Comedy Gold

Over the last few weeks, I had the opportunity to take improv comedy classes at a local theater called The New Movement. Set in an old, triangular building off of 11th in East Austin, the theater is the baby of Chris Trew and Tami Nelson, two talented and funny people who say "y'all" a lot.

Improv kind of goes against everything I'm used to - I'm a planner and a thinker, so the idea of standing on a stage without a plan is not only frightening but a little like breathing underwater to me. It took a few times on stage for me to realize the simple fact that it really is improv and you really can't plan for it. You might have a hilarious script in your head about an alcoholic woman yelling at her husband who's cooking sausage but when you start saying the part of an alcoholic woman, the other person on stage starts playing the part of a safari guide on a zebra hunt.

Needless to say, you have to adapt.

But what I found most rewarding about improv was the insight it gave me to others and, strangely, how to work with them. At work I operate in an insular bubble, with my own ideas about how I want something done and how it should be done. It's led to struggles oftentimes of my own making because rather than delegate, I end up just doing what I want done myself. Improv teaches you -- forces you, really -- to take your ego and your preconceived notions about what might be funny out of the equation. You are just there to talk and make motions with your hands. You let the others around you do the work and, when you really let go of the control, that's what becomes funny.

One attitude that I've taken with me from the classes was a sincere respect for those around me that I don't think I had before. The New Movement mantra "Your teammates are the smartest people in the room" is something that can be applicable to nearly everything in life: work, relationships, family. Once you've accepted this belief (it's a little like having faith in God, hold the jihad) it's amazing how easy it becomes to see the strengths in others around you.

And for a girl who spends most of her time in a cynical funk about the world, that acceptance is pretty damn funny.

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