A BEAST KNOWN AS COMEDY

Wednesday, December 4

Part of my first class at Second City -- photo c/o Eliza Morris
I didn’t grow up watching comedy. I didn't have a love affair with SNL during the hormone raging crazed time that goes under the alias of “teenage years”. Have you heard of it? Watch out, it’s feisty. I did a slow slide into comedy. Like a super fun and exciting one, but a slow one nonetheless. They don’t call me “slow Doyle” for nothing {don’t worry mom, no one actually calls me that}. The only improv I knew of was “Whose Line is It Anyway”, which is an amazing show, but the short-form approach never really piqued my interest. My mind doesn’t work fast enough for that {maybe they should call me slow Doyle}. My high school theater program was entirely devoid of anything comedy-oriented, it was all about creating avant garde pieces that embodied the three big D’s – dark, depressing, and dramatic. Which was okay I guess, except for the fact that I have a strong tendency of laughing when I’m uncomfortable and of constantly having a smile plastered on my face because I believe it hides my permanent state of confusion. Even when I get in a fight I end up smiling because I get too excited.

My most absurd experience with the three big D’s was a production of “Marat/Sade” during my junior year. The play is set in an insane asylum in 19th century France. Here's a little recap {thanks Wikipedia!} -- “[Marat/Sade] is a bloody and unrelenting depiction of class struggle and human suffering which asks whether true revolution comes from changing society or changing oneself”... fun stuff, am I right?? I had signed up for the play with one of my best friends Kareem. Our rehearsals consisted of us standing in separate corners of the practice space trying to turn our selves into mentally sick inmates. Seriously, we were supposed to spend hours convulsing and yelling and crawling and crying. And everyone did wholeheartedly, except for Kareem and me {oops}. Oh we tried to, but didn’t get too far. We quickly found it near impossible to stop laughing. We were subsequently shunned by the high school dramatists, and we couldn’t have cared less. I remember looking over at Kareem during our final show during the finale in which we all ran at the audience screaming and singing with wide-open crazy eyes and our face painted white and we both laughed and screamed and probably ended up looking like the craziest ones out there. Ha! Take that you big D thespians! Didn't help too much with my dating game, but I turned out okay :)

Fast forward. My first introduction to comedy was in my senior year at Georgetown. We didn’t have any improv groups, but what we did have was a Shakespeare class which I took my last semester. For our final scene, my teacher assigned me and another girl a scene from “Merry Wives of Windsor”, a Shakespearean comedy. I was scared. But I’m not funny! But this isn’t dramatic! But, But, But! But then I loved it. Something clicked. It was so ridiculously fun to be in a comedic scene. For once I stopped concentrating on how to be serious and whether people believed me and just had a blast. There is something so incredibly powerful about being able to make someone {or hopefully people, love the plural} laugh. It’s exhilarating and empowering. In “normal life” I easily get sucked into {and pulled under by} thinking about how others view me. I think it’s because of this tendency to approach new people with a level of hesitancy that has made me love comedy and improv on such a deep level. When I’m in a scene I don’t care about what other people think, yes I love the laughs, but when I’m out there I put myself in it 100%. I can be any character I want to be. I can be anywhere I want to be. I can say anything I want to say. It's so freeing.

As Amy Poehler says -- "Sometimes when you get too worried about how you look, or about how something's gonna go, you kind of lose what made you special in the first place. I think [improv] will really do that to you, really remind you that things are supposed to be dangerous, you're supposed to feel uncomfortable, you're supposed to enjoy not knowing, trusting your partner, not falling back on the same stuff". 

And now here I am, studying improv and comedy writing in Chicago at The Second City and iO. Living out a dream that I didn't even know I had in me until four months ago. Oh how the times change. But that's what life is all about.

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