I’m Improv(is)ing

In my freshman year at Miami, a Sketch group, appropriately named “Sketched Out,” was formed. Although I was aware, I was busy being a freshman and did not partake in this extra curricular activity. However, in the next school year (my sophomore year) the student who had founded Sketched Out was busy and left the organization in the hands of students who were fine at Sketch writing but were more improvisers. In fact, they now perform improv professionally in Chicago and have no idea I’m writing something vaguely about them soooo HI LADIES! Anyways, that year “Sketched Out” went from a Sketch Group to a little bit Sketch and a little bit Improv. One of the chicks in charge was loud, vulgar, and she scared the shit out of me [and I bet she finds that funny if she’s reading this] but I still joined the group despite how intimidated I was. I had done a bit of improv in high school so I had some experience;  it wasn’t totally new to me but it still terrified me. In fact, it was my “improv skills” that lead me to get cast in my high school’s elite Drama Ensemble my sophomore year (as I found out from the teacher a few years later). Impressive, eh? I know not really. Back to college improv:
Our once-a-week meetings were half improv exercises and half pitching sketches. Throughout the semester we were developing a Sketch show called “Iraqtile Dysfunction.” A show that ended up about as insane and hilarious as it sounds. It was extremely fun, poorly rehearsed, and random as hell… I can’t even explain it. We did a sketch about how WalMart sells caskets. I remember I volunteered to make a playbill for the show and all of the older students thought I was crazy because Sketch shows do not require playbills. Here is an image:

I blurred out the headshots cuz I know some ppl don't want that on my blog lol

I blurred out the headshots cuz I know some ppl don’t want that on my blog lol

And that was my first college experience with Improv (and Sketch).

The following year, my junior year, Sketched Out was passed down again – this time to a guy who was purely an improviser. So, that’s the year “Sketched Out” became an improv troupe. And that was the year I fell in love with it. It was in such high demand that the “leaders” had to hold auditions for members. Luckily, I made the cut. Doing improv still scared me to death but there was simultaneously nothing more thrilling. I was particularly good at the short-form rap games (mostly coming up with an improvised rhyming rap lyric while competing against other ensemble members). I was neither good nor very comfortable with long form at first but in those 2 years, I definitely improved. I was working with inspiring people who made me better. My Sketched Out peers were (and are) so smart and cultured and in touch with the world around us. There would be times someone would throw out a suggestion and I would have no idea who/what it was. And no one ever (really) judged me for not knowing. They were all way too supportive. And let’s not forget witty. They were all too witty.
Sketched Out quickly gained traction on campus; By the end of my senior year our shows would be so full that people would beg to sit on the floor and stand in the back (and we let them despite possible fire code violations, shhh). Fellow troupe members and myself would be randomly recognized, “Oh, are you in Sketched Out? Cool, I saw your show last week – you’re SO FUNNY!” And it was funny to us because we were just a bunch of nerds/weirdos/and one frat dude making all these people, whom we thought we couldn’t relate to, laugh.
After my departure from Miami, Sketched Out has grown even more popular… like the members are basically celebrities and they go teach kids in the business school how to be cool and stuff… it’s a big deal.

I don’t think I was ever happier than when I was hanging with or performing with Sketched Out. Here’s something I wrote in a bio about Sketched Out after graduation:

When I reminisce about college, Sketched Out is one of the first things I think about. I really miss everything about it. I miss the practices and doing truly crazy stuff and not caring what was going to happen. I miss doing musical improv and singing versus that either didn’t make sense or were some sort of inside joke. I miss those celebrity guessing games and how some members could always guess who they were right away and how others could NEVER figure it out. I miss how indecisive we were about what our monthly show posters were going to look like. I MISS LIVE GAMES OF DODORUNRAP AND HOW ANNIE, JOSEPH, AND I WOULD ALWAYS KILL EACH OTHER TO WIN. But I mostly miss our performances and having such a supportive audience. Live Laughter. The Best.
Some of my most shining moments and best memories come from Sketched Out. It taught me to simply be myself and to get out there, knowing that even if I fall flat on my face, there are still people rooting for me.”

I graduated in May 2012 and for two whole years I haven’t felt completely like myself. I mean, things have been great and I love my life here, but it just felt like something was missing. And then one day in May (this year) I went on the UCB (Upright Citizens Brigade) website and I signed up for a class.

The UCB Improvisation Manual. Yes. They have a book. It teaches you things!!

The UCB Improvisation Manual. Yes. They have a book. It teaches you things!!

I took Improv 101 at UCB and it was SO different from everything I did in Sketched Out. I’m not sayin’ I ever thought I was the queen of improv or anything but it was definitely a humbling experience. I was used to the short form games, getting caught in traps of playing dumb and using irony… that’s how I did things in Sketched Out. UCB is structured very differently and I learned so much in the 4 weeks (8 classes) I was there.
UCB uses a tight and specific structure that works, that’s why it’s an accredited school. So many hilarious performers were trained there: Amy Poehler (one of the founders), Aziz Ansari, Aubrey Plaza, Donald Glover, Ellie Kemper… just to name a few.
I’m still learning to love the structure (because of the freedom that came in my 3 years with Sketched Out) but I do plan on taking Improv 201 to see how it goes. And even though I feel that way, I still feel like a huge void in my life has been filled.

I met some pretty awesome and hilarious people in class; People who really challenged what improv means to me. I worked really hard and made sure to have fun. I got back in touch with a side of myself I hadn’t seen in a while. And being back on stage for the first time in years – although it was absolutely terrifying – was the most at peace I’ve felt since living in NYC. Like, “yeah, this feels right… I think.”

While I was performing in college, I didn’t quite realize how happy it made me. My class was the happiest 4 weeks I had in a while and I’m looking forward to continuing the journey.


(Below: Some peeps from my Improv class when we rehearsed in Central Park, Grace’s pic of me post UCB improv performance)