6 Reasons Improv Is The Most Beautiful Form Of Public Humiliation

by Samantha Scholefield

I get it.

For most people, improv typically fits nicely into that section of their memories labeled, “Traumatizing Things I Was Forced To Do In High School.”

Absolutely nothing good came out of your failed attempt at an Oprah Winfrey impression.

It’s unnatural.

It's also pretty narcissistic to assume you’re witty enough to entertain people with every thought that comes to mind.

But I think the world could use more self-love.

Public speaking is the most common phobia in the country, and improv could wipe the floor with public speaking.

Take away the podiums, throw out your notecards and forget about your carefully memorized speech.

Then, add in the promise of comedic relief, and you’ve got improv.

It’s a pretty sadistic concept, but it’s also my first love and the reason I know I’m worth being loved in return.

I understand improv is scary: I do it professionally, and I'm still terrified.

But I challenge you to try it.

These are all the lessons it has taught me so far, and all the reasons I'm grateful for the most beautiful form of public humiliation:

1. Embrace the awkward.

In order to truly succeed at improv, you have to throw out any fear of looking stupid.

There is no way to look sexy while you’re pretending to be a three-legged cow in a blizzard, so you’re forced to let go of the notion that you always have to be the best-looking person in the room.

You can’t deprive the world of a genius character just because there’s a chance no one will laugh, in the same way you can't give up on something just because there's a possibility of failure.

Every single day, there is a really good chance we are going to make fools of ourselves.

But we still need to get out of bed and try something bold.

Improv taught me that if you hold back, you may be the coolest person in the room.

But you’ll never be the star of the show.

2. Your wit is sexier than your waist.

It is far more rewarding to impress people with your humor than it is to turn heads with your looks.

I know this because in all my years of modeling and being told I was “pretty enough” to get paid to wear a dress, I never once felt as beautiful as I did the first time someone told me I made him or her cry from laughing too hard.

Improv gave me a greater appreciation for my mind and the ideas I brought to the table.

No one comes to your show to see you in a mini skirt.

People come to hear what you have to say.

It's the most powerful thing I’ve ever been a part of.

3. Promise yourself that you are brilliant.

You have to trust yourself in improv, or else, you’ll never jump into a scene.

You need to believe in your own capabilities. You have to trust that even if you fall on your face, you are witty enough to rebound.

What if we woke up every day with enough trust in ourselves to make the world seem just a little more conquerable?

4. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

It takes a lot more than embarrassment to ruin your life.

I’ve told a lot of bad jokes in front of a lot of people I wanted to impress, and I know for a fact the world didn’t end.

Improv taught me that even if you make a mistake so big it can’t be repaired, there is always another show.

There is always tomorrow.

5. You're not weird.

When you’re in comedy, you are forced to show people those really dusty, creepy corners of your mind that you are supposed to be ashamed of.

Trust this from someone who has publicly performed the contents of those dusty corners: There is nothing greater than being loved by some of the people who saw that performance.

I’ve been trained to tell my secrets and turn my heart inside out.

Your best performance (or your best shot) will come from the most honest version of yourself.

6. There's no judgement.

Performing improv is like falling in love: It’s blind.

For the entire length of that scene, you are no longer bound by your appearance.

Anyone can come out on stage and call him- or herself the prom queen because every improviser is faceless until told otherwise.

That means for five minutes, you get to be free of your acne scars and horrible haircut.

For five minutes, no one can limit you to your looks.

Every day, I try to make those five minutes last a little longer.

Eventually, I hope to exist within them.