Why People Leave Improv & Why Others Stay

(Can’t believe I’m still in it all these years.)

I’ve seen a lot of people come and go to the improv life these past 10 years.

Everybody comes to it for a different reason, and everybody expects a certain type of outcome from it.

Somebody thinks their funny, so they figure improv will be easy.

Another dude has always wanted to be a comedian, so they choose improv as their way of breaking in to fame and fortune.

Someone else is socially awkward, and they look to improv to heal them of this affliction.

Whatever the reason people come to improv, I’m always surprised that people leave it.

They realize being funny with your group of friends isn’t as easy when working with strangers in front of other strangers.

They lose patience with the time it takes to get good and walk away because of frustration.

They try it, realize it’s not what they expected and cut their losses ASAP.

People leave for a million different reasons.

For me, improv has been everything.

Although I don’t revere it as a religion — I’m not one to champion one improv style over the other, nor claim my improv style as the best one — it’s given me all the things a religion would give you: deep and meaningful relationships, a community of kindred spirits and fellow travelers, an identity rooted from within, a sense of place in the universe and a meaning to my life.

I think if you come to it expecting fast rewards delivered to you on your time table, it will disappoint you.

Improv will reward you. And in ways you don’t expect. But you have to give it time. You have to be kind and patient. Not only with yourself, but with the process and the people sharing the journey with you.

So if you want to be rich and famous, good luck with that; I’m still figuring it out

But if you want to discover a part of yourself you didn’t know you had; if you want to make some deep and impactful relationships that will add meaning and purpose to your life; if you just want have the time of your life doing one of the most fulfilling and joy giving activities one can ever do, do improv.

Do improv and see what rewards it has in store for you.


The Improv Life: What Would’ve Happened Had I Not Chosen This Life 10 Years Ago

Once we choose a path, it’s hard to turn back.

A Powerful Dream Of A Life Not Lived

I had a very powerful dream the other night where I dreamt of how my life would’ve been had I not chosen improv over love 10 years ago.

It wasn’t a cinematic dream with Michael Bay helicopter shots or music from John Barry playing during poignant moments.

It was a slice of my life had I chosen love over being a comedian.

I was married with four kids, two who were not my own, to a woman who loved me less than I loved her.

Basically, she settled for me, and that was a victory for me.

I worked two jobs, a white collar 9-5, and some catering staff on the weekends. We were broke but happy. And we lived in a big house I had organized.

However, I was exhausted, and I was a shitty father because of it. I was a bad son too because I had not seen my parents in a while. I had but all abandoned my sister.

I was visited in the dream by two friends who have been pivotal to my improv journey, and I to theirs.

But we weren’t friends. We were strangers. We were strangers who immediately liked each other, but did not know why.

In the dream neither of us were doing improv. No where near it in fact.

One friend was selling stainless Steel Japanese kitchen knives door to door. He was an excellent salesmen, and I invited him in for coffee and chatted him up. My wife did not like him, so I dismissed him. I did buy some knives though. I was left wanting more however.

Another friend I didn’t even meet in person. He was playing in my kitchen television, a headline in a CNN segment. It read, “YouTube Star Nearly Dies In Drug O.D.” He looked sad and lost. My heart sank as I felt for this stranger I had just met for the first time.

The dream ended with my wife telling me to turn off the TV and get ready to visit my parents.

The dream has stayed with me some days, and I have not been able to shake it away from my consciousness. 

Dreams are more intense for me as I am Salvadoran. Growing up, dreams were discussed out in the open and shared with the family. 

Dreams were valid and respected and warranted interpretation if you were to go about your day unimpeded. 

So what is the interpretation of this dream? 

Important fact: September will be my 10 year anniversary of doing improv. 

Here’s what I think the dream meant: There is room for only so many people in your life, and by choosing some you are immediately disqualifying others. 

The paths we choose come with people who will impact our journeys, and we to theirs. And for some people, you are more important to their journey than you know and imagine. 

And that this artform we all love and suffered for is just some larger force that brings people together in a way no other thing can. 

It doesn’t have to be improv. It could be power lifting, comics, or rock’n’roll. It’s something whose shared love can bridge the gap between two strangers and turn them into life long friends.

I also think it means that some people are meant to be in our lives. That some people are just that important to our journey; without them we would not become the awesome human beings were meant to be.

Finally, I think it was a confirmation that I made the right choice nearly 10 years ago. 

Yes, I loved this woman, but she didn’t love me back with the same force. She would’ve settled for me because it was the path of least resistance. But it wouldn’t be a love that would’ve aged well.

With improv, despite all the bullshit that comes with it, there has never been a day that I have regretted this decision. 

Nothing beyond family, friendship, writing, and school has brought me more joy. And a lot of those aforementioned things all had improv in there somewhere. I chose improv because it was a path with a heart. And in this big unpredictable world, this long and meandering march to death, all we have is a path with a heart.



X-Men & Improv

I think I joined
An improv team
Because it was the closest
I could ever get
To being on the X-Men

The X-Men are outcasts
Banding together
To serve a world
That hates and fears them

The work is hard
And the rewards are meager
But the bonds
That are formed
In the struggle
Are what make
Every single battle worth it

Same goes for an improv team
Bad shows in front of cold audiences
“Do you get paid” questions
From relatives who want you to sell out
Enough money for gas or food
But not both
Normies confusing improv for stand up
“Tell me a joke” they always ask
Explaining your life choices
To adult friends
With zero sense of humor
Always peppering in
“It’s like whose line”
To explain to someone
Who has no f****** clue
What improv is

This is all made bearable
By people who understand the struggle
People who just get it
Because they got to deal
With the same shit

To find people
Who understand your pain
Embrace your peculiarities
And just love your weird
That they want more of it
That’s what it feels like to
Be on a good improv team

And that’s probably
What it feels like
To be an X-Man



Happy Birthday, Josh Heimendinger 

Poem 65

I think the

Measure of a man

Is how much

He is willing

To give of himself

To the world
And you

Josh Heimendinger

Have given yourself

To the world
You’re a family man

Who loves his wife and daughter

Whose also a big brother

To an improv community

That loves and holds you dear
When so many others

Have chosen to coast

On the efforts of others

You have chosen

To get out and push
You have chosen

To do the

Hard and necessary work

To keep

The Specs Community alive
You have chosen service

Over being a bystander

You have chosen building

Over criticizing

You have chosen others

Over your self
You have given

So much of yourself

That the rest of us

Have an excellent model

To follow
You’re my brother

And I love you

Not because I

Say that to be nice
I say that

Because we’ve been

In the trenches together

Giving our life force

To this great art form

And this great community

That has given our lives

Purpose and joy
Happy Birthday, brother


Why Empathy Is An Improviser’s Super Power 

Why Empathy Is An Improviser’s Super Power

By Fernando A. Funes

Knowing how to read people’s emotions is amazing, and it’s what separates okay improvisers from the greats.

Being able to read my scene partner’s emotional state allows me to respond appropriately.

Unless my partner tells me what he wants me to do in a scene, or there was some type of premise generator (like a monologue) for us to have a shared bank of ideas to pull from, all I have is my ability to emotionally read my scene partner.

And this ability transfers over to real life too.

The other day I was at Target looking for heat pads for my low back pain. 
I saw the store manager right at the entrance. 

As I approached him, I saw him barking orders to two big security guards as they monitored the front registers of the store.

Obviously this wasn’t a good time to ask him for help. Maybe he was looking for a thief, or something had triggered him to that high level alertness.

Another cashier was in the area with a look of concern on her face.

Whatever was going on, the vibe he was giving out was for all the employees to be alert.

I don’t know if this is true; this is just the feeling I got from the situation, and it was all in a matter of seconds.

Not that anybody else could not read his agitated state. For me, it was just instant — there was no question that I had no business asking this guy for help.

It’s weird having this ability to read people’s emotions so quickly.

It’s almost like Spider-Man’s Spidey Sense. Spidey-Sense is Spider-Man’s warning system. It alerts him when danger is imminent and that he has to take immediate action if he’s going to avoid danger.

Spider-Man can sense when a car is being thrown at him by Dr. Octopus or whomever. His Spidey-Sense kicks in and he takes immediate action.

Although it begins automatic and unconscious, once he starts doing the action — dodging a car — he becomes conscious and aware of what’s going on, and he continues to avoid danger.

For improvisers, maybe our ability to read people’s emotions is our Spidey Sense — we’re able to read people’s current emotional states and we then know how to treat them.

We can read facial gestures, posture, and other physical cues to surmise how a person is feeling — and we can do it relatively fast (maybe even faster than the non-improviser?) and that’s what makes us above average in emotional intelligence.

I’m not saying other people can’t do this (empathy is easier for some than others); I’m just saying that improvisers have this trait honed and developed more than your average person.

And like Spider-Man, it’s not like an improviser can turn off their empathy. It’s active at all times of the day. Whether I’m at work, the grocery, or wherever, I can read people’s emotional states.

And if someone needs some empathy, and I can give it to them, I’ll do my best. 

Sometimes someone is going through a shitty day and they just need someone to vent to. I’m down with that.

Sometimes, though, I can’t give the empathy they need because I’m in a rush, I have somewhere to be. 

Or sometimes, I lack the patience to listen and not judge and just accept. Plus, I’m not a therapist.

But hey, when I can, I listen and I empathize. I don’t know if a lot of improvisers are this way.

Conclusion: empathy is a super power that improvisers have because of the demand of their art form. 

It allows us to emotionally connect and understand what others are going through (to a certain extent), and because of that heightened ability, it’s one of the things that improvisers have that your non-improviser doesn’t have. It’s always nice to give empathy, but you can’t always give it. 

Therefore, if you’re in a position where you can give it, do it because you’ll probably be helping someone out.

If you dug this post, would you mind liking it and sharing or pressing one of the share buttons below? Thanks

Fernando A. Funes