I was on the phone with mom on a Sunday evening in early April 2008, lamenting my lack of friends in my new home town, when she reminded me that I had always wanted to take an improv class.
Always began in 1987, in Chicago, when I saw Second City perform a sketch revue during a college visit to Northwestern. That show, and the improvised set that followed, made being on stage look so much fun.
A mere 21 years later, prompted by mom’s gentle reminder, I Googled ‘Portland Improv.’ Serendipitously, I learned that the ComedySportz 101 class began the next night. With no time to talk myself out of it, I signed up for my introduction to improv.
It was a blast! I didn’t realize it at the time, but the eight-week class was a life-changing experience. There was no ‘eureka’ moment, just two hours each week being present, laughing, exploring and connecting with like-minded people.
When the class ended, I began coming to weekly workshops, where I met even more people who enjoyed this form of connection. I had found my tribe. Almost instantly, I had a new circle of friends who were not only hilarious, but also agreeable, positive and extremely generous people.
That’s no coincidence. Those are all traits of good improvisers. Turns out these skills, practiced for the sake of good scenes, mold even better people. What a fortuitous turn. And what a great group of people to help keep my head up during difficult times … my break-up … the loss of a job. Improv always gave me something to look forward to, even when life was difficult.
How did it change my life? I am a happier, more positive person. I’m rich in friendships. I’m involved in the most satisfying romantic relationship of my life with a like-minded and generous improviser. I’m creatively challenged and I’m living life actively. Improv has opened so many doors, allowing me the confidence to perform in front of audience, host shows, write and perform stand-up comedy, study sketch writing, teach, perform dinner theater, and write and perform scripted stage shows. I’m probably forgetting something.
All of those personal accomplishments, I dare say, were beyond my wildest dreams six years ago. None could have been achieved without walking into that introductory 101 class hoping to meet new people and have a little fun.
Bill Evans plays ComedySportz. And Hockey. And works in social media and communication. Follow him on Twitter: @bevans10