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Wednesday 6 December 2023 Dublin: 7°C
improv diary

Be silly, have fun and don't worry what you look like

Silence that inner giraffe – or whoever tells you to stay quiet.

26 Tom Maher / Gaiety School of Acting The Vegetable Chopping Olympics are intense. Tom Maher / Gaiety School of Acting / Gaiety School of Acting

This article is part of a series on learning long-form improvisation.

DURING THE WEEK I did something I never thought I would: perform in an improv comedy show.

I love going to watch comedy, and some of my favourite performers – like Tina Fey and Amy Poehler - cut their teeth in improv.

I was always the bystander though, and didn’t think I’d ever have the confidence to get up on stage and have a go at it myself.

For the past ten weeks I’ve been taking long-form improv classes. I get really nervous about speaking in public and thought if I could perform an improv show any other form of public speaking would seem easy by comparison.

Between that and my love of comedy, learning improv seemed like the perfect – and scariest – thing I could turn my hand to.

Since January I’ve learned a lot – about improv and performance, but also about listening, letting go and not taking myself so seriously.

When you perform improv, you have no idea what might happen from one second to the next. You can’t really prepare for it. There is no script. It’s just you and another character or two saying or doing anything from one second to the next.

The classes have been a lot of fun. Most of us had no previous experience of improv – many of us had never performed in anything at all.

As I mentioned before, my entire stage experience prior to the show comprised one line in a Transition Year play, which was cut.

My classmates and I jumped into the deep end together and swam. / YouTube

Footage by Tom Maher, Gaiety School of Acting. Edited by Órla Ryan.

The show itself was a bit of a blur (you can watch a snippet of some of my scenes above). When our tutor, comedian Danny Kehoe, appeared on stage to signal the end of our montage, I thought ‘What’s he doing here? It’s only about 10 minutes in.’

It had actually been over half an hour.

‘Jug’ was the word that inspired our first scene – in a coffee shop, and then we had a whole world of other situations – an eventful trip to the hairdressers, our own version of Cheltenham, a dramatic wedding, and the Vegetable Chopping Olympics (which can get vicious), to name but a few.

The audience laughed, and so did we. Every scene in improv doesn’t need to be perfect, and some go down better than others. The main thing is that everyone switches off from any stress they might be feeling and has a good time. Improv teaches you to be silly, have fun and not worry what you look like.

The only thing I would change is that I wished I was involved in more scenes. That little voice – or inner giraffe – is still holding me back. However, it’s become a lot fainter. After watching a video of the show back, what we had achieved sunk in and I was really proud of us all.

02 Tom Maher / Gaiety School of Acting Awkward dancing was involved. Tom Maher / Gaiety School of Acting / Gaiety School of Acting

I improvised. In public. And it was one of the best things I ever did.

The bug has caught me and the others in the class, and we’re already seeking out open mic nights where we can have another crack at it.

If you’re on the fence about doing something new or scary, go for it.

Yes that’s easier to say after the fact, but what have you got to lose?

More information on long-form improv classes at the Gaiety School of Acting is available here.

Read the rest of my improv diary here.

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