Tag Archives: Humor

Why Did A Structural Engineer Take A Class In Improv?

AdultTrainingClassBannerThanks to one of our recent class members for writing this blog post about her experience in our program. Our next adult improv class begins October 7, and we still have a few spaces available.


Taking the Adult Improv Class has been one of the best things I have done in a very long time, both personally and professionally.

You may ask yourself, “why did a structural engineer take a class in improv?”  To explain, I will start by telling you a bit about myself.  I have had a life-long fear of public speaking that I have been working to overcome; had you ever had the distinct misfortune to hear me speak publicly during high school or college you will be able to confirm that I am not exaggerating!

I frequently had cause to speak as part of presentations to selection committees, for training, or in my capacity as an officer of a non-profit organization.  I found that the more I practiced, the more comfortable I was – to be sure – but only if I knew EXACTLY what I was going to say and had plenty of time to practice.  I found that whenever I needed to IMPROVISE at the last minute, answer questions I had not anticipated, or cover for someone else I FROZE!  I got stuck in my own head and could not find two words to string together.

Then I celebrated a friend’s birthday at ComedySportz!  At the end of the evening, the referee talked about upcoming adult improv classes. I remember thinking, “Well, if those can’t get you out of your comfort zone far enough for you to get over yourself . . .nothing will!”

And then I did a bit of reading.  Did you know that some very well-respected MBA programs around the U.S. Are requiring their students to take improv classes as a way to teach communication, listening, brainstorming, and teamwork?  I found still more articles that emphasized that improv isn’t about comedy, but about reacting to your surroundings.  Well, doesn’t that sound exactly like what I need!  Plus, this class fits firmly with my 2015 goals to look for ways to push the boundaries of my comfort zone.

This class was everything I had hoped for, and more!  Halfway through the class, I participated in a panel at a conference in Chicago; previously, I would have panicked every time the person to my right or left answered the question in a way similar to what I had planned. Thanks to ComedySportz, Improv and Christine Walters, I was able to stay in the moment, listen to everything that was said (instead of worrying about what I was going to say next), keep a “yes, and” attitude, and build upon what WAS said.  Was it perfect – no; was it better – ABSOLUTELY. And I know it will get better the more I practice.

I can no longer say I have a fear of public speaking; Christine even helped with a certain fear of failure!  I participated in the public showcase without a thought about what the audience was thinking of me.  It is the first time I have ever been on stage and not been completely in my own head!  Was I flawless? Absolutely not!  But the fear of my potential failure did not weigh me down.

I look forward to taking my next improv class in the fall – perhaps I’ll see you there!

Virginia Epperly



Zach Arnold


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.

Circle Of Life at CSzRVA

This weekend was a banner weekend for ComedySportz Richmond shows.

Over the course of the weekend, we had a scene that ended with the song Circle of Life from the Lion King. Our own Aaron Grant and his new baby Jackson, were in the audience watching. Compelled by the music Aaron walked up onto the field with Jackson above his head as if he were indeed Simba. All the players, instantly and instinctively acted as animals and bowed at the young kings feet.

Then we celebrated a 50th anniversary for a private party, cus we do that sort of thing. The party was all afternoon, and the fabulous food was catered. We sampled! It was yummy! Word has it that everyone had a good time. Well, that’s what the little Mrs.’ told her husband to say, and he did so right on cue.

The weekend was completed with a Loyal Fan proposing to his girl friend during a show. We got them both on the stage as volunteers for a game, which ended with him getting down on one knee and popping the question. She said yes, and everyone applauded! It was quite the amazing moment and our first engagement in our new theatre.

Yup! It truly was a weekend celebrating A Circle of Life!