Prompted by Anonymous
I’ll be honest with you, it was terrifying.
Which is so, so silly in retrospect, because my first improv show was with a team of twelve (TWELVE!) other people who had been doing it for not much longer than I had, in a Penn State campus lecture hall to about 40 people who had also probably never seen an improvised comedy show before.
I WAS TERRIFIED.
This is mostly because I had put a HUGE importance on doing comedy before I had gotten to Penn State. I was starving for a creative outlet that my high school couldn’t provide. I just wanted to do it, you know? Comedy. Performing, I guess. Anything, really, I didn’t care. And I got to Penn State and didn’t have any friends because I was a real sad-sack so I found this group in a database search of groups on campus. And I just sorta showed up.
It’s also so silly because college improv teams are the absolute worst. They are worse than going to the dentist. They are worse than “Whitney” on NBC. They are a bunch of kids who are starved for a creative outlet that their high schools didn’t provide and had been told that they were very funny for a very long time, but are too lazy to write or prepare a show and think improv is easy and everybody wants to watch them do it.
But, you know what? It’s fucking fun, too. To do it. Not always to watch. But to be fair, before I graduated, we tried to make the shows less masturbatory and tried to make them as fun as possible for the people who were good enough to come out at watch us every other Sunday night. I think we did a pretty good job.
That first show, though… whoo boy. That was atrocious.
For as dumb and stupid as college improv was (and is), I was really, really nervous to put myself out there like that. I don’t care if you’re in front of 40 or 40,000, if you’re the best comedian in the world or the sad-sack old man who is trying stand-up for the first time in the back of a shitty dive bar in Brooklyn, putting yourself out there like that, for the first time, when you have absolutely no idea how it’s going to go, is brave. Not, like, go off to war and lay down your life for your country brave. But still.
I remember entering, not to any sort of music or fanfare, but with a pre-scripted bit where we were all on one of the famed Penn State campus tours (it was the beginning of the fall semester), a half-hearted bit that just sort of petered out until one of us, probably Jeff, said, “Welcome to Full Ammo Improv!” and prompted the audience to clap for us.
Then we stumbled through like two dozen short-form improv games, the type you might see on Whose Line Is It Anyway? (“You’re a doctor, and he is your patient, and you have to say each line with the next letter of the alphabet, and then you go home and question your lives and maybe kill yourself.”)
Then the show ended and everyone came up and told us what a great job we did and we went to an all-night diner and had fries and it was the most fun I’d ever had.
College improv shows suck but without them I wouldn’t be who I am today: an unfunny hack with just enough of a sense of superiority to shit on college improv shows.