So my improversary (is that a thing?) came and went without much noise. Last March marked a year since I reentered the comedy world. And it changed everything. I could go on and on about how much joining this community changed my life but if you read my blog then you’ve heard it all before. Instead, I’m going to share my favorite quotes from the people who taught me how to be a better performer, writer and person.
I love teaching Level A because you all have no idea that your life is about to change. I really believe that if everyone in the world took an improv class, the world would be a better place. – Brian Posen
Brian was my first teacher since coming back to improv. I distinctly remember him saying this… it was one of the first things out of his mouth. The reason I remember it so vividly is because I thought he was crazy. I thought that he was some hyped up optimist. Change my life? Okay, buddy. I’m just here to be funny. I couldn’t have been more wrong. In improv you learn how to treat every single person with respect and dignity. You are taught that the world doesn’t revolve around you. You don’t have to always be right, you should agree more than you disagree and what you put out in the world is what you receive. My entire life did change. I have no idea how I would have gotten through the hardship I’ve faced in the past year without the people, lessons and hope that this community gave me.
“Amount of time doesn’t mean quality of work. – Jay Sukow
It was hard to pick just one quote from Mr. Jay Sukow. The man is full of advice and really believes in his students. There isn’t a single person who doesn’t rave about him. They’re never like, “Oh, I had Jay. He’s a cool dude.” Everyone sings his praises. However, when looking back on this year, this was probably the Jay quote that helped me the most. I had a really hard time with coming to terms with my success. I freaked out when I was cast onto a team with people who were far more experienced than me and immediately assumed that I didn’t belong. Jay taught me that experience doesn’t always correlate with the caliber of talent. Don’t doubt yourself because you think you’re not ready. Give yourself more credit than that. There’s nothing noble in belittling your success. Be grateful, confident and brave. Don’t be your own worst critic. Believe in the opportunities that you’re granted.
Lorne Michaels isn’t going to pop in on our class. No one from mainstage is going to swing by to see who the next rising star is. The truth is, they don’t care what you do in here. Here is where you can fail. – Rich Baker
A lot of people feel this immense yet illogical pressure in class. You want your classmates and teachers to respect you as a performer. It’s natural. However, the classroom is a safe place to fail. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Don’t treat it like an audition. It’s not. So what if you fail? If you give yourself permission to fail in class, you’ll inevitably discover something great. Some new talent that you never knew you had. In fact, the classroom is the perfect place to fail because everyone around you already loves and respects you. Their opinion isn’t going to change because you didn’t know how to do a German accent. They don’t care. And if they do, then they’re a dick.
You have to ‘Yes, and’ yourself too. Don’t tell yourself that you’re wrong for thinking, feeling and acting the way you do. – Katie Rich
You learn from day one that you have to “yes, and” your scene partner. It eventually becomes second nature. But one of the many things that Katie taught me is that you have to treat yourself with that same respect. Don’t judge yourself. Don’t be your own worst critic. Honestly react to how you feel in the moment… that’s what improvising is. When you initiate a feeling or action, don’t rush to judge yourself. Instead, believe in your instinct and add to it. Trust that your directors & teachers will advise you on how to improve. Don’t put that weight on yourself.
Rule of ten. Out of every ten things you write, nine will be shitty. Yeah, but what’s the end of that sentence? One will be great. That’s the most important part. – Tyler Dean Kempf
You’re going to write shit. It’s inevitable. Everyone writes a shitty piece… it happens. It doesn’t mean that you’re a bad writer or have nothing to contribute to the world. However, every now and again you’re going to write something really great. And it’ll feel amazing. Those five pages of gold are going to remind you why you write in the first place. They’ll remind you that there’s still something inside of you… you just have to mine a bit to get to it. I started writing three sketches for every sketch that I turn in… the first two are usually the ones I leave at home. Sometimes it takes writing crap to clear your mind for something great. The thing that I loved about the way Tyler phrased this, and the thing that makes it so TDK, is that when my classmate stopped at the idea of ‘nine will be shitty’, Tyler made him continue so that we realized that the most important part of the Rule of Ten is that one sketch will be great. Don’t look at the bad… don’t look at the hard work that will have to go into making something great. Instead, remind yourself of the end result.
There’s no right way to do art. If you think that there is then you’re going after something unattainable. You just have to do you and make it art. – Jay Steigmann
It was just as hard to pick a Jay Steigmann quote as it was to pick a Jay Sukow quote. I could definitely write a book of essays called “Lessons I’ve Learned from People Named Jay.” I mean, with quotes such as “Voldemort don’t do summers” and “In Minnesota they play duck, duck, grey duck because they’re assholes” it’s a little tough to choose. But I like this one. Here’s why… when you’re pursuing an art form, you look to people who are successful. You try to figure out how they did it and then try to model yourself to be more like them. Well, that’ll kill you. Just like Dove teaches us, everyone is different. When you try to be someone else, you lose all of the wonderful things that make you great. Put out what you want to consume. What I consider to be funny is vastly different then what my friend may think is funny… so there’s really no way that you’re going to please everyone. Instead, just do you. Trust that you’re good enough to succeed while staying true to yourself.