Friday, February 17, 2012

Improv classes and go Hawks!

One of the many great things about Chicago is that it is an epicenter of improv theater, the place where improv comedy was first cultivated.  Taking improv classes has been one of my burgeoning and favorite hobbies over the past few years - I absolutely love it!  Improv is lightning-paced, creative, and comical, and you develop an unparalleled ability to think and act on your feet.  You also get more comfortable playing harebrained characters or games on display.

My third level of improv classes at ComedySportz Chicago is wrapping up this week, and our student showcase is this Sunday.  Doing improv on the ComedySportz main stage in front of a real audience is always really exhilarating, but also incredibly nerve-wracking!  Thankfully the student performances are attended by a friendly audience.  =)

Here's a picture of my first class from a few years ago after our student show:

One of the concepts we learn in improv is that of perspective.  Essentially, no matter who you are - fisherman, second-grade student, aeronautical physicist, or whatever - you always find a way to bring things back to your own perspective.  We learn how to notice these perspectives and to use those details in the characters that we use in our acts.

As a runner, some of these improv concepts have made me realize that I am very guilty of always finding a way to relate things to running.  For example:
  • Talk to me about traveling and I'll think about the runnability of a travel destination and the opportunity to explore a culture with my running shoes.
  • Cite psychology research on motivation, the will to win, and positive/negative reinforcement and I'll automatically apply it to running mentalities.
  • Bring up product innovation (my career field), and when I'm not thinking about financial analysis solutions I'll consider the latest advancements in things like compression sleeves, headband flashlights, and shoe dogs (I am not making these up).
  • Mention certain high-profile people such as Oprah Winfrey or Sarah Palin or Katie Holmes and I'll think about their marathon finishing times.
  • Allude to The Mickey Mouse Clubouse and I'll obviously start thinking about the Disney races.  (Who wouldn't?!?)
Another great thing we learn in improv is to not judge ourselves when we feel like what we're being absurd.  We are taught to always throw ourselves completely into whatever we might be doing.  This is because our viewers can see it if we judge ourselves, undermining the performance from the very start.  Similarly, we learn to remember that improv is done as an ensemble of players - so no matter what seemingly dorky things we are doing, our troupe is doing it together.

These are more great concepts that can be applied to running - or really to anything, for that matter.  As runners, we might feel ridiculous wearing shorts in sub-freezing temperatures, taking a faceplant but continuing on undeterred, or using a telephone pole/bush/stop sign as our finish line and raising our arms in victory as we cross.  Regardless, we should throw ourselves completely into it because it is who we are!  Why deny ourselves?

Similarly, I've seen some really bizarre costumes being worn at races.  I mean really bizarre.  If it were any occasion other than Halloween or a themed race, people would think those costume-wearers were nuts.  But those bizarre costumes become fun and unifying when dozens of people are doing it together!

Case in point:
If you are looking for me, I'll be in the bright yellow Zentai suit (full-body) that is two sizes two small.
Speaking of faceplants and claustrophobia, how is anyone able to see, breathe, or use the portapotty while wearing those things?!?

SIDE NOTE: the Zentai suits appear to be the aftermath inspired by these infamous hockey fanatics out in Vancouver.


While we're on the topic of hockey and the teams that regularly have the Vancouver Canucks' number... my beloved Blackhawks broke a very extended overall losing streak last night in a game against the New York Rangers!  Woo hoo!

I had an epiphany that the losing streak would end last night based on how my run went yesterday afternoon.  When I started out, I turned on my MP3 player as per usual.  I always have it set to random shuffle mode and I have a few hundred songs on it.  Therefore, the chances of hearing any particularly defined sequence of songs are practically nonexistent.  However, yesterday I heard literally seven (7) straight Hawks-themed songs as I was running.  Statisticians and casino bookies, what are the odds!?!?!?  It was a sign, I just knew it!  (And yes, once again I always find a way to bring something back to my perspective.)

With that, I will leave you once again with the song that has inspired many a Hawks fan, the song that is my cell phone ring tone, and the song that has gotten me in trouble when I forgot to turn my phone to silent and it rang at the very moment my firm's CEO walked by my desk.


  1. I love hearing about your Improv class. Especially the idea about judging ourselves. I know someone who gets so caught up in what other people think of them (not an issue for me) that it really restricts their life. I think if they just acted how they wanted, it would not be a big deal. Maybe they draw more attention to themself being so worried about it!!!

    1. Thanks so much, Kim! I also know people that are so worried about what impressions they are giving off that they are scared to do what they want. It can be very frustrating sometimes to see. Definitely agree about it being a vicious cycle for them, too. =(