Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Victory Lapse

The Victory Lapse is a force of nature that I recently stumbled upon. Last year I was a player-director for Mock Turtle Soup, so for a year I balanced school work and going to practice with running those very same practices. Pouring my free time into 15 other people, seeing to it that they were getting better at improv, learning, finding their style, growing. Immersing myself in theory and spouting it out like the maternal advice we so often ask for as a suggestion.

For a year I grew so much in my understanding of the things I knew because I was teaching them, and so I am left with this feeling that the things I knew are things I know. Like the back of my hand, internalized, all that jazz. Like most director-performers I got really burnt out, but still churned out workshops and practices because I thought that if I just worked harder at it I would get them better and we would be the best we could be and then I would be able to rest. Went a little crazy, given, but the fact of the matter is that we did grow as a troupe and we've started some really cool things that have carried over, and thank God, somebody else stepped up to direct this year.

I say all that not to toot my own horn, but to give a sufficient backdrop for this year. This is my senior year, I've been doing improv with Mock Turtle Soup for more than 3 years, for between 4 and 8 hours every week (depending on how many practices/shows were that week), last year I probably spent an average of 10-12 hours in any given week doing, talking about, planning, or teaching improv. This year, since I'm not in charge and have a lot of other things on my plate, I do probably a max of 6 hours a week, and usually 4 or so.

I'm in the Victory Lapse, there's a voice in my head that says "Well, you are on the down hill," "You've already beaten college improv," "You've got nothing else to do but be funny," and a little bit of that pride which says "YOU'RE THE FUNNIEST THING EVER." If you're in the same boat, the only thing I can tell you is this: Tell that voice to shut up.

Seriously, shut it up. It's this kind of "I'm the king of funny" attitude that can ruin good college-improv. Not that professionals are immune, but since colleges tend to be less about classes and more of the home-grown, nobody's an expert teaching style, it causes a rift to have some thinking that they do know it all.

The tendency I can see this lead to is my own atrophy. Sure I've fine-tuned a comedic style and one approach to improv and I could probably ride that the rest of the year and get told I'm funny by strangers, and live in this shiny bubble of people giving me that affirmation that my self-conscious nature that got me into comedy depends on, but that's not going to help the group.

Groups work best when everybody's learning, and if you're one of the better or more experienced members in your troupe, you'd be letting them down if you just decided to rest on your laurels and coast on your previously developed talent. Challenge yourself, in new and exciting ways. You may not be in the teaching role anymore, but that doesn't mean you don't teach at all. You don't run the workshops, but everyone looks at you and sees what you do and the awesome thing about improv is once you see someone do something, you get to say "Ah, that's what he can do, and so that's what I can do". (Rob Lowe, not the actor).

So challenge yourself, start something awesome (like this blog), and remember, there's always going to be something funnier than you, and unfortunately, it's that freaking laughing baby on youtube.

You're in the best place to make college improv go from what is currently perceived as a training ground to your campus's place to be at showtime, to one of the most legitimate sections of this "illegitimate" performing art, and to something that's so fun that it'll make people think about taking a masters just to stay in it.

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