I am petrified.
I stand in front of about seven complete strangers. Tasked with defining a baffling new product: Jello-Popcorn? How did I get myself into this you may ask? Well, I went to a Majoring in Improv club meeting.
Jello-Popcorn is a product developed on the spot, off the top of me and my business partner’s head. It’s part of an improv game that sets you up pitching wacky made up products to potential buyers.
Meanwhile, the audience acts as the ever-pressing media, asking such hard-hitting questions as, “What exactly is Jello-Popcorn?” That one shocks me, but my quick-on-his-feet partner, Connor, jumps in and saves me, answering the question with ease. You can tell he’s done this before, he’s a pro.
I’m not comfortable at first. What do I know about improv? The only acting background I have is a theatre class in middle school and being an ensemble member in my eighth-grade production of “Oliver!”
I don’t know what I’m doing; that doesn’t matter, though, because when I get thrown the question how Jello-Popcorn will unite America, it’s go time.
I stand shell-shocked for about half a beat, but then the adrenaline kicks in. Suddenly, I’m overflowing with confidence, replying with the fact that even though I hate Jello, I love popcorn.
I continue on, saying even though my partner hates popcorn, he loves Jello, and if we can agree on that, America can be united.
My response gets a laugh from the audience. “Let’s freaking go!” I yell in my own mind, overcome with confidence.
Confidence is one of the things improv builds the most, A.J. Neuschwander, the fearless leader of this group, tells me.
A.J. is a man built for the silver screen; he’s charismatic and his energy is palpable. I would describe it as a six-year-old on a mix of Red Bull and Adderall.
His energy is contagious; it seeps into your blood stream and carries you to a different kind of universe, a safe space where your brain is your only limitation. That’s A.J.’s improv club.
“Improv is such a great tool to improve self confidence and public speaking,” says A.J. He’s right.
I love talking in front of people, but talking about something I know nothing about scares the crap out of me. I have to pitch Jello-Popcorn though, and pulling a rabbit out of my hat to do so is invigorating.
I walked out of improv feeling like I could be an actor, or a comedian, or something. I know those are probably lost fever dreams dangling ceaselessly on the edge of a semi-directionless college student’s brain, but I would come back to this place to revisit them again.
It’s a ton of fun, and I would suggest you check it out as well. It’s a safe space geared on having a good time and building self-confidence. Who doesn’t need a little bit more of that?
Majoring in Improv meets every Tuesday and Thursday from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. in the Black Box Theatre at the Salt Lake Community College South City Campus.