Facing your fear

What fearless can look like

What fearless can look like

The way I see it, you face your fears same as anything else, you've got a fear of heights, you go to the top of the building. You've got a fear of bugs... get a bug. In your case you've got a fear of commitment so you go in there and be the most committed guy there was. – Joey, Friends

As an improviser it is very easy to stagnate, to explore a comfort zone, to hide in a set of jokes or characters which we know we can do. This works very well in some cases; retreating to an old favourite can be rewarding for the audience. But for an improviser it can be very damaging. I think it’s important for improvisers to challenge themselves on stage in every show; to do something different and shake it up.

If it doesn’t work then we trust that the rest of the troupe will jump in and help us out, either by validating our decision or by drawing focus away. If it doesn’t work we trust our audience to be accepting and forgiving. But if it works, if our risk is paid off in full then the buzz and excitement and the adrenaline can create a feeling of utter joy and bewildered exhibitionism. You’ve left a comfort zone, naked and vulnerable and been greeted with cheers and applause. But not only this, like a baby taking its first step you know another will follow: a bigger jump away from the now-distant lunar landing pod. As an improviser, this challenge to yourself to do something new is what leads you to bigger and better characterisation, plot decisions, and ultimately the confidence to walk on stage and be utterly at home with whatever suggestion or offer is given to you.

This term I faced two of my Improv fears. The first was in a game designed to bring people out of their comfort zone during a rehearsal. I was told to play a suave and confident American. I hate playing confident characters on stage (I find I need to do something with my nervous energy) but afterward I felt refreshed and at ease knowing that, if it came to it, I could draw on this type of character again. The second has been an Improv fear of mine since I joined the Imps: rapping. When put in a rapping game during my first year I ashamedly asked to be taken out of it. At a rehearsal recently I tried and horribly failed to form even the most basic of raps. But after being put in a rapping game on stage this term I decided to face my fear. I bought a bug, as Joey would say. And sure, the rhymes weren’t great and yes, I broke a cardinal rule of rhyming heaven and seven (as bad as zero and hero). My rap didn’t forward the plot, didn’t make much sense and could much be improved upon but that’s the point. There is now something there to be improved upon. I’ve taken my first step away from the landing pod of ComfortZone 11. It’s a small step for man, but a giant leap for my self-confidence.