“Don’t worry. You won’t have to go on stage or anything,” I was promised.
“Good. Because I don’t do things like that. I’ll freeze up. Or throw up,” I responded.
“They take volunteers so they will leave you alone unless you want to participate.”
Being a human who prefers to be in a zero participation audience, I needed plenty of reassurance before attending an improv show on a whim.
I had just finished a dinner with a friend and her larger group of friends, and as it was Saturday night, three of us were left in the group wondering if we should venture out and do something exciting for the remainder of the evening.
Watching an improv show was brought up, and while there’s a part of me that wants to jump on doing something different, it’s always at odds with the part of me who is essentially an 80 year old woman.
“It doesn’t start until 10 o’clock? At NIGHT!?” I exclaimed in shock like I was never out after the sun went down.
“Yes. And it’s over by midnight.”
“MIDNIGHT? Like I’ll get home tomorrow?” the 80-year old in me was arguing.
I pushed her back down and thought to myself: Calm down. You’re 31. You’ll live staying out late, and it’s not like you won’t be up anyways if you were at home.
I was clearly great at making new friends and wondered why they were even making an effort to hang out with me after this line of questioning.
I broke down after the promise that it would be funny and that I could participate as little or as much as I wanted to.
So I found myself downtown Seattle walking through the gum wall corridor at 10pm and wandering into a comedy club I never knew existed.
“Do you want to sit in the back so you feel safe?” my two friends joked.
“Yes. Definitely,” I replied, dead serious. I intentionally sat between the two of them so I wouldn’t be a convenient pick from the audience.
The show was funny. My nerves subsided for a while as suggestions came from the audience and I could partake as a spectator.
I was always amazed people could yell out suggestions so quickly when called upon. If I was put on the spot, I would freeze up and have a panic attack on the spot.
Right when I thought it was safe, one of the improv guys started walking through the audience talking about how he was going to need people to stand in as ingredients for him while he was “making a burrito.”
I wish I could tell you what the skit was supposed to be about, but panic rose up in my body as soon as he said, “You. You can come up here and be the beans,” to a man who most definitely did NOT raise his and and ask to participate.
“This is not supposed to happen,” I whispered to my friends.
They laughed, and one friend assured me that if they came to our row, she would volunteer herself to go up.
I stressed out while he picked out a human tortilla, a human lettuce, and then he asked where the meat was and I jumped when a woman on his “team” popped up from the back and yelled, “There’s a whole row of meat back here,” pointing to the three of us.
I died a little as everyone whipped around, and didn’t particularly love being equated to a row of meat. I figured I’d be a good cheese stand in and could really get into that role. But this was all too much.
I waited for them to pick one and for my newfound friend to make the sacrifice that was promised and go up on stage.
But that plan was foiled when he said, “I want ALL OF THE MEATS.”
I swallowed back the stress vomit as we all were forced to stand up and walk to the front of the stage, stating to them as we walked up, “I was promised one thing wasn’t going to happen if I agreed to this.”
“I’m so sorry. It’s never been like this before.”
I wish I could tell you what happened after that but I blacked out.
I vaguely remember being on stage for probably two seconds while they were making up a story and then the buzzer went off.
But it felt like two hours, and I felt myself sweating and trying not to vomit, hoping they wouldn’t ask the meat section to speak because as well versed as I would normally be on the subject of a burrito, my brain was struggling to form words at the moment.
Like I said, the time buzzer saved my life and I ended up doing nothing. Except sweating and panicking in front of a room full of people. But I told myself I probably felt like it was worse in my head than in real life. I tell myself things like this to make it by.
We sat back down in our seats, and there were lots of apologies coming my way.
We ended up laughing about it by the end, and my friends confirmed that maybe I wouldn’t be interested in joining an improv class with them in the near future.
It ended up being a fun night despite my mini blackout of stage fright. I suppose it’s always good to be pushed outside of my comfort zone, but maybe it needs to be in baby steps. And I can at the very least confirm that improv comedienne is not on the list of potential future career moves.