Lights up. Empty stage. 12 of you on the sidelines. You all know at least one of you has to move, RIGHT NOW, and fill that empty void.
Two people step forward. Heroes, right? They overcame the scariest thing you can do in improv and stepped out into nothingness.
Or so it seems. Because the fact is, the two that stepped out are not the bravest. They ran away from what’s truly the scariest thing in improv:
Being left on the sidelines.
“Look at those two out there, being in the moment, connecting with each other. What am I doing? I’m on the sidelines with nothing else to do but listen to the voices in my head. Think about why I didn’t step out first. Think about how to help this scene. Does this scene need help? Would I know? Should I edit? Should I have edited just there? Is it too late to edit now? It’s probably too late to edit. Why am I on this team? I’m probably the worst on this team. Maybe. Me and Chuck, bottom two for sure. Fuck, I should be listening to this scene. Okay, it’s not too late. Who are they to each other? That got a laugh. Not sure why. Delivery? Or callback? Focus! Oh good, someone edited. I should go out. What was that last scene about? I should bring a different energy. What was the word again? Oh good, someone’s out there. Why didn’t I go out?”
In the improv world, there’s nothing scarier than the voices in your head. So how do you avoid that?
One easy way is to go do a scene. Yep. I said easy. When you step out and do a scene, even a bad scene, you’re playing with someone else. You forget for a couple moments all the things you should be doing and you start doing them. If you step out and say, “Hey,” your next thought is probably What a stupid offer, but before you can dwell on that, your scene partner says “Hey” back. Now you have to say, “Sup?” and pretty quickly the scene takes focus over your thoughts.
On the sidelines, it’s just you and your thoughts.
So next time you’re too scared to go start a scene, don’t beat yourself up about it. You’re a hero to the rest of your team, ’cause that’s sure as hell not where they wanna be. Being on the sidelines is scary as fuck.