I did my first day at Second City in Toronto today.
This, for me, is a huge accomplishment. I’m generally pretty nervous around new people and I begin to stutter a bit and lower my speaking voice to a near-whisper. That’s when I feel every ounce of confidence leave my body.
On top of my nervousness, I was about 15 minutes late. There was more traffic than anticipated and the hour and a half I gave myself to drive (what is typically an hour drive) wasn’t enough. Coming in late put the focus on me for that moment. Not a great start.
After a while of introductions, I started to feel comfortable. Our exercises were strange and would normally be awkward but in this environment they were surprisingly enjoyable. I’d imagine this is because we’re all on a level playing field. Since we’re all acting silly it makes us all so vulnerable. No judgement can come in an environment where we’re all doing the same thing.
Judgement must be the reason that people are shy. Well, I know it is for me. My conscious mind tells me that it doesn’t matter what people think. I don’t care. My subconscious won’t let me venture to a point where there’s a possibility of being judged though. I really don’t care though. I think this has to do with my natural personality being spontaneous and talkative.
Background story: When I started high school I was on top of the world. I met everyone before most people got a chance to make any new friends. The next year though, I stopped talking to everyone because I realized that I’ve turned into something awful. I had pushed away close friends from elementary school and become something of a bully. I didn’t want to be part of “that” group so my solution was to stop talking to everyone. After all, when I left my mean friends after being mean to everyone else, who would’ve liked me? I guess that ever since then I’ve been in the subconscious mindset that people won’t like me. I have a good feeling Second City will erase this unrealistic fear of judgement.
Anyways, for our last hour we were supposed to go up one at a time in front of the other students and pretend to be an expert on a subject chosen by the audience. The audience would ask the person questions about the subject and they would have to make up answers on the spot. My nervousness kicked into full gear. My mind went blank and I couldn’t even think of any questions to ask the other students as they went up. I hoped that the class would end before I went up.
“Mike, your turn,” the teacher said, noticing that I had been hiding at the back and not participating. I was to be an expert on islands. What?! What is there to know about islands? My mind was a blank slate while I was up there, but my mouth was moving. I still can’t figure out fully what I said. Something about whale workers holding up islands as a job because islands aren’t attached to anything. And apparently the pronunciation was changed from is-land, to eye-land because is-land sounded too much like Islam. Before I knew it I was done and heading back to my seat.
I did it! I got a few laughs, but I don’t think it was as funny as the other ones. I didn’t mind because the purpose was mainly to think of responses on the spot and I did just that. While at the moment I felt a bit overwhelmed to be up there, I’m glad I did it and I’m excited to go back next week!
My point with this post is that if you ever find yourself in my situation, being shy and considering improv, you should just go for it. It’s a very nurturing environment and you will feel comfortable in no time. Life is too short to not try the things you want to do.
…Come to think of it, I recommend improv for everyone. (No, this isn’t an advertisement for Second City. I really believe this)