Essay: Improviser Adam Bright contemplates improv as a way of life

Adam M. Bright, who performs at The PIT in NYC with the improv troupe Halfbear, writes in The Point Magazine about what it means to be an improviser.

It certainly strikes a certain chord with me. Improv changed my life in 1996, and I haven't looked back. In fact, I've heightened my own personal and professional stakes to where I am now.

Here's an excerpt from Bright's piece:

It takes a lot of time and effort to learn how to react both spontaneously and authentically. A person is born and wants to be liked and spends a lifetime developing techniques to appear interesting, but once you start performing improv you realize that those social devices almost all revolve around a cautious, crustacean-like approach to conversation—tail wedged safely in a crevice, snapping at passing scraps. To do improv well you need to push out into open ocean. You need to become completely vulnerable. Yet even if you can learn to do this, it’s an achievement of such questionable value (taken from almost every outside perspective) as to be almost worthless. One or two improvisers join the ranks of Saturday Night Live every season, but most spend their days doing non-spontaneous things like catering or temping or auditioning for roles in order to keep their SAG health insurance from lapsing.

So why do they do it? The improvisers at the PIT are mostly in their twenties and thirties. They came to the city after college to discover themselves, to become individuals. At some point in those first few months they needed work and they got their first gig as a caterer or their first glimpse of real-life corporate culture. Do you remember that moment? The surprise at seeing actual cubicles? The dronelike aspect of people just a few years older than you? The humiliation of eating at your own desk? It’s a culture of boredom. Everyone seems to be wearing a false face. Spontaneity is almost actively discouraged. You realize, perhaps for the first time, how easy it is to be meaningless— even to be successful and meaningless. It is a world most of us want to backpedal away from, but don’t know how. And then somehow the unicycle of improv comes wobbling by. Is it any wonder we leap on it?

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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