Sometimes people contact me when they are feeling down about their improv life. I wrote a long response back to one particular query and I have adapted it slightly (with a lot of names and specifics taken out) in the hope that it might be useful to other people going through one of those improv downers.
“I used to get bummed when I wasn't asked to be in stuff, but then I realised that people aren't always thinking about me! On asking, people also assume that I'm constantly busy. Sometimes I am, sometimes I'm not. I've done well from just sucking up my pride and asking when there's something I want to be involved in. I was sad I didn't get asked to do a particular show, but I just mailed them and said it was a great project and I'd be happy to help out if they needed me. I was surprised to discover I was on the list of people they would like to use after the pilot shows. Rather than getting bitter about it, I just said hi and told them how much I liked the idea. A chum was also sore about not being in stuff and she asked why she was never in Geekeasy (the Project2 comedy night for nerds). My response: “What? I had no idea you were interested, come play!" So, the advice is; if you like a show, just say you're excited to see it and if they ever need another player, you'd love to jump in.
I also don't get asked to do the London Improvathon. The year I wanted to do it, I asked to play. It's the same thing as above. Why should they keep 100 improvisers in their heads? People we regard as ‘names’ in improv often ask to do it. If you want to play, put a note in your diary for a few months ahead and ask to be involved next year. But also consider if this - or any show - really is your type of thing. Do you enjoy it, or do you feel like you should do it because it’s a weird kind of career move or networking opportunity? Don’t do it if it feels like you SHOULD. Do it if you think it would be fun.
Picky is good. Appreciate when you have space and downtime, because it's great to reflect and prioritise and soon you'll go through a busy time again.
Make a plan of how many nights you'd like to rehearse and do shows, then keep that time free till you find or create the right project. In acting and improv land, things often come along with no warning and it’s good to be available.
I don't think it's helpful to compare ourselves to one another. You just have to do things that excite you and push your improv in the direction that you want to go. I used to struggle to be validated in our improv community, but now I just do nerd stuff that makes me happy. Who Ya Gonna Call? (our Ghostbusters musical) had the remit of being an Edinburgh show just for fun while the cast were all doing 'real' projects up there. Of course, it turned out to be one of the most successful Edinburgh shows I've ever done. Geekeasy is just for kicks with my buds and it’s a happy bonus when it leads to other stuff. You can't reverse-engineer those things (well, perhaps you can, but it's very hard work and the opposite of following your joy).
Remember; EVERYONE has these neuroses. Different people have just created different coping mechanisms.
I read a great article recently that says when we are feeling anxious, we put more work and stress in to try and solve it. Actually, it is suggested that the best cure is to sit back, let the anxiety pass and stop trying to do things about it.
I would give you a compliment as an ego-boost, but you don't need my validation.
Relax, you're on the right path.”
About the Author:
Katy is a London-based improviser. If you want more, listen to Destination, the improvised podcast, come see a live show, or take an improv class. Thanks for reading!