Updated: Sep 17
Profiling people who have discovered the secret healing power of improv comedy.
This series will break new ground by putting the spotlight on the incredible power of improv comedy to heal minds and souls. Our brains were not designed to live in the modern world. Sedentary jobs doing mind numbing repetitive tasks. Sedentary personal lives, watching TV and movies, playing video games, expressing ourselves and interacting through social media. Our ancestors left home, interacted with others belly to belly every day. And our brains, our social hardwiring, was balanced to thrive in those conditions. We need more than social stimulation and interaction to feel fulfilled. We need to be challenged - to overcome - in order to grow.
Truth is, the easier technology makes our lives, the harder it gets to feel fulfilled.
What makes comedy improv training so special?
It's not the performing on stage part - though many enjoy it so much they continue their journey until they get in front of audiences. Many of the people who you may have seen performing improv here or there, are introverts, who started out terrified of the idea of getting on a stage with no script and no direction.
There was a poll once that showed the only thing people fear more than death, is public speaking.
So though this exemplifies the POWER of comedy improv, it isn't performing that's powerful, it's the journey that proceeds it - It's the training. Here's the top two reasons why...
Mindfulness: As Dean says in the trailer above, anxiety lives in the past... "Why didn't I say this," or "Why didn't I say that." And it lives in the future. "What if I blow the test?" or "What if she rejects me?" Part of the training in improv is to be mindful, to stay in the moment. There are many types of training that direct you to do this, meditation, yoga, etc. The difference is with improv, since its social and interactive, YOU HAVE NO CHOICE. You need to stay mindful to participate. You need to LISTEN to function in the environment the training creates. This simple fact, I've come to call, is like a defibrillator for your brain. It shocks you into a more natural environmental rhythm. It puts you more in line with our shared communal past, unleashing all the natural chemical benefits our brains can bestow upon us when it is in harmony and in its hard-wired comfort zone.
Social reinforcement: This cannot be understated. In life, so many people - in school or workplaces - make themselves feel good by making others feel bad. That's part of our evolutionary past as well. How we deal with these people is key to our emotional growth and well being. This hasn't changed, but add to this, online socialization as opposed to in person and how easy its become to avoid problems, to distract from real life issues, and mental health ailments become endemic and mounting. Avoidance disrupts the normal growth process of our brains, especially when we're young, and leads to even greater anxiety and sometime depression. Comedy improv training is a physical space where the emphasis is reversed. In an improv comedy class, just like as needed on stage when performing, classmates are trained to HAVE EACH OTHER'S BACK. If a brain freeze happens on stage your colleague will jump in and fill the air time. It builds community and trust. Also in class you are encouraged to say the stupidest stuff and rewarded when you do. In school or work we often contain our jokes in case we're laughed at for them or they're turned against us - we're afraid to be embarrassed. Improv training pushes us to embarrass ourselves over and over and that process builds our self confidence and increases our ability to successfully socialize.