How comedy and improvisation have helped me get my life to work better
When I was young, I suffered horribly from other children laughing at me. I was particularly sensitive and went through a lot of anguish over this. After some years, though, something different began to happen. I gradually started to experiment with recreating that effect deliberately, on my own terms. I was beginning to be in charge of the process. Without fully realising it, I was turning an experience of victimhood into a source of power – for humour is a highly regarded and powerful asset in our society.
But the work that I’m concerned with isn’t just for people who want to be funnier; something much more profound and valuable is available here. It’s really about personal transformation – becoming more confident, more creative and inventive, more spontaneous; it’s about being less nervous, less stressed, less fearful of meeting life’s experiences and taking risks; it’s really about being ourselves more, with all that this can bring. These are skills for life and work, and not just for entertainment.
Comedy improvisation is the key factor in this work – the magical catalyst that fuels this powerful alchemy of comedy and self-development. Improvisation simply means making stuff up as you go along – not knowing what’s going to happen next; it’s an extraordinary tool. Some very interesting things happen when we go into the mode of improvisational play-acting, spontaneously creating bits of life – speeches, dialogue, events, interactions or whatever. For a start, we’re obliged to reside more in the present moment, because we don’t know what’s going to happen next. Being able to be in the moment, as nearly all spiritual traditions agree, is crucial to our awareness and effectiveness, our progress and evolution. Improvisation provides extremely valuable practice in the art of being right here in the present moment.
In improvisational mode we also tend to be more true to ourselves; we fall back on our own natural responses and individual, quirky ways of expressing ourselves. And if we’re fully preoccupied with the process, living it fully, we rely less heavily on imitating other people. We become more creative, more able to come up with imaginative stuff. The reality is that we each have within us an infinite, inexhaustible and instantly accessible reservoir of ideas and possibilities.
The magical thing is that in this mode, humour can arise naturally and organically, without particularly trying – comedy and also, drama, compelling and authentic stories, revelations of extraordinariness. When we realise we can do this, it’s going to revolutionise our way of being in the world. We’ll naturally be more confident, more effective and engaging, more comfortable in presenting ourselves and in handling emotions, and more trusting of our capacity to deal with the unexpected in life – more trusting of ourselves in general. We can also become more comfortable in interacting with others, more effective at communication, and better at co-operation and teamwork. It’s profound stuff; being able to be your true self more of the time has got to be an improvement.
As for me, I’ve certainly found the path of comedy improvisation to be transformative. I’ve extended my personal comfort zone, and I can now enjoy the thrill of a thousand people watching and listening to me, without being entirely sure what’s going to happen next. Best of all, though, I spend more time being me.