The Brooklyn Yodeler: How Improv Changed My Life

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It was my first class at Sick Puppies Improv. My first scene was with a now good friend, Brad. In our scene I was a Brooklyn Yodeling Instructor and Brad was my student.

“Yodelahee hoo”, Brad belted.

“No no this is the Brooklyn style it goes Ay Yo Ay Yo Ayo Yo Yo Ay Ayoo Yoooos!”, I replied.

Brad learned to yodel in the Brooklyn style and I watched him become a master and ultimately the most famous Brooklyn Yodeler in the world. In 5 minutes. This is improv, and not only will I never forget that scene for the rest of my life, but I will also never forget how hard the audience laughed. That sound hooked me in.

The person laughing the loudest was the teacher, Casey Casperson. I was surprised at how much he was laughing. Like he’d never seen improv before. In a way he hadn’t. Every scene was new, always. Casey’s laugh was genuine.

“Was that good?”, I would ask.

Laughing he would say, “Yes! it was great! Do more of that! It’s so good! Do more!”

It wasn’t the praise that helped, it was when he said “do more of that”. Casey was giving me permission to do whatever I wanted and when I did it he laughed and applauded and asked for more. He was giving me permission to make mistakes and teaching me a very valuable lesson that would change me forever.

In the adult world I kept my comedy a secret. I joked with friends and family, but at work I was all business. You have to be. You can’t joke around at work and you certainly can’t make a living being the class clown. How wrong I was!

As I continued to take improv classes I started to change. I was more me in every situation. I let my spark out more often. I was giving myself permission to be goofy and fun and I was literally attracting more people around me.

“Keep going! Yes yes! Great!” Casey would say. He said it to every one. Because no matter what we did we could never be wrong. The only thing Casey wanted from us in those early classes was to be comfortable with our choices. It was liberating. I had never been in a room full of people like this in my life. I didn’t know you could laugh so hard for so long and I am still laughing. Not a night goes by in rehearsal or class or any time in improv that I don’t laugh. It is a culture of agreement and yes. Who says Yes to anything anymore? Who agrees with another person’s ideas?! This is the secret of improv.

I am a teacher now and my students will look at me in scenes. Like I looked at Casey in those first few months. They are looking for that face, that smile, that laugh, and the permission from me to keep going. I give it to them because I know they will soon give themselves permission to use all their ideas, any idea, and be changed forever.

A new improv session is starting soon and I will be there. I need to see these people now before they ever do improv so I can see them again in a month and see them changed like I was.


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