Is there anything in the world that feels better than a good laugh? How about a solid belly laugh combined with the knowledge that you are contributing valuable resources for your community? Yep, that's right = Laughter + Social Outreach, right here in LA!
A few weeks ago, knowing about my impending end-of-a-show-run-blues, I started researching improv classes I could take to sharpen my comedy skills, beef up my resume, and keep my creative juices flowing. The concensus was that UCB, Second City, IO West, Groundlings, ACME, etc, were the big names in Improv... with an equally large price tag attached. Hello, I'm an actor/receptionist/data entrist. It might just be the Slovenian in me, but I was loathe to fork up any cash without assurance that it was 100% worth it.
So I consulted a co-worker, who just happens to be the granddaughter of Viola Spolin (aka The Grandmother of American Improvisational Theatre). She teaches her own workshops and expressed a wariness for both schools and students of improv in LA - it's hard to avoid pyramid scams charging you loads and luring you towards elusive showcase space as well as students who are eager for laughs without learning the craft. I took her suggestion to check out Ed Greenberg, an improv teacher with Laughter for a Change and am so happy (heehee!) I did.
What Ed and other Laughter for a Change mentors do is teach the craft of improv just as diligently as any other school might - but all of the fees for classes go towards social outreach programs such as "The Funny Class" with Pacific Lodge Boys Home, "Comedy in Rwanda," and my personal favourite, "Senior Improv Review," bringing comedy to the chronologically gifted :) In the more advance levels of classes, students can opt to learn to become comedy mentors themselves. PFC, if you ask me!
Three weeks into class, I'm already noticing the positive impact it is having on me. Not only is it wonderful to be back in a learning environment, but reminding myself of comedy basics - listen! learn! agree! yes + and! character! environment! commanding space! etc! - is great practice for auditions, curing social awkwardness, and just being an all around lively, fun person. Last night I got to play a Russian masseuse, a marionette, Evangelist, XXX Shop Clerk, and audience member within a matter of hours. So much fun! And not in the entirely self-indulgent, "fun" either. The class is really about group cooperation, energy, and support - and small enough I get good feedback every time.
If anyone is in the market for Improv classes, I highly recommend checking out Laughter for a Change at their site:
No, I haven't been paid to write this post - just like to share good things when I find em! As always, I'm open for any questions or comments you may have. Thanks for reading and may you have a great big belly laugh + snort soon.