In 2001 I moved to Chicago, IL to study improvisation at iO, formerly known as Improv Olympic, before they received a cease and desist letter from the Olympic committee in 2005–I guess whiskey drinking and chain smoking improvisers are easily mistaken for olympic athletes?
It was at iO that I fell in love with improv comedy and the principals behind it. From there, I would start teaching classes to kids throughout the Chicago area and would find myself teaching for The Second City and becoming instrumental in the development of their children’s program. During my time in Chicago, improv was my life. I was on a Harold team at iO, I performed with a group called Dually Noted andConcept Album and occasionally sat in with Baby Wants Candy for their corporate gigs. I was having a blast and saying YES AND to everything. I learned about team dynamics, how to take risks, how step into the unknown and how to fail with the best of them. And when we succeeded, you could feel it! All of us were in a group mind and felt unstoppable. I quickly started facilitating workshops for the left brain folks in the world and found that I was in my element. There was nothing better than walking into a florescent lit room, grabbing a bottled water and stepping into a circle of skeptical business folk who had no idea what their boss was getting them into. Ah, the satisfaction I would feel when the guards came down, the trust started to build and the laughter began.
Improv is therapy to me. It is about taking responsibility for yourself first so that you can be of support to those around you. It’s the old oxygen mask metaphor: you must put yours on first before assisting someone else with theirs–because really, what good are you if you’re dead?
Believe it or not, we are all interconnected and what you choose to do will inevitably affect me. You may not see the direct impact, but it’s true and it is inescapable. So the next time you are involved in that unruly and messy team dynamic, ask yourself what role you are playing in it and if there is something YOU can do to better yourself so that you can be of support. Being the victim or passing blame rarely breeds progress.