LIFE IN THE APPLE
by Elizabeth Furey
|Ready for improv? –credit|
Bubbling just beneath the surface of New York City is a whole world that’s part comedy, part theater, and part performance art. It’s a movement fairly new to the city and it’s called improv. I’m a relative newbie to the improv scene, but allow me to introduce you to this bizarre but lovable niche of comedy, and also bear with me as I wax poetic about how choosing to take an improv class was one of the best decisions of my life.
The Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB)—a troop of comedians consisting of Matt Besser, Ian Roberts, Matt Walsh, and Amy Poehler—noticed that long-form improv was missing from the New York comedy scene and took it upon themselves to bring it here. Long-form improv, by the way, is creating comedic scenes and characters on the spot and is usually inspired by a single word suggestion from the audience. The UCB opened up a theatre and a training center, where they would impart the wisdom and rules of improv—yes, there are rules—onto enthusiastic students, of which I am one.
|Sarah Silverman performing at UCB –-credit|
Almost exactly one year ago, I made my way to the Penn Station area of Manhattan, nervous out of my mind. It was the day of my first ever improv class. I had some spare time, so I ate a salad and watched the US Open finals at a bar called Triple Crown. As time grew closer and closer I got more and more anxious. What if I don’t like this? It seems absurd now, but I was banking a lot on liking improv.
I had graduated from college about three months before and felt such intense anxiety about where my life was headed. I was working at a job I had worked at before, and living at home, so I felt like I was going nowhere. I’d get panic attacks on my way to work, especially if the subway system was giving me trouble. I was so lost and stuck.
|Anything can happen in improv class! –credit|
The idea of taking improv had always been in the back of my head. After finally researching how to sign up for classes, which is a simple process, and seeing that I had more than the required $350 in my bank account, I jumped at the chance and life has been so much better ever since. I have met some incredible people and even formed an indie improv team called “Room Service” (shameless plug) and we perform all around the city, including frequently at Triple Crown.
Is improv cult-like? Maybe. But it’s also a warm and supportive community because if you are not willing to be a team player, then you are not going to do well at improv. And no one has offered me Kool-Aid, so I think I’m safe.
|UCB Improv at its finest –credit|
Tina Fey talks about bringing the rules of improv into her everyday life in her book, Bossy Pants. Saying “Yes” and speaking in statements are two that she highlights, but my favorite rule of improv is to make a choice and own it and be proud of it. Making choices is how we progress and move forward in life.
Chicago can accurately claim the proper birth of long-form improv, but New York is doing its own thing with aplomb. I encourage you to get out to an improv show for some quality live entertainment at a low, low price (shows range from $0 to $10).
And if you can’t tell, I also think you should take an improv class. It will make you a better person.