our individual strengths and weaknesses.

What do we each need to do to become a stronger performer?

For me, it comes down to one word:

Commitment.

I’m so concerned with not being funny or looking like a fool that I’m too much in my head.

This prevents me not only from being in the moment, but from just going for it, from creating commanding characters that come to life through various voices, pronounced physical features and bold decision-making.

Instead, I typically end up playing a slightly different version of myself, over and over.

In other words, I play it safe.

But that’s one of the reasons I signed up for improv — because it was anything but safe. It requires you to step out on stage, vulnerable and naked, and create a world with your scene partner(s) out of thin air.

And the best improvisers are the ones who can turn off that inner critic, set aside their egos and just…play.

Doing such things are completely against my nature, and there will be a part of me that’s relieved when I no longer have to attempt them on a weekly basis.

But one class into Level 5, it’s clear that I’ll have to go big before I can finally go home.

*****

This article originally appeared on 100 Naked Words.

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