We have an improv gig tonight that looks to be huge. It’s for a credit union members meeting, and we could have anywhere from 250 to 1000 people in attendance.
That’s a pretty big crowd for improv. An improv show depends on the audience for suggestions and participation and there’s some concern that the crowd won’t be as engaged because they’re farther away from the stage. There’s also some concern because each of us needs to wear a body microphone and we’re not used to it. Plus, the stage is a lot bigger than we’re used to. So, there are a lot of concerns.
There’s also a lot of excitement, though. This is a chance to put on a good show and have a lot of people go away thinking “I’d like to see them again” or, better yet, “I’d really like to hire them for something else in the future.”
Corporate gigs can go either way. We’ve had several that went really well, but we’ve had at least one that went horribly awry. It depends on the mindest of the attendees, the setting, and us as performers. There’s a lot that can go wrong.
Corporate gigs are generally the best-paying gigs we get. I’m not in improv for the money (though it’d be awesome to be able to make a living at it somehow), but the money is always welcome.
My biggest goal in a show is to not mess everything up. “Don’t mess everything up,” I tell myself before each show. If I add something or even end up being funny, that’s a plus, but I really am just aiming to not mess anything up. I want people to go away from our show thinking we were funny.
I’m not sure why that’s a major pursuit of mine, but it is. I want people to be happy. I want people to laugh. I want people to smile. I know it’s not such a big deal long-term whether I can make people laugh, but I feel good when it happens. If I think about it, I can get a little depressed about the fact that my two main outlets in life (improv and computers) don’t really mean that much and won’t leave any sort of lasting legacy. But when the final song plays and we leave the stage and people are left laughing, I feel like I’ve done a good thing, however short-lived it might be.
I’ve long had this conflict – the industry I’ve always been most attracted to is the entertainment industry: acting, singing, writing, comedy, talk show hosting. At the same time, I know that it’s ultimately a worthless endeavor. What redeeming qualities lie in the entertainment industry? How does it help? Isn’t it more of a distraction than a means to betterment? The argument could be made that a person made famous by the entertainment industry could use that fame to make a difference in other areas. We see actors trying to do this all the time – hugging trees and whatnot. The problem is, to be in a position to make any difference, you’ve got to be a big star, and the chance of anyone becoming a big star are pretty slim. Most performers languish in obscurity, hardly able to make a difference in their own lives, much less anyone else’s.
I think it boils down to a question of mortality: what will remain of me when I’m gone? None of us wants to be forgotten, but the chances are good that we will be. We want to do things that will make a difference and will make a lasting impression. Some people do this by having children, others by building big buildings. A lot of people, though, look to film as a way of preservation. We still remember names like Humphrey Bogart, Marilyn Monroe, and Bela Lugosi to this day, even if we’ve never actually seen a movie starring any of them. They were famous, they were entertainers: they are remembered. Those of us doing local improv might dream of such things, but it isn’t likely to happen. For me it ends up being like the old adage: “Find something you can do and do it well.”
Twenty-five years from now no one will remember tonight’s show, but I’m still going to go out and do what I can to not mess it up. It’s something I can do so I’m going to do the best with it that I can. I’ll try to figure out a meaning for it somewhere down the road.