I tried it so you didn’t have to: Improv

Yes and… can I leave?

By Isabelle Orr, Entertainment Editor

Some people move through life with the ease and grace of a gazelle, or Ariana Grande. You can tell who these people are because when faced with the most stressful situation or tough decision they are seemingly unflappable or, even more enviable, are able to laugh it off.

Two of these people attend Blind Tiger, the house improv team from Little Mountain Gallery. They have an air of self-assurance that I, even after two vodka sodas and a Headspace-guided meditation, can never achieve. They are content with saying only what needs to be said and do so while wearing oversized jackets or wacky hats in a cool, nonchalant way.

One of them sat me down one day. I had just come back from an EDM music festival; my brain was as soft and malleable as a boiled egg.

“Isabelle,” he said. “I can tell you’re unhappy.”

I was indeed unhappy. I had moved to the Big City after finishing my degree to really Make It, but after a year in Vancouver had really only learned which alleys were okay to pee in and which were no-goes.

“Isabelle,” he said. “I think you should try an improv class.”

Like anyone who was fat as a teenager, I was no stranger to sketch comedy. I had watched only MADtv and SNL from the years 2007 to2017. But I had never really figured out what improv was, besides people wearing canvas sneakers and having alternative hairstyles.

“Isabelle,” he said. “If you take the class, you can come to a party I’m throwing that night.”

I decided to attend the class.

As soon as I left my house that Friday night it began to rain, but to appear cool and stylish I refused to double back for a coat or umbrella. I squished into Little Mountain in sodden leather mules.

I assumed I could watch everyone from the corner, perhaps from a large stool or behind a podium. This was not so.

“Please form a circle,” the instructor said. There was no escape. For the first exercise we were to make eye contact with another student, then either offer or accept a “bowl of spaghetti,” with an Italian accent that bordered on culturally insensitive. Every time the bowl was offered to me, I froze. Accents were decidedly outside of my jurisdiction.

“Come on,” the other students gushed. “It’s fun! Just try it!”

But I couldn’t think of anything I’d rather do less, save jumping into traffic, or going to Fortune Sound Club on a Friday night. I avoided all eye contact, which worked for about a minute.

Everyone should be participating,” the instructor said warningly.

We quickly moved into the next exercise, where a group of two was to act out a scene until the instructor called, “Freeze!” The next actor would then jump in. I shrank into a corner, trying to swallow my own tongue.

Everyone should participate!”

Each actor worked their magic, pulling jokes and situations seemingly out of midair. I felt like I was walking the plank, albeit in stylish leather mules. Finally, it was my turn.

What happened next was an odd mixture of blacking out and watching myself from the corner of the room. I remember my voice somehow rising in pitch yet becoming quieter in volume until it was something akin to a dog whistle.

When I came to, I was at the party. As I started on my lonely journey towards crying and puking in a bush outside, I noticed people from the improv class filtering in. I braced for the onslaught of snide remarks that I would have given myself if I were in their ill-fitting canvas shoes. But no remarks came. Instead I was congratulated and praised for accomplishing my first class. There was no negativity because the class, and my anxiety about my performance, didn’t really matter. That, I supposed, was the key to improv: Saying yes and moving forward to the next scene.

When I want to torture myself, I think about that improv class. There is something to be said for people who are able to throw caution to the wind and risk making a fool of themselves, and I applaud those individuals. Maybe they have a sense of humour I wasn’t innately born with and will never have. But one thing I do have? These sick leather mules. Seriously, they’re the best.