I occasionally am open to invitations to new experiences. This openness has gotten me in trouble as I’ve had to answer questions from Church of Christ members about how my relationship with Jesus was. But last week I was invited to a class that had a nonreligious bent. It was an improv acting class held on the upper floor of a strip mall in the bowels of Hollywood. It was a free class, so the fellow participants were not the chicks who came to LA prepared by already having fake breasts. No, these were the denizens of Southern California who sleep in their cars because they spent their rent money on shiny new head shots.
The teacher was a large man in his forties, somewhere between 250 and 300 pounds. His hair though was as luxurious as they come. It went past his shoulders and he kept stroking it like he was in a shampoo ad. The hair was so different from the rest of his shlumpy appearance I had to wonder if every week he came to class with a different wig. If I came again would he have an afro or 1876 caliber mutton chops?
The first exercise was we lined up on stage on two sides. One side would be pantomiming a silly motion. The partner would enter the stage and give the pantomimer a name and mention what the person was doing. The pantomimer would in return give the other person a name and mention where they were.
For instance a man would be doing ballet steps. His partner would walk up and say, “Gary Coleman, stretching will not make you get any taller.”
The guy doing the ballet steps could respond, “What you talking about, Mr. Drummond. I’m in my room limbering up for tonight’s porn shoot.”
You might or might not have found that exchange funny, but I had time to think it up in a solitary state. In the improv class all the dialogue is spontaneous and performed in public making it much more nerve wracking.
As my line progressed and it came closer to my turn I grew nervous. Everyone was very theatrical and hammy. I began to wish that instead of having a smoothie before the class I had consumed a snort of whiskey and a line of cocaine. Fortunately, my partner was also subdued. He was merely wiping a stain off his shirt so I said, “Murray, if you’re going to brush your teeth you shouldn’t do it like that.”
“What’s that?” boomed the teacher’s voice from offstage. “Be more specific.”
So I said, “Murray, if you’re trying to brush your teeth, you should know they’re not on your shirt.” I was relieved enough to get off stage that I don’t remember my partner’s response. But next it was my turn to pantomime. I considered the subtle act of getting on my knees and praying or doing the more flashy chicken dance. When it got to be my turn I figured I saw no rotten fruit in the audience, so the worst that could happen was they would laugh at me which was kind of the point so I moved my elbows and head like a big chicken.
But it took forever for my new partner to get on the stage. She abandoned me to the chicken dance for what seemed like ten uncomfortable minutes. I started clucking. And the teacher yelled, “Stop that. You don’t know what your action is yet.”
Finally the partner walked up and said, “Bob, you’re not going to be able to fly moving your arms like a chicken.”
I said, “Sure I am Lisa. We’re on an airplane.”
My partner obviously didn’t grow up with the subtle Nickelodeon wit of You Can’t Do That on Television because as we walked off stage she laughed nervously, “What the fuck was that?” Fortunately she was on stage with me and not sitting in the audience with a cream pie.