I was a bit anxious when I showed up for my first class last night. I had heard rumblings about how strange and eccentric the people enrolled in these classes can be (look who’s talking), so I was pleasantly surprised by how nice and normal everyone appeared to be when I arrived. We spent the first hour going through basic ice-breakers, led by our instructor, Kris, who is a cross between Sarah Chalke (Scrubs) and Kristen Bell. Kris has been involved with Groundlings for over five years, and her friendly demeanor and hysterical banter instantly put everyone at ease. We were having a great time getting to know one another, but then Gia arrived…
Gia came in about thirty minutes late and didn’t bother offering an explanation for her tardiness. My first impression of her was that she was channeling 90s grunge and probably hadn’t showered in days. Kris informed Gia that she had missed the background exercise in which we stated our name, where we were from, divulged something interesting about ourselves and a reason for deciding to take classes at Groundlings. In a cadence reminiscent of one of the Kardashians (the way that they talk drives me crazy), Gia responded, “Let’s see. My name’s Gia. I’m from…” I forget where Gia’s from, but I’m not looking to visit anytime soon. “Something interesting…I have psoriasis.” Gia then lifted her arms and proudly showed off her scaly elbows. I must have had a look of disgust on my face because the person sitting directly across from me started to laugh. When Kris prompted Gia to tell us why she had chosen the Groundlings, Gia replied, “Because every other class was full.” I shifted my focus from her arms to her face to see if she was teasing, but she was dead serious. Kris responded, “OK well thanks for your honesty!” Despite Gia’s negative attitude, I was determined not to let her spoil this experience for me.
For the next two hours, we went through basic improv exercises that we all participated in as a large group. Most of them involved telling various stories in which everyone added a word to complete the story. Every time that it was Gia’s turn to add a word, she seemed determined to say the most bizarre thing that came to mind, and her words often had gross connotations that left the rest of the group cringing. While Gia was hell-bent on shocking everyone, I was focused on keeping my energy in check. I often tend to get overly excited in large groups and it appears that I’m competing to be the loudest person in the room. It’s totally unintentional…I’m just a very animated person who likes having an audience. I realize that some people find this characteristic annoying, so when I sensed that I was becoming louder and talking more frequently than Kris, I took a breather.
For the final group exercise, Kris told us that we were going to pass around an invisible object, and each one of us had to add something to the object before passing it on. Kris asked us to please keep it clean and avoid putting something obscene on the object (I think that this comment was heavily directed at Gia). Kris started us off by saying that she was passing a “beautiful painting” to the student next to her. That student then passed “a beautiful painting in a green frame” to Gia. Gia turned to the student next to her and said, “Here’s a beautiful picture in a green frame that’s painted in my menstrual blood.” OK. Clearly Kris’ instructions hadn’t sunk in. Now it takes a lot to embarrass me, but when Gia said that, I turned red and had to physically turn away from the group to regain my composure. For the next thirty minutes, we had to keep passing around this picture that was allegedly painted in Gia’s menstrual blood. Some of the more polite students who were too embarrassed to use Gia’s crass description simply abbreviated it, saying, “And it’s painted in GMB.” Needless to say, I think we all breathed a sigh of relief when that exercise had ended.
For the final thirty minutes, we took turns getting up in front of the classroom in groups of four to do one last exercise. Since I had volunteered to go first for almost every other activity, I decided to wait to participate with the second group. When it was time for the second foursome to come to the front of the classroom, I noticed Gia starting to stand. I quickly sat back down, causing the student seated next to me to ask why I didn’t want to go up. I calmly replied, “I’m a little scared of Gia.” The student burst out laughing, which made me laugh, and I ended up missing the second group’s performance because I was so focused on containing my laughter.
After my group had performed the final exercise, Kris instructed everyone to stand up and join us in the front of the classroom. Since I was already standing in position, I couldn’t really dictate who would be next to me. As luck would have it, Gia decided to saunter right over to me. Kris then asked us to form a tight circle, and with thoughts of Gia’s rashes and menstrual blood running through my head, I did my best to inconspicuously maneuver my body to avoid any direct contact with her. I was successful until the last ten seconds when Gia’s entire body brushed up against mine as the circle was being disbanded. I found this contact more horrific than when my car scraped the garage gate two days earlier.
After class, I walked a fellow student to her car because she was nervous about walking solo in this part of LA. Strolling back to my car, I crossed paths with Gia, who seemed content passing me without saying a word. I turned around and shouted, “Have a good night, Gia! Great meeting you tonight!” She looked back and smiled, and then like two ships passing in the night, we went our separate ways. Hopefully forever. The moment I reached my car, I pulled out my cell phone and asked my trusted advisor, Siri, if psoriasis was contagious. Although she insisted it was not, I proceeded to the shower immediately after I got home and compulsively scrubbed my arms in the manner of Howard Hughes. So what’s the takeaway from all this? Don’t be afraid to try new things, but remember to wear long sleeves!