The thing is, I don't consider myself very funny.
But when I recount to my friends the awkward, stupid and ridiculous things that happen to me with some dry, witty commentary, people laugh and tell me I'm funny.
Sometimes, though that "You're funny," reads more like "Oh, aren’t you cute." But like most of us who didn't get enough love in our childhoods, I’ll take praise where I can get it.
Convinced as I was that I was the next big dramatic actress, I got a fancy theatre degree, which is pretty much toilet paper here in LA, and have been paying for it ever since. Now, don't get me wrong, that witty lyricist Billy Shakespeare is one funny guy, but knowing that about Shakespeare didn't earn me many friends outside of the Renaissance Faire circuit.
Fast forward to a year ago, where my admiration of actresses like Stephnie Weir, Mo Collins, Amy Poehler, and Tina Fey led me to UCB and iO West, wishing I could somehow hone my ability to make people laugh.
Dave Razowsky was my Level I teacher at iO West, and I had so much fun learning to ignore the critic in my head and to just go with all of my crazy tangents, or, as they say in improv, to just say “Yes and” no matter what, supporting not only my ideas, but those of my teammates as well.
It's all about trust.
Trust that your ideas will be supported and your teammates will back you up.
If you think you're a monkey, and someone says lovingly, "Honey, I can't believe we've been married for ten years!" Guess what? You're a monkey who's been married for ten years.
Is your spouse, then, also a monkey? Who knows? Maybe.
A major tenet of Level I and, of course, all successful improv is Be present.
Know what's going on so you can be there for your teammates and so you can pick up on what Razowsky calls "shiny objects" that may be reinserted later.
"Hold on to your shit!" Razowsky would shout if we started to cave in to our teammate’s character or to solve the problem that lies between us.
The tension is what makes the relationship interesting. If f you give in too soon, the power dissipates and a great scene deflates.
Keep doing what you're doing until you can't do anything else BUT change, and THEN you change.
Level I was heavy on character and object work, rightfully establishing the importance of these skills from the jump.
As one moves forward into the ensemble work of Level II – learning the games, edits, and skeletal parts of the Harold – it becomes quite apparent how right Razowsky was.
Hold onto your shit, because shit's about to get crazy!
- D. Amelia