With two feature film projects in development, you’d wonder why I’d take time to do improvisation and speaking engagements. The answer is simple: I want to understand actors. The only way I’ve found that allows me to get into the heads of the talent I hire is to become a performer on the side.
Two months ago, I was convinced by a friend to enter a Humorous Talk competition. It was a brutal experience that reminded me how vulnerable actors are. It made me want to protect them and their performance at any cost. The funny thing, I took first place and moved to the next level of competition, where I again took home a trophy.
The experience caused me a lot of turmoil. I mean, do you understand how hard it is to plan on being funny?
This was serious work, which isn’t funny in the least. It took everything I had for several weeks to appear funny in the moment. Thankfully, I was blessed with a crowd filled with belly laughter and my stories set off a chain reaction of joy like nothing I had experienced in life.
Last night was a bit different, as I performed a half hour improv show that turned into a 90-minute celebration of humor. That’s right, the show was scheduled for 30-minutes and the audience was laughing so hard that we tripled the length of the show.
The cast was made up of two Chicago improv instructors, two people from Second City, and a beautiful improviser from Brazil, and me. Magically we all clicked and came up with some of the funniest scenes in the moment, which frankly caused the performers to crack up too.
The show worked so well that one social beast from the audience was compelled to jump on stage in character and perform a ten second cameo, which caught everyone by surprise. Then it happened. The producer decided to try something unique. She invited every audience member to the stage to play an improv game. Only three people stayed in their seats. I had never seen anything like it.
The laughter and applause from both events, coupled with the insecurities of possibly making a complete fool of myself, made me realize that actors are a breed unto themselves. This level of experience gives me the perfect tools I need when I direct, which is exactly why I perform.