Improv is the very definition of an ephemeral art.
It didn’t exist before the show. It ceases to exist once the lights go out. This may seem completely obvious. However, it becomes more interesting when you realize improv may be the only element of my life like that.
Let’s start with the nearest comparison in my day to day activities: sketch comedy. When a sketch I wrote for Beige does well, not only do I still have the script ready to be performed again, but a video will soon be on YouTube. I can watch it and know exactly when the audience laughed and how I felt about them laughing. When my improv team, Apollo, has a good show — as I feel we did tonight — that’s not the case.
I mean, obviously, we COULD tape our sets but that rarely happens. And even if we did, it wouldn’t translate. There’s just something about improv. The instant it’s captured by a video camera, some part of the magic evaporates. There can be no record of the emotions I felt on that stage.*
So what makes that so weird? Well, after years (and it has been years) of social media inundation, every other aspect of our lives have conformed to the same path as my sketches; ready and waiting to be “shared.” We’ve been conditioned to view all life experiences as only worthwhile if they can be captured and reinforced by external “likes.” If I go some place interesting, it only means something to me if I can tweet about it, Tumbl it, photograph it, and upload it.
Of course, I’m not saying anything new. Speaking of sketch comedy, you can look at any sketch show on the air right now and they’ll each have dozens of hours of sketches about our society’s “social” obsession. But this idea is interesting when I think about it in relation to improv.
I had what I consider a very good show tonight, both for myself and for my team. But I feel just the slightest bit empty afterwards because I know that only the group of people in that audience will ever really know about it.
I think, if I’m able to grow and learn to appreciate the ephemeral nature of improv, I’ll be one step closer to eliminating years of social media conditioning. I’ll finally be able to appreciate the ephemeral nature of life, to enjoy an experience just because I experienced it.
It’s a long road to go. After all, why’d I write this post? I could have kept these thoughts to my head.
But then who’d have been able to “like” them?
*The great Lou Gonzalez actually took some terrific pictures of tonight’s set but, as good as they are (and they are very good), you’d have to be an expert at deciphering body language to distinguish photos of a good improv set from those of a bad one.