Among other wildly flattering words you could use to describe me, I am a comedy geek. I soak in Doug Benson podcasts like they are going out of style and can frequently be found down the rabbit hole of a YouTube standup binge sesh. I've read more comedian memoirs than there are Star Wars movies, and I can proudly recite almost every line of Wet Hot American Summer. Heck, I even interview comics for this publication.
Through years of fandom, I found one major common denominator within my preferred circle of funny: From Melissa McCarthy to Will Ferrell, most of my favorites got their start doing improv.
This deduction left the comedy nerd within no choice but to dive in and get a little taste of the medium that gave Amy Poehler her start. Instead of taking the "Yeah, maybe one day" attitude toward improv classes, I Googled my way right into Sick Puppies' Level 1 Improvisation Class Series.
The Sick Puppies are a legit improv troupe based out of Boca Raton that offer five levels of classes for us normals in addition to putting own their own shows. Director Casey Casperson knows that people sign up for improv classes for a number of reasons but that in the end, "everyone leaves the class with an understanding of how to be more honest."
Level 1 is a seven-week experience that reworks your brain and keeps you on your toes. After six sessions of hashing it out, week seven is when you hit the stage in front of a real audience and sink or swim. Whether you've always thought about it or the sheer idea of being onstage and not knowing what to say next scares the crap out of you, Casperson sees the good, saying, "Everyone needs improv." I learned a lot taking improv classes with Sick Puppies, but here are the doozies:
5. Say Yes!
The only thing I knew about improv walking into day one was that the first rule is "Yes, and..." Meaning take what your scene partner is saying as fact and add something. You can't discount what they say or else the artificial reality is dead before it even had a chance to live. It's a little trick that's essential for improv and might just get you through the tantalizing conversation at your next family dinner.
4. You Are Funny.
OK, I was kidding when I said sink or swim. One of the best parts of class is knowing that the Sick Puppies aren't going to let you fail. When you get up there for the graduation showcase, with people you invited peering back, it's all laughter. Even if you don't think you have what it takes, the environment is built for a good time, and you'll feel like you put on a worthy show.
3. Play With Others.
Sick Puppies classes are a great excuse to work with a team. But not just any team. A team of people you never met before, know nothing about, and must immediately trust. It's a totally new experience for everyone in the room, and your classmates aren't just your scene partners; they are your troupe. We started out as strangers, and we ended as the Eggbeaters. It's a seven-week crash course in playing well with others.
2. Do Something for Yourself.
A big reason I took the class was to get out of my comfort zone and give myself a little weekly treat. Monday mornings are a lot easier to wake up for when Monday nights mean the chance to get far away from my working self and learn something completely new. Taking classes in anything is a great way to grow. That thing you always wanted to learn? What are you waiting for?
1. Try to Get Out of Your Head.
The number-one piece of feedback I got from Casey after every scene was "get out of your head." I had trouble with overthinking -- trying to be one step ahead when I should be in the moment. It took some thinking to start thinking less, and I'm still thinking about not overthinking. I'm embracing the challenge... I think.
See the Sick Puppies live, 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 25, at the Palm Beach Improv, located at 550 S. Rosemary Ave. in CityPlace, West Palm Beach. Tickets costs $15. Two-drink minimum. To reserve your seat, visit palmbeachimprov.com and sickpuppiescomedy.com, or call 954-667-7735.