Why Improv?

The Sozo Group caught up with Ha Ha Men's Improv & Sketch Comedy Troupe to ask them WHY they enjoy doing improv so much.

Written by Jess Olivito, Contributing Writer
Just the idea of getting up on a stage to perform improv makes me weak in the knees. Without the ability to rehearse, I'm fairly confident that I'd fall flat on my face delivering comedy to a crowd... which then caused me to wonder how anyone could really enjoy doing improv. From the outside, improv comes across ridiculously challenging and intimidating to execute. So when I then learned that the members of Ha Ha Men had extensive professional acting experience, I was very surprised to learn how much this group actually enjoyed improv as an art form.

When asking this team of incredibly gifted performers WHY they thrive on improvisation and sketch comedy, Brooke Simkins quickly answered, "People with the kinds of fears you've mentioned typically aren’t interested in being part of our group. Yes, it's true that many talented actors don't necessarily enjoy doing improv, but as a group, we just love it. It takes a certain type of personality to do improv because it demands vulnerability." And soon I realized, that Brooke was not alone.

Extreme passion for improv was evident in every team member I interviewed and I was pleasantly surprised to learn there were several benefits. Improviser Jim Bushy explained it to me like this:

 Anna Yee, Jim Bushy & Brooke Simkins performing improv.

Anna Yee, Jim Bushy & Brooke Simkins performing improv.

“Personally, I feel the most freedom when performing improv. Scripts are very rigid for me; you either nail it or you don't. When acting from a script, I think it’s easy for someone to look at you and make a judgement about your performance based on how well you adhered to the script. In my case, I could do a three-hour live performance and screw up just one tiny phrase and unfortunately, that's usually all the audience would remember about me - my mistake. However, when I take on a character in the moment, my authenticity and passion come to life and I'm confident that I'm always doing the scene the right way. By following the rules improvisation and trusting your scene partners, I find this art form to be magnificent and also very, very funny."

With the team's incredible amount of experience with stage and screen acting, this ministry is set up for Christian stardom. Founding member Dave Ebert mirrored Jim's sentiments in telling me that he's also more comfortable creating in the moment: 

"Being open-minded about doing improv has allowed me to hear more powerfully from the Holy Spirit. Improv requires me to trust that God is the One giving me the right words to impact my audience; He gives me confidence to say what needs to be said in that very moment. Personally, I enjoy improvising over acting, but will continue to do both as the Lord opens doors for me.  I also enjoy doing sketches because this art form also utilizes the creativity and spontaneity of improv. It's in these times, when you don't know where a scene is going to go ahead of time, that I have to exercise a deeper level of faith - which means that God gets the glory over myself."

Dave Ebert also cited Luke chapter 12, where Jesus encouraged us to not worry about how to defend ourselves or what to say, but to trust the Holy Spirit to tell us what needs to be said.

“don’t worry about how to defend yourself or what to say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what needs to be said.”
- Luke 12:11b-12 NLT”

 Founding members Dave Ebert and Ryan McChesney using their size difference to create comedy gold.

Founding members Dave Ebert and Ryan McChesney using their size difference to create comedy gold.

So if you're wondering what the the biggest takeaway was for me, it was realizing that improv is a mindset and not a place to try and achieve perfection. That concept itself, makes me smile on the inside and reminds me of my own personal relationship with Jesus. When I let Him do the work, my burden becomes light. Brooke shared this final thought with me while wrapping up this question: "There’s this principle in improv that there are no mistakes, only opportunities. You simply need to trust your teammates, take what they have given you (whether that’s a physicality or a specific line) and you just need to build off on that. Then, it's your turn to give them back something equally good to work with."

I like that Brooke. I like that A LOT. Reminds of of how the body of Christ is supposed to operate - supporting and edifying each other in all situations.