“May you live in interesting times” goes an old curse.
And so they are, and here we are.
What to do? Join a march? Live in denial? Move to Norway? (The Canada Plan is so passé.)
Though my preferred candidate did not win on November 8th, I cannot exist in fear and anger - an unproductive and toxic state. But pondering the next four years, I know that, at minimum, we’re going to need an Army of Comedians – people that listen hard, think critically and take communicative risks. Crucial to our societal health are those that observe and hold up a lens with no filter.
In President Obama’s farewell speech this week, he quoted Atticus Finch, the lawyer from “To Kill a Mockingbird”:
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view – until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
Last summer, I was co-running a day camp for kids teaching comedy, music and writing. “Make bold character choices,” I told them, “take that rare opportunity to become someone radically different.”
Ethan, a talented kid, wrestled with the concept. “Don’t you ever get tired of being a 10-year-old boy?” I asked him.
He pondered, and then brightened. “Yes,” he said. “Yes, I do!”
“So then, be a 90-year-old Chinese lady or 30-year-old Italian truck driver for a few minutes,” I said. “Go on a tour of their heads, their lives, their concerns. Take a break from being Ethan and just be someone else.”
His face lit up and moments later, Ethan became Igor, a Russian hairdresser (and occasional hit man) complete with heavy accent and a preference for up-dos and Kalishnikovs, thus conquering the lesson. The moment felt like an important breakthrough with value far beyond comedy itself - like planting wee seeds of future empathy.
In the coming years, I will channel my energy into the next generation. I’m launching a new business, Army of Comedians, which consists of me as a mobile improv teacher. That’s right, I come to you. Got a Boy Scout meeting, slumber party or other kid gathering where ‘entertainment’ is needed? Consider exposing the kidlets to improvisational games, scene-building and character work. As comedic naturals, they eat it up.
I will also offer improv workshops to adults, ideal for those inevitable team-building workplace events. Learning to think on your feet, trust your gut and just plain ol' pretend can break down walls you didn’t even know existed. Plus, belly laughs are inevitable and crazy good for you.
Additionally, I will expand my Listening Workshops for adults as well. As I travel this country, I see us in our cozy bubbles with little or no understanding of opposing thought. Add to this the ‘cell phone zombie’ factor and we’ve got a world with diminishing face-to-face interaction and even less attention span.
When I think about where we are as a nation – half distraught and incredulous, and the other half excited and vindicated - I realize we’ve become strangers. We need to talk to one another, off-line. We must put the phones down, look someone in the eye and listen to another life.
We need to put ourselves aside and walk around in it.
For more information about Army of Comedians or a Listening Workshop, please drop me an email (clizbiz at gmail dot com) or contact me through the AoC Facebook page.