It was the fall of 2011 and I was a scared freshman at Boston University determined to become the next Tina Fey. I heard the sketch comedy team was having auditions so I signed up and suited up, which meant putting on the t-shirt my Grandma got my Dad when she went on her cruise to Alaska. It says “Alaska” and has a bunch of wolves on it baying at the moon. Actually, I guess they’re not so much baying at the moon as standing on rocks under the moon making kind of intense eye contact with whoever looks at them. Anyway, I walked into that audition and…I choked. The only thing I actually remember saying was “there are more wolves than you think!” when someone commented on my t-shirt. I had a long way to go before I was Tina Fey.
As you may have guessed, I didn’t get chosen to join the BU sketch team. I took it kind of hard but I was more upset with myself because I knew I didn’t do my best. I let fear get in the way. I learned a lot about overcoming fear in the next year and a half as I went through the process of transferring to Fordham University. It was difficult but I grew and learned the value of challenging myself and being honest about what I want. And what I honestly wanted was to give comedy another try. The success of my transfer gave me the confidence I needed to sign up for Improv 101 at the Upright Citizens Brigade. This class was basically eight weeks of almost skipping out of sheer terror only to go and fall more in love with improv. By the end I couldn’t get enough, I was FIRED UP. So when I found out my campus didn’t have a comedy student group, I started one. I envisioned Stove’s Cabin Crew as a community of friends who push through that fear of vulnerability together and come out the other side laughing uncontrollably and loving unconditionally. Friendship, respect, support and fun. They are the foundation of Stove’s. I don’t think you can have successful comedy without them. And I think that’s why I’m drawn to improv, because it is all about support.
Saying goodbye to Stove’s when I graduated was the literal worst. Stove’s was my baby and such a big part of my identity. I took time off from comedy after that because I was bummed. I was also intimidated by the “real world” comedy scene. I thought it would be cut throat and scary and I just wanted to play with my pals. Almost two years went by until I just couldn’t stand it anymore. I felt like a piece of me was missing. I knew I needed to challenge myself to overcome the fear again. So I signed up for Level 1 Improv at The Magnet Theater and I found my post-college Stove’s. Over the next nine months I took three classes and experienced countless moments of joy. The people in this community are some of the kindest, funniest, and most interesting people I have met. I felt like I was part of something special. The Magnet is one of the things I miss the most about New York. It was actually one of the reasons I considered not moving at all. If you are in New York and want to try improv, do yourself a favor and take a class at The Magnet. I gained so much more than improv skills from my time there. To be clear, The Magnet is not paying me to say this, I just really love it. But like, if someone from The Magnet is reading this and y’all want to throw me some change, I wouldn’t say no. Lmk.
It was tough to leave The Magnet, but moving to Chicago meant experiencing first hand the comedy scene that so many of my idols were part of. So naturally, I signed up for a class at The Second City. And once again, I gained more than improved improv skills. I was homesick and lonely and this class was the best part of my week. Improv never fails to deliver on wonderful people and this class was no exception.
When the class ended I was itching for more. So in December I audition for Coached Ensembles, which are groups that perform in four improv shows at The Second City. By the grace of God and my coach Ashley, I was chosen. We’re halfway through our run and that’s why I wanted this month’s blog post to be about improv. Because I am overwhelmed by my gratitude for it. I love it, all of it. The rehearsals and classes where we start to find our groove, the nervous excitement back stage right before we go on, watching my talented teammates do their thing on stage. The adrenaline, the bond, the joy. It’s everything. Improv is everything to me. How lucky I am to have found something that makes me feel whole. Like all of me all at once. It’s strange that I feel the most like myself when I’m on stage playing a jazzercise instructor or a middle aged southern woman spying on her neighbors or even a pirate buying a new TV. But I do.
Thank you to my teachers, teammates and scene mates past and present. You are the reason improv is filled with joy. Also in case you were wondering, I wore that wolf shirt to my first Coached Ensembles show. I’m not sure that freshman at BU would believe one day she’d be wearing that shirt on stage at The Second City. I mean, she’d believe she would still be wearing that shirt for sure. But the rest is a crazy dream come true.