"When an old and distinguished person speaks to you, listen to him carefully and with respect – but do not believe him. Never put your trust in anything but your own intellect. Your elder, no matter whether he has gray hair or lost his hair, no matter whether he is a Nobel Laureate, may be wrong... So you must always be skeptical – always think for yourself." --Linus Pauling
I took the Level 1 class back when I lived in Chicago (the original Improv Olympic is located less than a block from Wrigley Field). Ultimately I couldn't continue on at the time though, as my income (derived solely from medical research studies at the time) had temporarily dried up.
Why would someone fork over hard earned money ($300 for each eight week course, six levels in all!) to learn what seems from the outside to be nothing so much as getting up on stage and making shit up on the fly? Is this a worthwile skill? Is it something that can even be taught?
My reasons for doing this are as follows:
1. Getting up in front of complete strangers and spouting off whatever comes to mind scares the shit out of me. Reason enough to take it on right there.
2. It will free up and get the creative juice flowing. This is just one method to use. Others include: imbibing strange substances like absinthe when they present themselves, shufflings of Brian Eno's Oblique Strategies cards (look it up), perusing books of magic and religion (Aleister Crowley's Book Of Lies currently with something by Austin Osman Spare later on), and giving myself over to the occasional mad impulse that seizes me.
3. The social aspect. I now spend three hours a week minimum playing at this stuff with a room full of people smarter and funnier than I am.
The first four weeks of this endeavor (i.e. January) were very hard for me. Learning to let go and stop thinking so much takes some doing. I just began Level 2 last night. I am definitely improving.
Last year I had a conversation with a friend of mine, Phaedra. She's going to college right now to study Educational Systems or somesuch thing. I told her that if I ever went to college I would definitely end up majoring in something functionally useless that interested me a great deal like "Fire Eating" or "Inveterate Gambling" something. Attending Clown College also holds some appeal.
Flash forward to a few weeks ago: Randall and I have a conversation over lunch. He's studying to get his library science degree right now. Turns out, he's paying pretty much the same amount for his classes as I am for mine.
Okay, so improv isn't as glamourous as fire eating or earning a degree in Clownology, but you know what? It'll do for now.
a. Have no children and desire none of same.
b. Had a vasectomy almost two years ago myself.
When I had the operation done (Only a $10 co-payment with my insurance! That's a savings of oh, roughly... $190,518.00! WOOT!), there was no indication of it being a trend or anything of the sort. I knew one guy who had done it back then. He has not had occasion to regret his decision.
For that matter, neither have I. Incidentally, unlike one of the guys in the article, I spent a good SIX years pondering the question. Oh, and I haven't joined any groups of the "childfree" or what have you because I'm not a joiner by nature, and all of that smacks a little of desperation. But what do I know? I live in L.A. If I lived in Nebraska, or Michigan, or wherever I might beg them to let me join.
So even though I spent six years thinking over the matter I expect someday I will live to regret the decision. The tragedy that triggers this feeling of regret will not however, be the one that so many friendly doomsayers in my acquaintance have imagined: I am not going to suddenly fall in love with some woman that makes me want to be a father.
NO. It won't be like that because you see, it just isn't tragic enough.
The moment that lays me low will be when I meet a fabulously sexy and intelligent woman who doesn't want marriage, definitely does want a child, and has decided on ME for the lucky sperm donor. Naturally, the only possibility of sex with her will reside in my capability of making her pregnant.
I can hear you now. "Jack, that is SO unlikely... "
Yes, Dear Reader, I know. But figure this: You do your thing, get what you want, and then (and only then) fate smacks you with a comeuppance you could have never planned against in a million years. That's how tragedy works.
What's funny is that I might already know this woman. She fits the first two criteria, and a friend tells me her eyes all but flash rapidly in morse code when she sees me in the library.
Whatever. She has many options I'm sure. Still, It would be interesting if she asked me. I've never cried so hard that I started laughing before.