Without Gia’s muck mouth to distract me, I was able to observe just how bad some of my classmates were at Improv. They might argue that I, too, lack the skills of Ferrell and Wiig, but this is my blog, not theirs. Therefore, if my performances were anything less than stellar, I maintain that it was due to the fact that I was working with amateurs. Clearly, I'm kidding. But to provide some perspective, one of my fellow classmates, who I’ll call Helga, speaks in an English dialect that I hadn't heard before the Groundlings. Whenever someone was paired with her for an exercise, it was difficult to react to what Helga said because it was in Germish (German + English). If Helga’s scene partner paused and shot her a confused look, she acted annoyed with him and rolled her eyes as though it were his fault. Uh, sorry Helga, but “frektish“ and “meiter” are not words. Each time that this happened, I started to laugh inappropriately from the audience. For anyone who has had the pleasure of witnessing my laugh, you know that it’s more of a guffaw than a giggle, so I was worried that Helga was going to hear me. Fortunately, I was sitting directly beneath the room's air conditioner, so I think that my laughter was slightly muffled by the noisy unit. Still, to avoid offending any future performers with my outbursts, I decided to start pinching my leg in an effort to curtail my laughter.
Another student, who I’ll call Tyler, appeared to speak perfect English, yet he failed to follow any of the instructor’s directions. This caused me to wonder if he had a hearing issue. Right before Tyler began the second exercise, the instructor explicitly told him not to ask any questions during the scene and to avoid repeating his partner’s lines. Tyler nodded assertively, but then began the scene by asking his partner, “What are you up to?” Just then, I made eye contact with Tyler’s perplexed scene partner and I almost lost it. The partner responded, “I’m just filing some papers.” Tyler replied, “You’re filing papers?” The partner answered, “Yes, I have a lot of work to do since I left early for that party the other day.” Tyler replied, “You went to a party? What party?” The scene went on like this for three excruciating minutes until the instructor finally put us out of our misery by ending it. I don’t think Tyler uttered a single, declarative statement during his entire scene, and my leg now has a purple welt from pinching it for so long.
Throughout this second week of class, I had fallen back into my habit of volunteering to go first for every activity, and my eagerness was about to pay the price. As we started a new partner collaboration exercise, I volunteered at the same time as a student named John, so we became scene partners. I had noticed in previous drills that John perpetually strayed from the storyline that was being developed, and I soon discovered that John’s scene with me would be no exception. In this particular exercise, we were supposed to work together to tell a cohesive and linear story about the setting provided to us by the instructor. We were told to take turns adding a line and to stay within the context of the setting provided. For our scene, we were instructed to tell a story about a fictitious visit to the movie theater the previous day. I started off the story by explaining how I went to the counter to buy a ticket. John responded, “And then you saw a dog outside.” Really?! For his first line, John decided to “stay within the context of the setting” by incorporating a dog that was outside of the theater? Lord knows that I rarely buy a ticket at the movie theater without spotting a dog outside (sarcasm). We spent the next few lines addressing the absurd dog scenario, and then I tried to get us back on track by saying, “And now that the dog was gone, I walked back into the theater.” John responded, “And then the police came to arrest you.” Clearly, this kid was not going to work with me. Once I talked the police out of the scene and had gotten us back inside the theater, John responded, “And then animal control came.” At that point, I gave up completely. Instead of adding anything new to the story, I borrowed from Tyler’s technique and simply restated John’s previous lines in the form of questions. It took the instructor a minute to figure out what I was doing and then he finally stopped the scene (and I made a mental note to avoid doing any future scenes with John).
Approaching the final exercise, I was starting to hope that Gia’s absence would become permanent. Despite the hiccups in our partnering scenes, everyone still seemed to be having a great time and the comedy had remained fairly PG all evening. Since I had volunteered first for the three previous activities, I elected to go last for this final exercise. As I watched my other classmates perform, I was getting pretty excited to participate because this activity provided the performers with very few creative restrictions. When it was finally my turn to go and the instructor asked who in the group hadn’t yet gone, no one else raised their hand. Just then, we realized that Gia’s absence had left us with an odd number of people, so I was going to have to forego this activity. I couldn’t believe that Gia was still managing to negatively impact my experience without even being there. The instructor asked if anyone was willing to go a second time, and when I noticed John starting to raise his hand, I quickly shot down the idea by pointing out to the rest of the class that we were already five minutes over our end time. My friend, Nazim, offered to do the scene with me after class, but at that point I just wanted to go home and ice my throbbing leg.
As we disbanded, I started to wonder if I had been too quick to judge Gia. Sure she was vulgar and odd, but had she been at class tonight, we would have had an even number of people. Then I was struck by an epiphany: Get John to dropout and we’ll be back to even numbers! Yes, that sounds like a better solution. Time to add it to the vision board!