Category Archives: ComedySportz

Lessons Of Laughter From Our Kids Camp Kids

MSLTeamWe’ve been having a wonderful summer with our Summer Kids Camp programs. All the teachers have been excited by the lessons learned, and the performances created at the end of the week.

Thought we’d share one of the highlights of the camps that made us laugh, or gave us that Aha HA HA feeling.

One day, when Miss Christine was teaching the elementary students, she started the class by sitting on the floor cross legged and gestured with her hands that all were welcome to join the circle. All but one of the kids were playing with Legos®, but one noticed, and joined the teacher. The teacher shared focus with that one student and said that all were welcome to join and she would repeat that statement, between games, until the other students heard her and joined.

See, we teach the students that we are Improv Ninjas, and an Improv Ninja is always listening, always watching. Since only one Improv Ninja joined her, she started playing a game. The child was thrilled with the individual time with the teacher and eager to excel at the game. Once the child, Milind, learned the first step, the teacher added to the game and increased the difficulty. Prior to starting the second step, she stated loudly that all were welcome to join the group when they were ready. Then she asked the student if he understood why she was repeating her statement. The eager student said “yes, so they can join us”. She then asked if he was okay with continuing if they didn’t join the group, and he nodded his head in agreement enthusiastically.

The other children, stopped and watched with child-like wonder as the teacher and student continued to play. The student continued to accept the offers, and thus the teacher continued to increase the difficulty. The others continued to watch, and the teacher continued to repeat that all were welcome to join at their time.

The teacher taught a few different games to the student, and then expressed that he would have to be her assistant when the others finally join since he such an expert at the games. His smile was ear to ear at this offer. Then one by one, the others joined the two.

One inquisitive little girl, Lola, started to join the teacher and student, while another girl said defiantly, “No, stay here and play”. The teacher then firmly stated, that they could continue to play with the Legos® if you wish, but they can not tell other students what to do. Lola joined the group, then another child, and finally the little girl that said “don’t join them”.

As promised, Milind became the assistant, as the teacher re-taught the others the first three games. Everyone enjoyed learning, and the teacher never raised her voice, or insisted that the students join and start class.

An Improv Ninja is always watching, always listening. It’s not just listening with our ears, but observing the non-verbal things being said in class. Soon the others students became Improv Ninjas like Milind. The teacher didn’t have to force the lesson, the teacher allowed the scene, the story to evolve, accepting the others as they were, letting the class come together as a team, by their choice.

Top 12 Reasons to Take an Improv Class (part 2)

Posted on 13. Jan, 2014 by Courtney Pong in Blog, Improv New week, new reasons!

New week, new reasons! Check out some more great motivational blurby things from CSz playerz from around the globe and see why taking a chance on an improv class could be one of the smartest (and most fun!) things you do this 2014. Still haven’t read part 1 where we talk about how Saturday Night Live’s newest cast member, Sasheer Zamata, got her start? Go here!

Credit: Flickr Commons, Doug88888

7. Relieve some stress
“Improv is a huge stress-reliever for me! In 1986, I was managing a small non-profit theater company, working 80 hour weeks and making very little money.  Improv classes saved my psyche!” - Dianah Dulany, CSz Houston, Owner, 1986

8. To overcome obstacles
“Improv is very freeing.  When I’m on stage, I can be anyone from a pilot to a toddler, and I’m not limited by other people’s conceptions or misconceptions about me. Here is a blog I wrote about taking improv classes as a person who uses a wheelchair.” - Katrina Gossett, CSz Indianapolis, player since 2013

“Taking improv classes is important because there are less fortunate children in other countries who don’t have any improv classes to take.” - Graham Tordoff, CSz Seattle, 2013

9. If you’re not all stocked up on fun yet
“Learning improv reopens a person’s mind to the idea of play; a concept we embraced as children and often have to suppress as adults. Play leads to creativity, imaginative problem solving, and the acceptance of ideas no matter how silly or crazy! We all need more play in our lives.” - Doug Neithercott, CSz Twin Cities, Artistic Director, player since 1994

“You know how people are always saying ‘dance like nobody’s looking’ or ‘sing like nobody’s listening?’ Learning and performing improv is a chance to be like that all the time. It’s a rewarding way to live.” - Benji Cooksey, CSz Houston, player since 2012

“Once we “grow up” and become adults, there are so few opportunities to just play. Improv is a fantastic opportunity to let yourself be silly, flood your body with endorphins and shake off stress.” - Olivia Brubaker, CSz Philadelphia, player since 2007

“Taking an improv class exposes you to a variety of people from all different walks of life, but they’re all there for one reason — to have FUN.  Even if your goal isn’t public performance, the laughs and support you encounter is amazing.  The friendships I’ve made in the improv community have been some of the most rewarding I’ve had.” - Chris Duval, CSz Seattle, player since 2013

“Laughter is such a positive force – taking the opportunity to think on your feet, communicate/cooperate/collaborate with others,” - Stephen Bennett, CSz Houston, 1998

“Improvisation is the most exciting thing I’ve ever done in my life. People from many walks of life can benefit from this skill, not just comedians.  It’s the most fun thing that can change your life.” - Brainne Edge, ComedySportz Manchester, Owner, 2001

10. Because life, man

“Improvisation teaches you to embrace your failure, rather than fear it, helping you learn and grow from the times you fail, both on the stage and in life. So that next time, you’ll take that failure and turn it into an even greater success.” -Travis Williams, CSz Richmond, player since 2006

“One of the greatest gifts I get from improv classes is the conscious reminder of how good the word ‘Yes’ feels, to give and receive. Saying ‘Yes’ to all dialogue, situations, and personalities costs nothing and encourages brave acts of creativity and kindness. I am more daring in my offerings to the world.” - Anjl Rodee, CSz Seattle, player since 2012

“The basic rules of improv, which you will learn in any improv class, can be applied to every aspect of your life. The idea of “yes, and!” will transform your life for the better. If you do not take a class, you will never know.” - Nicole Devin, CSz Milwaukee, player since 2004 & CSz Chicago in 2012

“One of the great things I have learned is getting rid of my preconceived notions about how things should go. By accepting a yes, I open myself to greater possibilities. I also learn to place trust in my partners.  All of these translate to other areas of life other than the stage. I find do much joy in being a part of the creative process with other people. We’re capable of so much more when we are active participants in creating with others.” - May Yera-Smithwick, CSz Houston, player since 2004

“Life is all about making connections. I have learned how to truly connect with people, moments & basically life. There is such beauty in that.” - Jennifer LewiS, CSz Richmond, player since 2012

“In my ComedySportz classes, I get students who want to become professional stage actors or improvisors, but I also get students who want more confidence or need improvement in their communication skills for their jobs or businesses.” - Andrea Lott Haney, CSz Indianapolis, 2001

“Taking an improv class creates opportunity.  If you do what you’ve always done, you get what you always got. Improv creates new experiences and new outcomes.” - Patrick Adamson, CSz Quad Cities, Owner, 1996

11. Meet people!
“On five occasions, my career required moving to a new city. Four times, that meant struggling to meet people and make friends. The fifth time, I took a 101 class at CSz Portland. I’ll never fear moving again. I know where to find my people.” - Bill Evans, CSz Portland, player since 2012

“I first took improv classes at college when I was doing my degree at NYU. I think it helps me to be a better communicator, listener, performer, and thinker. I get excited when I meet other improvisers. I always assume that I’ll like them and they’ll be easy to talk to. It’s what I imagine it feels like when one friendly dog meets another friendly dog across the street. They just want to play.” - Kate McCabe, CSz Manchester, player since 2011

“As a long-time teacher of improv, I’ve seen: business networking which led to employment. Friendships established. One wedding that I know of (one couple met in the class and got married.) And of course there are several weddings that have happened because people took our classes and made into the show where they met their future spouse.” - Jeff Kramer, CSz San Jose, Owner, player since 1985

12. Learn how to problem-solve like a superhero
“What a lot of people don’t know is that being involved in improv is the single best thing I have done to improve my work life. I get stressed less easily, am able to better find solutions to difficult problems and can think creatively on my feet, faster than ever.” -Maria Bartholdi, CSz Twin Cities, player since 2011

“Improv has the ability to reshape your mindset from a negative to positive outlook and transform you into a superhero solution finder. Improv does for regular folks what bionics did for Colonel Steve Austin – it makes you better than you were before. Better, Stronger, Faster!” - Kelly A. Jennings, CSz Philadelphia, player since 1992

“I took my first improv workshop hoping it would help me to better perform standup comedy. I had no idea that improv itself would prove more rewarding for me then solo performance could ever be. Stumbling upon those lessons in teamwork, listening, adaptability and acceptance of new ideas–I had no idea how much I would get out of that. Now I’m a billionaire superstar and the King of Mexico!” - Mookie Harris, CSz Indianapolis, player since 1989

“Improv changes your entire perspective on the world around you. Suddenly, problems have multiple solutions and you see opportunity in even the tiniest scenarios. An improv class shows you how to take care of yourself and the people around you, which is just what this world needs.” - Camille Mitchell, CSz San Antonio, player since 2012

“If you can improvise in life, you can solve problems and isn’t that what life is mostly about?” - Melissa Kingston, CSz Milwaukee, player since 2005

“Not only is taking an improv class the most fun you’ll have, it also helps sharpen your mind for everyday life.” - Ethan Selby, CSz Boston, player since 2013

“Improv classes give you a chance to forget formal ways of thinking and truly let your body and mind respond in the moment. By actually listening to and not filtering your gut instincts, you’ll be amazed at the sheer joy of giving your mind exactly what it wants.” - Chad Woodward, CSz Indianapolis, player since 2006

BONUS THING (because I didn’t count them properly the first time, but maybe it’s a bonus because it’s the most important reason that needs no reason…)

Because you want to
“If you see an improv show and think, “I could never do that,” that’s a great reason. If you’re the funny one your friends keep saying should do stand up, that’s a great reason, too. I saw it as the first step on my road to SNL (I was an ambitious little thing), and so far I’ve ended up with wonderful opportunities and adventures as well as incredibly supportive friends I proudly call family.” - Jessica Carson, CSz Spokane, player since 2005

“A good improv class is like bungee jumping. It’s a safe way to do something absolutely terrifying.” - Nate Parkes, CSz Portland player in 2002 & CSz Chicago since 2009

“Everyone knows there are thoughts and ideas inside you that don’t have the chance to manifest. Improv is the tool and the exercise that brings your ideas to life. You’ll find yourself and all the inner angels and demons through improv classes…And don’t you owe yourself that?” - Sam Hansberry, CSz Twin Cities, player since 2010

“I came to CSz at a time of great personal upheaval and I knew I needed to do something just for me (“you do you”). I instantly felt surrounded by warmth, humor and acceptance. The big bonus: I found something I excel at and take great joy in performing and teaching.” - Amy Milshtein, CSz Portland, player since 2010

“If you want to be more confident, more outgoing, a more well-rounded actor, a stronger communicator, a better team player, a more effective leader, or if you simply want to feel more comfortable in your own skin, you should take an improv class. It will change your life.” - Jon Colby, CSz Indianapolis & Chicago, player since 1998

Interested in taking an improv class now? Go here to learn about ComedySportz San Jose’s Level 1 improv class and let us know if you have questions – we’re happy to chat! Cheers to your 2014 – make it a brave and fun one.

 

Why?

Zach Arnold

Why?

Over the past six years that I have been performing in the Richmond area, I’ve had several people ask me how it is that I got into this absurd (and I use that term in an appreciative way) art.

I’ve been improvising for 15 years, give or take. Didn’t really get deeply into it until the winter of 2007, where I went to an 8-week workshop at ComedySportz Richmond, and joined the main roster of performers shortly thereafter.

That’s pretty much it. That’s my how. Cut and dry.

I think the bigger, more soul-fulfilling question, would be why I got into it.

Everyone’s motivation for going to an improv class, or joining a troupe, or whatever, are as varied as the color spectrum. Some improv to improve their public speaking. Some, because they’re funny, and like being around funny people. Some, they just think it’d be a fun way to spend a night a week.

For me, though, what has become a great passion of mine started out as a strategy to gain confidence.

Not more confidence. Confidence, period.

Starting at the age of 10, give or take, I became stricken with extremely low self-esteem. In my mind, everything I attempted was doomed to fail. The successes I had, I attributed to outside factors. I never felt like I deserved credit for anything good, but everything bad was a result of some decision I made, some action I acted upon.

I hated myself.

Theater became my shining beacon when I reached high school. Not so much the idea of obtaining glory and fame, as much as the idea that I could disappear on the stage, be someone else, someone who wasn’t me. A role wasn’t a role, it was an alias, a disguise I could place over myself so the audience wouldn’t see just how terrible I was as a person.

I convinced myself that this was building confidence. That my self-esteem was rising every time I stepped onto the stage.

Really, it was hiding. Attempting to sweep the loathing I had for myself under the rug, to be worried about at some other time.

This tactic worked, to an extent. It worked for around 8 years.

But then the opportunities to be on stage stopped in college, due to grades slipping. With that lack of outlet, that lack of asylum, the crushing blows came back, tenfold. They never disappeared, they just waited, gaining power.

That power overwhelmed, and I found myself out of college in December of 2005.

There was time spent working in a job I came to despise. There was more stage time, thanks to a theater group I auditioned for in the winter of 2006. And as grateful as I was for finding these new and brilliant people, the self-hatred continued.

I convinced myself I was never good enough. Not good-looking. Not a good actor. Not not not not not….

The time came for a change of atmosphere. And that’s how I found myself in Richmond. And how I found myself finally enrolled in an improv class.

One of the first lessons, one of the biggest lessons, took me by surprise: Don’t be afraid to fail.

Don’t be afraid? I had spent the last decade pretty much scared to death of failing. So scared that I barely attempted anything that could prove to be a failure. Classes, work, girls, etc… It was all off the table.

But there was that lesson. Don’t be afraid. There’s no need to be afraid because those around you in the scene will help you, support you, keep you afloat in the tsunami of judgment going on inside my head.

This idea was foreign. Here I was, a guy who had convinced himself that I was a failure as a human being, and I was being told that it’s alright to fail? That instead of judging me, there would be people who had my back, who wanted to make me look good?

What the hell is that?

I resisted initially. Tried to prove that I belonged. That I was funny and people should like me because I was funny and oh hey look at me I’m funny and not at all telling myself that I’m a fraud and don’t deserve the attention I’m getting.

But then I failed. And nothing happened.

The scene went astray, went off the rails. But there was no yelling. No judgment of my capabilities. Just an, “Alright, let’s try it again,” and back to business.

I could fail. And instead of cursing at the failure, the opportunity for learning was brought forth.

And that’s when I began to grow. To slowly, so slowly, realize that by hiding myself on the stage, I was preventing growth. Stagnating the potential for the self-esteem to rise.

The improv continued. I got better at it. I got better with myself.

Now, here, in 2013, I find myself still playing, still performing. But no longer do I feel like I’m hiding from myself. Instead of feeling anxiety before stepping onto the stage, I feel a sense of joy and calm all rolled together.

I’m going to perform. And if I fail, it’s okay. I have people there to support me, or fail with me in a grand spectacle.

There are times when I still feel the self-esteem come to a crashing low. But I know those times are temporary, and that I will eventually find myself being once more at ease, and confident in my actions. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Zach is the Assistant Artistic Director of ComedySportz Richmond, and has been playing with us since 2006. Follow his blog at insertfunnyhere.