As Aladdin says in the 1992 animated feature, “Do you trust me?”
Such a simple phrase, one used in countless situations.
And one where in improv it is incredibly important but there are levels of it we can attempt to reach.
Turning up to watch your first show is already a level of trust you have exhibited. It’s easy for many of us who have been improvising for years to go, ‘yeah it’s a lot of fun, come and give it a go. But that first step to watch a comedy show is a leap of trust that you will experience something enjoyable and not feel embarrassed or awkward. Many of us have had those conversations with our non-improviser friends. Come and see my show, I promise we won’t pick on you, it’s not like stand-up. And I am sure we will continue to have those talks, partly because we want to be seen and partly because we want to spread the joy of improv to everyone.
Going to your first class or drop-in is a giant step into the unknown. Trusting it is for you. If you are reading this, chances are that you already had joy from a class or two. But for anyone going from enjoying a show in a seated position to walking through that door to that first class and standing in a circle, there can be quite the fear. Which is why quite a few of those marvellous teachers who see those first-time improvisers are so amazingly positive and encouraging.
The journey doesn’t stop there, oh gosh no.
Then we learn to trust the teacher or coach or community leader. This is tricky. How do we know which teacher is trustworthy? Research and word of mouth help. But if you are not yet in the improvaspehere, this is a hard thing to do. The advice this blog writer can give is to try as many different teachers as you can. If you fall for the joy of improv like so many of us have, part of that is finding a teacher you trust with a style you trust. And there will hopefully be many improvisers you trust with your improv journey.
Another part of trust is trusting your fellow players. It’s not always the easiest thing to be vulnerable with your new group of student improvisers. There is the fear that we will look foolish when we try to combat that fear, sometimes we unknowingly take the role of director. In a belief that if we can control all the elements, we can shepherd the outcome of a scene game or show. In part, this stems from a lack of trust that we have yet to develop with our newfound improviser friends. When we can push past that, we tend to have a much better time as do our scene partners.
The final part of trust I’d like to think about is trusting yourself. Are we good enough to be improvising? A question I think we ask ourselves more often than we like. The short answer is of course yes, yes you are. But our brain can sometimes make us feel inadequate by reminding us of the bad things, which is probably an evolutionary thing to help make us stronger in the future. But I am fairly certain for every ‘bad’ thing you think you did in improv you did a huge amount of other amazing and fantastic things which you do so naturally you don’t even consider it as such. Bringing yourself to improv is a concept some of us struggle with, thinking we need a persona in improv to cope. But when we can relax and be more ourselves we can truly make magic.
There are many aspects to trust in improv. And there is no set time for anyone to be comfortable with any of those I chose to write about above. And there is a level of yoyo in these. We can, one day be fully out there with trust but a poor experience may make us reel in our trust a bit, to protect ourselves and venture out when we are ready. And that is fine.
Knowing that the improv community knows that trust is earned through multiple and continued interactions is one of the many beautiful things we can appreciate.
And I hope you trust me on that.
by Jon Nguyen