My ability to drown dramatically, after being pushed by one of my daughters into an alligator-infested lake while my other daughter was getting up close and personal with a nest of fire ants, is deficient.
Or so I learned last Sunday at the improv comedy class I’ve been taking with Hartford’s own Sea Tea Improv.
My preferred method of drowning, sinking quietly like a 5′ 2 3/4″ long stone, doesn’t heighten the scene.
I’d signed up for the improv class because I’m woefully short of a sense of humor and this fact had been causing problems in my social life. For example, I’d learned only recently that most people don’t run to answer the door when someone says “knock knock.”
It was a relief to learn, actually, because I could stop calling the neighbor kid’s parents about her pranks. I don’t like talking to those people.
On the first day of class I jumped to the front of the line when our teacher, the wiry, baggy-jeaned, hyper, funny-talking Joe Leonardo, asked for two people to sit down, face each other, and just have a talk. I figured I’d better be first because otherwise I’d be hiding in the back of the class for the remaining seven weeks wishing I was very, very small.
Someone threw out a prompt to get our discussion started – the word “tofu.” That was perfect because I’d recently had an incident with a package of tofu that had exploded in my refrigerator. I’d forgotten it was there and it was far beyond its expiration date. I think it created a little tofu liqueur, which I would have tried if I wasn’t a teetotaler. (I’m a tea totaler, actually. Tea. Totally.)
I learned that improv comedy is basically a series of games with rules. One of the rules is “always make your partner look good,” which would have come in handy when I pointed out to a senior manager that he had used the word “it’s” incorrectly while giving a speech.
Another rule is “yes and.” Basically what that means is that after one of your game partners makes a statement, you don’t contradict them. Instead you say “yes, and…”
For example, my partner might say “My, my, Percival, you surely do look lovely in your striped satin pajamas” and instead of saying “I’m not Percival and my pajamas aren’t satin!” I would say “Yes, and my name isn’t Percival and these are floral flannels.”
We play some games that I don’t think are very inspired. Like in one game we have to offend someone so much that they won’t sit next to us anymore. I don’t think I should have to pay to do something that comes naturally.
In another game four of us are each given a way to die. A “normal” way to die. An “epic” way to die. An “unnatural” way to die. A “Biblical” way to die. And we have to die by the end of the game.
And that’s how I found myself drowning in an alligator-infested lake while one daughter fell into a nest of fire ants, our picnic guest was beset upon by the lake-dwelling alligators, and my other daughter was smote (smited? smitten?) by God.
I’ll be taking that class, and here’s my debut. The heart-wrenching opener to “Julie, the Musical.”
Sea Tea Improv is having a Longform Comedy Showcase this coming Friday, February 24, at the Studio at Billings Forge. I saw the January show. It caused me to laugh.