Photo by Emily Winn
I started performing comedy after a detour to the University of Chicago for a History of Science degree, the University of Florida for an MS in Computer Science, and over twenty years as a software developer. I enjoy the intellectual challenge of software development, and also the social challenge of gaining respect in a field that historically has had very few women. I had to learn to make myself heard in meetings, and on projects, garnering the respect of my co-workers. I did this by listening, contributing with confidence when I had ideas or information to share, and through comedy. These skills translate very well to improvisational comedy.
Later, I heard how lucrative comedy could be so…(just kidding)
Actually, I saw a meetup group for improv comedy and I thought that sounded really hard for me, so I immediately signed up. Although I am comfortable working on teams and in groups, my body has a primitive, physical response to standing up and talking in front of people. When I taught as a graduate student, I literally turned around to write my name on the board and I couldn’t remember it Also, I had been an adult so long that certain brain tracks seemed to have calcified, so when the director asked me to do something different, like make my voice sound different in any way at all, lower, higher, slower, more raspy, I literally opened my mouth and nothing came out. I didn’t realize how stuck we can get, as adults, and how much of our loose childhood brain that we can lose.
I found that improv comedy dissolves these ‘calcifications,’ helping us to regain the intellectual and emotional flexibility we had as children. It helps us to open up our minds in other areas of life, see possibilities where before we might have just seen walls. It has also helped me feel entirely comfortable on stage. I don’t even think twice when we have shows. Improv is no longer scary. It is joyful and challenging in a different way, as I learn more nuances of the art. I am excited to play with teammates. Improv helps us to work and play better with others, build stronger relationships, build trust, and build teams. I love this joyful connection with myself and others..
After I got comfortable with improv, I took a stand-up comedy class. I found this to be liberating in a different way. I find that we, especially women, often are encouraged to not speak our minds. Doing stand-up comedy, I found a way to state my real opinion, about something that I care about, out loud. I found my voice. I learned that I could say my personal ideas to a roomful of people, and they would listen, and they would laugh with me, about life. We are all in this life together and it is so beautiful and tragic and funny. It is wonderful to remember that together.
I currently enjoy teaching improv comedy to teenagers at a local school. It is fun to watch them learn, become more confident, and laugh together. I also enjoy writing. I am working on a memoir, a fantasy novel, and scattered poems.