Mind Blown

There is a student in the Funny Bones intro class who is extremely nervous. This person is hysterically funny but can’t see it, and is always wanting to just watch because they “can’t do it” or will “mess it up”. I was trying to encourage them to play the other night and said something like, “You can’t mess it up. No matter what happens we’ll make it work. We’ll take care of you.”

Brain explosion.


That is basically the exact thing every improv teacher I’ve ever had has said to me at some point.

  • Relax
  • It’s fine
  • You’re fine
  • It’ll work out
  • Your class has your back

I never believed them any more than this person believed me last night. This person sat to the side and held themselves tightly and gave me scared rabbit eyes. Which made me feel a little sad for them.

Is this the way my teachers have felt about me when I’ve been freaking out?

I have this frame of reference now where I can see all the stuff they’re worried about and I can see how it’s not actually a big deal. I know that, yeah, OK, sometimes it’s going to be rough. Maybe really rough. This will probably not be the best improv ever done. But it will be fine, and sometimes brilliant. It’s going to be OK, but they can’t see that because of being right in the middle of it and being terrified half to death.

So, like I said, mind blown. I’ve only been doing this for two years but I can see from here that the things this person, five or so weeks in, is worried about are not things to be worried about. If they would relax it would be a lot more fun for them, and it would lead to better scenes.

Hello? Anna, are you listening? How is it that I never put that together until now? I’ve never felt like it was true, it always seemed to me that when teachers or experienced players would say “You’re doing fine, it’s good” it was overly optimistic, or just plain patronizing. No, it’s not. I can clearly tell that it’s crap.

Now I’m seeing it from the other side. When I say, “You’re fine” I don’t mean the improv being done is the best it’ll ever be, or the best ever in history. It’s just, it really is fine. They’re right where they should be, and none of us are thinking they’re behind or whatever, even though they do.

As soon as I said those words I had to stop and think about it. Hit me that hard, right between my improv eyes. Perspective is amazing. I want to take this revelation with me, somehow. But I don’t know how to remember that in the moment. How can I hold onto this knowledge that right now feels so intense and useful?


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