Wednesday, May 4, 2011
A few years ago at the Skinny Improv we had a guy named Shad from iO (formerly Improv Olympic) come down to train us for a weekend intensive. It was very informative in a lot of ways. Yet, probably the biggest thing I took from it was his suggestion of a book to read for improv. The book, The Inner Game of Tennis, is not an improv book at all, but actually a book about from the ’70s on the mental side of tennis. I found it second hand on Amazon for cheap.
It is one of my favorite books ever.
The book translates nicely for improv, my dad is a tennis coach, and I grew up playing so the tennis examples made sense too. In tennis, the mental side of things is very apparent as most of a tennis match takes place between points and players tend to wear their mental anguish on their sleeves.
The basic premise of the book is that we have two selves working within us, what Timothy Gallway, the author, calls Self 1 and Self 2. Self 1 is concerned with the mechanics of things, judging if we are doing good or bad, and is mostly critical. Self 2 is more of a natural learner, the side of us that flows more easily, and if we let it, can be much smarter than Self 1. We tend to just trust Self 1 and dismiss Self 2.
It’s perfect for improv. People have often asked me how we can be so quick on stage and how things just move and happen in an entertaining way. For me, improv is all about silencing the judgmental voice in my head and letting the thing happen. There is this creative, carefree side to underneath if you can silence the judge. Judging is the enemy of doing improv. Gallwey goes on to say that learning to let Self 1 trust Self 2 is what it is all about. They both have a place, but we tend to not trust our natural selves, at all.
When I’m letting and trusting I’m at my best.
Malcom Gladwell’s book, Blink, is talking about a very similar thing, about thinking without thinking. In the book, he talks about how we feel that we need to analyze and over think everything, when really, we can can come to educated better conclusions best when we are trusting our more natural side.
Off stage in my real life, I tend to want to overanalyze things. Every big decision I’ve made has been a practice in flip flopping agony. Reading those books in succession a few years ago was an eye opening thing for me. It rang true for me in real life too. I think we get hung up on judging and being critical of ourselves about a lot of things. In a spiritual sense, whether a person of faith or not, most people tend to think that God exists within the judging Self 1 voice, constantly judging and critiquing what we’re doing wrong, when I think in all actuality he works more in the trusting and letting side of things.
I’ve gotten good at listening to the trusting side of things on stage and in many small ways in my life (In the past, I once nearly had a mental breakdown trying to decide between a brown winter coat and a gray one). The really difficult thing is to make it applicable to real things for me like moving and job searching.
It’s amazing how often I think about these things. It is very applicable to my life. Especially now when I’m auditioning. I’ve practiced enough of getting out of my head, that I don’t get nervous and lost up there when I have to be on. I trust myself in those situations.
Thursday night, I’m doing a stand up set at The Comedy Store. We’ll see if my theories hold true. Although, for my stand up style, the more nervous I get, the better.