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If, like me, you’ve been sucked down the stream of raw sewage that’s social media, I feel you. It’s hard not to, frankly, when the freedoms we thought we enjoyed turn out to be smoke and episodes of Black Mirror.

But if clicking emojis till your thumbs bleed has left you numb, doing it more won’t help.

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In 2005, when iPhone was still a gleam in Steve Jobs’s eye, Cameron and I were detached from the rest of the world. Back then the isolation was caused by his Generalised Anxiety Disorder. We holed ourselves up in our apartment and fretted inside a prison of our own making. The Internet’s a bit like that; we can see and talk to people, but there’s a wall of glass between us.

How we crawled out of that black hole and reconnected with humanity was the same way you can now: by taking an improv class. (And if you sign up on your smartphone, I won’t tell anyone.)

“We approach improvisation as a constant examination of the moment before us.” – Improvisation at the Speed of Life: The TJ & Dave Book

The first time I studied with David Razowsky, he said, “I’m hiding a class on mindfulness in this improv workshop.”

Improv teaches us to be present, to observe and listen to our scene partner, and respond by committing fully to our emotions. Focusing your attention takes practice, as anyone who’s meditated knows. But the more you do it, the easier it gets.

The other great thing about improv is, it’s fun. Laughter, like crying, is a form of release. Which makes it a powerful antidote to anxiety, depression, and fear. As Stephen Colbert says, “You can’t laugh and be anxious at the same time.”

There’s nothing more satisfying than taking your feelings of rage and channeling them into a scene about failed spaghetti sauce. Improv gets us in touch with our imaginations again. When you create something out of thin air, it’s a powerful reminder of our ability to effect change.

There’s a lot of scary stuff happening right now, and the problems are very real. But staring at a screen for hours won’t help. If you’re feeling disconnected, the answer isn’t stewing over Snapchat, Periscope, or Twitter. It’s listening, responding, and connecting with others in real life.

Now turn off your phone, go out and create something new.

So glad we got to spend this time together. (Photo © Steve Hobbs)

There are dozens of different classes available, for Beginners to Advanced, from Improv for Actors to Improv for Anxiety, Business, Singles and more. Just Google “improv classes” and your home town or city to see what’s available near you.

Drumpfprov

A small black box theatre. The stage is bare except for two folding chairs, and an ornate gold Louis XIV knock-off, stage right. A dozen or so mostly Caucasian students sit facing the stage. They each have name tags in gold Sharpie.

Dry ice fills the house as DRUMPF enters to the strains of “Born This Way.”

Drumpf:          Welcome to Drumpfprov. You made a great decision by coming here today.

I have the best class. I have the best rules. Believe me. You’re very fortunate. Until now, you could only learn Drumpfprov at one of my resort theatres, or from The Sharper Image.

(scans the audience) I see we have a lot of minorities. Minorities love me. Bigly. I’m tremendous with minorities. We’re going to build a wall. OK, let’s do a warm-up. Who knows one?

JANET, a slender woman in her early 20s, speaks.

Janet:             I like Big Booty.

Drumpf:          Disgusting. That’s disgusting. I don’t like a lotta junk in the trunk. (squints) Janice–

Janet:             Janet.

Drumpf:          You wouldn’t be able to play anyway, Janice. You’ve got a great piece of ass.

Besides, we don’t need warm-ups. I have the best exercises. Believe me. Let’s do some scenes.

Drumpf sits in the gold chair. CLAIRE and ZOE start a scene.

Claire:            Hi boss, I typed up those forms you wanted.

Drumpf:          Excuse me…excuse me!

They stop.

Drumpf:          Can anyone tell me why this scene is a disaster?

JORDAN, a 30-something black man, raises his hand.

Jordan:          There was no emotion?

Drumpf:          Wrong. The boss should be a man, and the secretary is like a 5 at best. Next!

MOLLY and DUSTIN start a scene.

Molly:             Dad, I’m going to school now.

Dustin:           Have a good day, honey.

Drumpf:          Excuse me…excuse me! You need to show her more affection. A lot more. Remember, she’s your daughter. OK, next.

DANA and JAKE sit centre stage. TOM enters, miming a tray.

Dana:             I’m really enjoying this first date.

Jake:              Me too.

Tom:              Here’s your mojitos. Are you ready to order?

Drumpf:         (turns to audience) Who has status here?

Janet:             Is it Dana?

(Drumpf rolls his eyes)

Dustin:           Tom does.

Drumpf:          Are any of you paying attention? I have status. I have the highest status. Always. Believe me.

Now I’m gonna teach you how to raise the stakes, Drumpf-style. I call it Drumpf Stakes.

Drumpf walks centre stage.

Drumpf:          Janice, get up here.

Reluctantly, Janet joins him.

Drumpf:          I love cats.

Janet:             Here, I brought you a kitten.

Drumpf:          I don’t like cats. I think I’ve made that very clear. I’ve never liked cats.

(to audience) See what I did there? OK, now everyone pair up. I want you to look at each other and tell me who you are to each other. Go.

Sara:               I’m a Harvard professor, and Matias is my student.

Drumpf:          Is that a joke? Did you even look at him? You’re obviously a receptionist, and Matias is a drug lord.

Drumpf turns to MATIAS.

Drumpf:          Where are you from?

Matias:           Buffalo.

Drumpf:          Yeah. But where are you from?

Matias:           You mean my parents? They’re from upstate New York.

Drumpf:          (sighs) Fine, Lyin’ Matias. If that’s the way you want it. I’m just saying play the scene a little more real. They don’t all have to be rape scenes, but a lot of them will be.

All right, we’ve got time for one group scene.

Zoe walks on stage. She clearly mimes being a scientist, using test tubes in a lab. DANNY enters.

Danny:           Hey babe, when’s dinner?

Zoe:                Uhhh…soon. I’m just mixing the salad dressing.

Matias enters. He starts to speak but is cut off by Danny, who throws himself in front of Zoe.

Danny:          Don’t rape her!

Jordan enters.

Jordan:           Whoa, what’s with all the screaming?

Danny points at him with rage.

Danny:            You’re the worst President!

SFX:               (slow clap)

Drumpf:           Great.

(Lights out)

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

(Editor’s note for non-Canadians: A “power play” in hockey is when at least one opposing player serves a penalty, giving your team a numerical advantage on the ice.)

I’m officially a Senators fan.

On Monday, the Ottawa Senators (NHL team, for those who aren’t Canadian) fired their coach, Paul MacLean. The day after a great come-from-behind victory, too. Possibly their best game all year. Weird.

Why fire the coach after an amazing game?

When did this become a sports blog?

I mean, what the hell is going on here?!

Listen to the reason GM (General Manager, sheesh) Bryan Murray gave for letting MacLean go.

“I think what happened last night was, it was one of our better games, there’s no question. The good thing that happened for us was that we got behind 3-0. We forgot about all the rules and structure and everything. We just went out and played hockey.

Hockey’s a game and sometimes you just have to go play. Have a little fun with it and chase the puck and do things. We did that and I think our speed showed up. I think some talent showed up and we made some plays and fortunately for us, we won the hockey game. But I think that’s what I would like to see our team be – our players have to have some fun. It’s a game. We have to have some fun playing the game.

We have so many rules sometimes that we take the fun away from it, so maybe now, we’ll play a little different style – we’ll play a little more aggressive style. We’ll try to chase the puck more often and I think that will play to the strength of the young people on our hockey team.

And that’s what I would like to see happen – that we get back to real simple (play). Move the puck. Be in a good position. Help each other and be creative in your way. We have got some very instinctive hockey players here, just play that way.”

I was watching the press conference when it happened (flipping around until Chopped came on), and it blew my mind. It seems obvious that hockey is a game when you ask kids. But when you ask adults, it’s not a game. Nothing’s a game. It’s a business. And you have to win to make money. And winning comes from hard work and doing it right.

It’s a bold statement for a PROFESSIONAL hockey team (meaning playing for money, NOT for fun) to make. But a damn important one. So many “creative” industries try to set up the rules and structures for how to work, instead of promoting play.

The ad agency I got fired from (the most recent time) was implementing the rules of staying late, working weekends, being in the office at all times and a bunch of other old fashioned ways of thinking. None of which have anything to do with being more creative.

So thank you Bryan Murray. Thank you for understanding that even at a professional level, if take away the play, you ain’t got nothin.

Going on the record to say that the Senators will make the playoffs. If I were bolder, I’d say win the cup, but, you know, they’re not that good…. ahhh fuck it.

 

Sens FTW!

(This post originally appeared at playwithfireimprov.com)

Even scripted music, plays, speeches, and other live events differ from night to night. It’s those inspired moments of improvisation that make people say “You had to be there.”

Once again we’ve dug into the archives to bring you our most popular posts to date. Crack open an imaginary beer and enjoy.

Image © Chris Besler/People & Chairs

How-To Posts

How To Write A Kickass Performer Bio

How To Succeed At Anything by Being Yourself

Eight Ways To Be Good With The Improv

How Colbert Got Over Embarrassment (And So Can You!)

Audition Tips From The Other Side Of The Table

Harold & Long-Form 

Openings: The Good, The Bad & The Funny

Somebody Edit This, Please

Enjoy The Silence: Improvising Without Dialogue Part One and Part Two

On Coaches, Chemistry, And Finding Your Dream Team

How I Lost Interest In Game Of The Scene And Found Something Way More Fun

Great Guest Posts

12 Tips For Festival Organizers by Amy Shostak

12 Tips For Improvisers Attending Comedy Festivals by Matt Folliott

7 Tips For Surviving An Improv Jam by Laura Bailey

Now’s The Time To Know The New by David Razowsky

How Not To Get Sued (A Guide for Canadian Comedians) by Rob Norman

Dissed! (Why None Of You Improvisers Are Gonna Get Tenure) by Chris Craddock

Fun Stuff

Improv Explained In Venn Diagrams

What’s Your Improv Persona?

When Improvisers Date

Web Series: Inside The Master Class

Video: How To Spot An Improviser