Posts Tagged ‘humour’

Improvasana

18/07/2018

yes and improv

Once upon a time I was inspired to step out of my comfort zone and try something completely different. So I said YES to Improv! Not only was I looking for a different extra-curricular activity than what I would normally sign up for, I also hoped to cultivate more confidence with speaking in front of others and thinking on the spot. As the weeks went on I began to realize that what we were learning in improv isn’t far off from what I’ve learned in yoga and meditation practices…

– In Improv, they encourage you to pause before you respond to a prompt. So if someone says, ‘What’s in the box?’ rather than panic and react (which can lead to funny outcomes), they advise to take a breath and respond. This sounds suspiciously like something I’ve learnt in my meditation practice. We learn to sit with whatever comes up, including difficult feelings or emotions. We learn to lean into these feelings, get comfortable and maybe even become friends with them. This skill that we learn in improv and in yoga can help us respond more thoughtfully to the ebbs and flows of life.

– Sometimes in improv you just can’t think what to say next… so you just say something. Anything. Then later on you say to yourself ‘Oh man! Why didn’t I say *this*. That would have been so good. But no, I’m terrible at improv.’ (Or was this just my thought process?). This cycle of negativity and self-criticism isn’t great for us. Besides, wasn’t the whole point of taking improv to have fun, do something different and learn a few things? Let go of the negative self-talk and be kind to yourself. Hmm… I feel like this has come up in yoga classes for me. “Handstand? Man, I won’t ever be able to do that. I suck at life because I can’t pop up into a handstand.” Wait? Why am I practicing yoga again? Oh, that’s right. Because it’s fun and I learn things. Sounds like improv.”

Breathing. As mentioned before, when it’s your turn to talk in improv, take a breath. In yoga if you’re in a challenging posture, take a breath. In meditation, when the mind starts to wander, re-align your focus and take a breath. Actually, if you’re doing anything, take a breath.

– As one of my peers so wisely observed in the final class, improv is really more than just thinking of the right thing to say. It’s important to actually bring your mind AND body into the experience. When we become more mindful of our body and how we’re holding it in space, we tend to feel more connected to ourselves, those around us and heck, even the world. When the link between our mind and body is awakened in such a way, we’ll bring more of ourselves into the improv scene/yoga class/meditation session. And maybe, just maybe this will teach us to include more of ourselves into the world. Whether that’s to be brave and try something new or to stand up for something you believe in. Or perhaps it helps you cultivate compassion for yourself and others. As a yoga student and teacher, I have long reflected on what it means to have an active connection between mind and body and will continue to ask the question.

So, it would seem that improv is actually meditation and yoga in disguise. Who would have thought? (By the way, I took the Improv series at Brave New Workshop. They’re awesome. Check them out if you’re in the Twin Cities.)

 

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Comedy & Humanity

14/07/2018
Photo by Kane Reinholdtsen on Unsplash

Photo by Kane Reinholdtsen on Unsplash

Comedy has been a lifelong fascination for me. Between Saturday Night Live, Late Show with David Letterman, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, countless movies, and far too many others to name, I’ve always felt a deeper connection to the world of comedy beyond the laughs. For the last couple of years, I have been asking myself why comedy strikes me so deeply. It feels like there’s more happening than we realize. But what is it exactly, and why does it matter to humanity?

As a personal project and just for fun, I’ve decided to dig deeper and start exploring these questions. Of all people, I have to give credit to Jeff Ross, probably best known for his role as “The Roastmaster General.” On the first night of Hanukkah last year, my friend and I attended An Evening with Judd Apatow at 92Y where he performed new bits, shared videos from projects and told stories. Near the end, he brought up Jeff Ross for a conversation, during which they talked about the HBO show “Crashing” starring Pete Holmes and Jeff said something to the effect of “Even though it’s a half-hour comedy, I find myself crying. It hits me right in the heart… So what is that?” Yes, Jeff Ross. What is that?

Not unlike other forms of expression such as music, dance, or theatre, comedy creates a bond between humans. Even the most divided can find commonality in a poop joke (Sarah Silverman makes this important point in her latest Netflix special “Speck of Dust.”) Poop joke or not, when people share laughter it’s a beautiful sound and feeling. When a comedian executes their craft with precision and the result “kills” it’s not uncommon for me to not only laugh but blink away some tears from the beauty of when everyone is on common ground, even if only for just a moment.

I’ve read several great books that invite you into the world of comedy and humanity, among them being “Sick in the Head” by Judd Apatow, “And Here’s the Kicker” by  Mike Sacks, and “The Improv: An Oral History” by Budd Friedman and Tripp Whetsell. Common threads I see in all of these are community, connection, vulnerability, passion, support, levity, and well, laughter, of course. All I can safely conclude for the moment is that comedy is a gift to humanity and I’m going to have a good time figuring out why – even if I never find the answer. Which I highly suspect to be the outcome. Because there’s always more happening than we can know. Dammit.

Save it for a rainy day.

25/09/2011

Of course we all love to have a sunny weekend so that we’re allowed to hit the trails, have a picnic or go the beach. Sometimes though the rain is a welcome interruption to our busy lives. Though many people will go to work on Monday and say “How dreadful was the weather this weekend” I cannot fully agree. I love glorious weather and being outside but as of late life has just been too hectic and I can’t help but feel a little sense of relief as the rain hits window.

One of the reasons why I welcome the grey skies this weekend is for the reading. Certainly there is a calming effect when you are allowed the opportunity to curl up on the sofa, bed or your favourite chair with a book you haven’t been getting to lately because other tasks have been calling. Books are magical no matter what but unfortunately when our lives don’t seem to let up and is like the school yard bully poking at you, books fall to the wayside. When I woke up this morning at 9am while the darkness of the room suggested it was 4 or 5am, I knew it was a day for reading. This made me think of some of my favourite rainy day reads so here are a few suggestions for the next grey weekend (or trip to the beach).

Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote

Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote: To be fair I just read this story this morning when I woke up so of course the   details and characters are fresh in my mind. I found this classic at a second hand book stall at Glebe Markets ages ago knowing that one day I would get around to it – this is my usual method for buying books. There are countless classics out there that I have not gotten to yet, this being one of them. So what a perfect opportunity to finally pick it up. A short read but packed with some great characters including the protagonist Holly Golightly, a former Hollywood starlet who lives in a New York City brownstone building. One of her neighbours and eventually friend “Fred” first encounters Holly when she buzzes his apartment to let her into the building since she never has a key. From this moment “Fred” voices the story of Holly and life of a socialite. It’s humorous, heartbreaking and can easily be read it in a sitting.

And The Hippos Were Boiled In Their Tanks

And The Hippos Were Boiled In Their Tanks by Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs: Written by Kerouac and Burroughs before either became famous, this book remained unpublished for many years. I became really interested in Kerouac and the whole Beat Generation after reading The Dharma Bums so was really delighted to come upon this lesser known title. Burroughs and Kerouac wrote this fictionalized account of a true story in which one of their friends stabbed another. He admitted the crime to them but when neither went to the police after the confession, they were arrested as accessories after the fact. Each chapter alternates between two characters, William Lee (Burroughs) and Mike Ryko (Kerouac), who describe one summer of drinking, drugs and generally drifting in wartime New York City steering toward a crime.

Me Talk Pretty One Day cover

Me Talk Pretty One Dayby David Sedaris:  Or anything by Sedaris will be do. I dare you to pick this one up and not laugh out loud. Not just chuckle but the kind of laughter where you cannot move onto the next sentence because you’re too busy re-reading the last line and trying to get your fits of giggles under control. Sedaris is a master of human observation and he describes this humorously in an autobiographical style and self deprecating manner. The subject matter often revolves around family life, particularly upbringing in middle class Raleigh, North Carolina though his essays are a mix of remembering childhood, the present and everything in between. Once you’ve finished this I also recommend When You Are Engulfed in Flames (where he attempts to quit smoking by going to Tokyo) and Holidays on Ice a collection of short stories with a holiday theme – but certainly not your traditional, heart warming Christmas tales.

So next time you’re faced with a rainy day, do not despair. Pull a neglected book off your book shelf and enjoy catching up with an old friend.