Say Day

Today marks two special days. It’s my second anniversary of improv. It’s also Say Day.

I never expected to be improvising for this long. Performing regularly was never a goal, neither was continuing study to the craft. An improv blog certainly wasn’t on the cards! I went to a drop-in spin cycle class once and it wasn’t one of the most comfortable experiences when I left the classroom. I felt the same way after leaving my first improv class and in all honestly, only stuck with it as I didn’t want to spend $350 on one class. I’ve made a lot of improv moves in shows, but that was one of the better life moves I’ve made.

In the last two years I’ve performed in both the Melbourne Fringe Festival and Melbourne International Comedy Festival. I’ve travelled overseas to perform and learn this stuff, meeting heaps of new people along the way. I’ve sat through so many hours of workshops, fearing that it’s my turn next and everyone would be looking at me; only to realise that they want to see me succeed.  I’ve produced, won, tied, and lost at Cage Match. I’ve made a lot of friends, drank a lot of beers, and did a lot of bits.

Not to mention the personal growth I’ve felt. It took improv to truly know what it’s like to listen and be listened to. That teamwork isn’t a group of people who all want to win, but to work together. Improv has calmed me down. It’s made me more comfortable to express who I am and what I’m feeling. It’s opened me up to trying new things rather than fearing potential consequences. It’s even created some flaws that never existed before, but I’m glad that I’m aware of them.

But ultimately, I’m a result of the people who put faith in me. I’m not a one man army and I’m glad for it. So shout outs to the following:

Andrew Strano: Andrew, you were there during Level 1 introducing me to Alien Soul-Mate (the worst) and now you’re giving me notes every week following Harolds. For some reason I remember you cranking up the heat to 26 degrees at that first (and subsequent) training, causing a warm room to turn into a sweat box after two hours. I’m glad you don’t have access to the thermostat at our trainings.

Andrew, you see good in everything and everyone. You sweat trust, love, and support. When I said I was done, you said go on this path and believe that it would be for the greater good. It is Andrew. Thank you.

Daniel Pavatich: So it’s a Saturday in November 2013. I’m sitting on the floor of a hallway at Fitzroy Library, typing up a desperate pitch to a shop in the city to let me hold a MICF show because my original venue pulled out after registration closed. I’m on the floor at Fitzroy Library because Dan is running a workshop that I’m attending. Everyone around for the class has went inside except me. Dan comes out and says that we’re starting and to come inside, to which I reply that I’ll be just a moment. Dan smirks and says “When you’re ready,” and heads inside.

I’m not entirely sure why that sticks in my head, but for some reason it says everything to me about how I feel about you Dan. Your willingness to share what you know. Your incredible passion, and that you want to see the people around you improve. That you’re a bit of a smartarse but are willing to put faith in others to look after themselves. You’ve called out on my bullshit and celebrated with me when it’s worked perfectly. Thank you Dan, see you at Grain Store.

Adam Kangas: Adam, you say some dumb stuff sometimes and I get offended and fall into my bad old habits. And then I think about your actions and realise that I’m being a boob. Because your actions aren’t dumb. You have an incredible willingness to say yes, even when I haven’t believed in myself that yes is the right answer. I’m on a Harold team because you said yes. I produce Cage Match because you said yes. I assisted teaching a class because you said yes. I put up crazy ideas like a live podcast or two-prov show based on dancing chairs or a game show based on a party game and you say yes.

Adam, you’re ultimately responsible for this ever growing community. I’ve made friends, taken risks, and been given permission to fail and grow all because you didn’t say no. Thanks for saying yes Adam.

Lauren McKenna and James Brennan: Two people I went through my initial training with, and boy aren’t they wonderful. Lauren, if I was the cowardly lion coming out of level three, you were Dorothy; giving me self-belief and support when I needed it. James, I remember the night you joined Skeleton Kisses and we went to have a drink after training. It felt “right” – like putting on a comfy pair of shoes that had been in the cupboard for a while.

I feel lucky to have performed with you in some of my favourite and best shows in the last two years, and look forward to when we play again soon – be in in Melbourne, New York, or anywhere else in the world. Thanks James. Thanks Lauren.

Airblade: Goddamn. My current Harold team – Pat, Shea, Meg, Kay, Bridget, Josh, Brit, and Amruta, you’re all stars. You give me fun in my life every Tuesday and Wednesday – every in-joke, every stretch and share, every post-show beverage. It’s incredibly intimidating playing on a team with performers who are better than you, but somehow it’s so motivational while not being competitive.  Here’s to more board game nights, more beach house getaways, more post-training pancakes or burritos, and more time as one on stage. Thanks Airblade.

Trillcumber: These three people, man. So many post-show complements! I still struggle to take them, but know that I’m ever appreciative. Mario: Thanks for telling me to go to Chicago and produce Cage Match. Thanks for the after-show lifts while I read your mail on the back seat. Thanks for all the bits about sportz. Hayley: Thanks for being the first person outside the team to tell me I did good when I was scared and worried that I wasn’t doing good. Thanks for being obsessed with the same John Mullaney bit to a point that we sought out a diner in Chicago. Simon: Thanks for opening up about yourself and making me realise that I’m not alone in feeling this way about improv. Thanks for the ShottsSmiles© during shows that give me oh so much delight. Thanks for all the beers that we’ve had so far. Thanks for letting me be an extra in your sketch! Thanks Trillcumber.

It’s been a great two years thanks to these and many other friends I have made as a result of improv. I’m super grateful for it. I’d encourage you to get out and tell the people you care about how you feel today too.