Nonfatal Embarrassment

Improv

Image courtesy of Stew Dean. Licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Recently, I’ve been taking an improv class. When I tell people about this, it sometimes seems to strike them as slightly adventurous, which makes me laugh. I am anxious about many, many things in the world, but never has being on stage been one of them. Heights, my own failure, smalltalk? Yes. Stage? No.

So, when I graduated, I decided that I needed a hobby that wasn’t drinking beer or crying on cars (an actual search term that led someone to this blog today–hello, whoever you are!), I settled on two things that I already knew I liked: class, and theater. The fact that I am not a particularly good actor (and am by far a worse improvisor) was immaterial. I dropped a chunk of my paycheck, and got myself a slot at Dad’s Garage for the next eight weeks.

Three classes in, I can say that I’m pleased with my decision. I’m firmly in the bottom quartile of the class in terms of skill, but I’m trying to build adult skills like not wanting to vomit on my shoes in embarrassment every time I do something asinine. Improv class is great for building your realization that–to paraphrase Merlin Mann–if you screw up, it’s okay, because no one’s going to eat you.

I was telling all of this to two of my friends on Friday night in the middle of drinking a mid-range hefeweizen, when I looked up from my seat and nearly spat out my beer. Standing next to my booth was my improv teacher. This shouldn’t have come as a shock, given that we were maybe two miles from the theater where I am taking the class, but it was still unexpected.

However, he didn’t seem to hear me say, “That dude’s my improv teacher!” (I am all about Conveying With Words), and the table’s discussion move on to other things once my friends had exhausted their obligation to pretend to be all that interested in my newfound hobby.

I had forgotten about this until–as we passed by the bar’s window on our way to our next establishment–my friends pointed out that the man was (as polite people do) waving at me. Pleased to be recognized and perhaps slightly inebriated, I waved back enthusiastically. And then–the part that still makes me cringe inwardly–I pretended to ski.

As part of our warmup exercises for this class, each student goes around the room making a gesture and saying their name. The gestures stay the same each week–mine is a rather put-upon and poorly-mimed typing gesture. A graphic designer in the class mimes painting, a bass player does an (excellent) air-bass, etc. The improv teacher–presumably because he enjoys skiing–mimes that.

Unfortunately, I have never been skiing. And I had been drinking. And I am an awkward, awkward human being. Which meant, as I mimed the skis of inside jokery, I was met with a blank look.

Y’all, I could have been struck dead with embarrassment.

Thankfully, however, I wasn’t. Instead, my friends hauled me off to another bar for more beer (and Mexican food!), and–when I headed to class today–the teacher did not mention the incident. Whether this is because he was being polite, or because he had forgotten it had occurred, the point remains that my embarrassment was not only nonfatal, it wasn’t even a blip on the radar of things that mattered this week. And if I learn nothing else from this class, internalizing that will be worth it.

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7 thoughts on “Nonfatal Embarrassment

  1. You’re half my age and ten times braver. Just the thought of enrolling in an improv class makes me want to hurl. Sadly, when you reach my age, those embarrassing moments are the ones you’re quickest to recall. Embrace them!

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