When I started taking classes at The Improv Shop, there were just six longform shows you could see in St. Louis each month.
There was The Lab on Monday nights, featuring the experimental work of a handful of independent teams and there was Longform Night (not even Harold night at that point), showcasing the work of teams that had graduated the training program.
At that time, I could boast that I went to EVERY longform show. It was the fastest way to accelerate my own learning, and I wanted to support all of my new friends. It wasn’t hard to dedicate every Monday night and every other Thursday to improv, especially considering I was in my last semester of college without much in the way of responsibilities.
In the last two years, things have changed.
In her interview Tuesday, Jill Bernard said, “Improv is always going to overflow its cup. If you make more opportunities for improvisers, they fill up those opportunities and create a need for more.” And that has certainly been happening in St. Louis.
Now, if you’re so inclined, you can see six shows at The Improv Shop in a single week. You can also catch longform at a number of other venues, like at Compass Improv’s Open Court Jam or the Blind Tiger’s Wild Card Comedy night.
The only downside is that it’s impossible to attend every longform show while still having a life outside of watching improv. People in huge comedy cities like Chicago, New York, and LA know this well. They wouldn’t dare try to see every show in a week. It’s possible newcomers at our theater understand this as well.
It’s possible that I am just a neurotic weirdo.
Having discovered improv at a time when it was possible to see every show, when my friends (and I use friends loosely…basically people in improv I’ve had a conversation with or whose work I respect…so everyone) are performing and I elect not to go, I feel guilty.
And it’s not just improv people that suffer from this problem. We all do. When we’re asked to any event, whether that’s a show, party, or even just dinner – we have to say no to something else, even if that something else was just time we wanted to spend on the couch recharging from a long week.
We cannot be everywhere all the time. We’re just one person with limited energy and resources.
I recently stumbled upon this interesting article about shy people. It argued that they tend to look back negatively on past social interactions when, in reality, the other person or people thought the interaction was totally normal. The blog post said this disconnect happens because shy people are overly focused on their own contribution and obsess over tiny personal missteps no one else noticed.
Saying “no, but…” to something can feel similar. You feel guilt, but like these shy people, you’re overly focsuing on your own importance. Unfortunately for narcissists like me, unless you’re turning down an invite to an intimate get together, most people won’t realize you’re missing. They’re too busy thinking about themselves, and you’re overly estimating your own importance.
This guilt is definitely something I’m still working on.
But you should stop feeling bad when you can’t go to everything. Go to the shows, or events, or parties you can, the ones that excite and interest you most or the ones that involve your best friends. And when you can’t go to everything because you have a life, other interests, and other responsibilities, don’t sweat it. Just remember, it’s all in your dumb, self-important head.
Exciting news! I’m Making All This Up will be running its FIRST EVER IMPROV WORKSHOP. So here’s the pitch. We all know two person scenes are the foundation of any good longform show. And whether you love Harolds or monoscenes, we could all stand to get a little better at our two-man scene work. If you’re in Level 3 at The Improv Shop or above, then click here to sign up for It Takes Two, and learn how to do two person scenes more good than you already do them.