My first exposure to improv was not conventional at all. I didn’t take a class. I didn’t do theater improv sports. Nada. I was a cheerleader.
I started doing cheerleading when I was in 4th grade. I actually wanted to be a dancer, but this was the closest I could get without paying for dance classes. I ended up becoming a hard core cheerleader who did a lot of dance choreography for cheer routines.
After I graduated high school, I worked as a cheer instructor (& was head dance instructor) for CWCC (Central Wisconsin Cheerleading Camps) during the summer for 3 years. The camps were typically 3 days long and on the last day we awarded Spirit Sticks. These Spirit Sticks were given to the most spirited teams. We awarded these Spirit Sticks via improv sketches. We would come up with loose sketch ideas, improvise them, and incorporate the winning team’s name at the very end of the sketch/improv scene.
I ended up getting really good at these improvised sketches in my first year of teaching the camps and within my second and third year I started creating premises and ideas for new improv/sketch scenes.
I will never ever forget….
We had this one HUGH camp. There were at least 300 cheerleaders at this camp. The high school was gigantic and the gym had balcony seating. On awards night, the gym was packed with friends and family. We had an awesome time with each team performing their cheer routines and the instructors performing our stunts and then finally handing out the Spirit Sticks. Overall, it was a great show. It seemed no different than any other show to me until I was saying goodbye to the audience and this woman came up to me. She was beat red, wiping tears from her face, and grabbed my hand saying, “You are the funniest person I have ever seen. Thank you so much. Please keep doing this.” I thanked her and gave her a big hug. I, on the other hand was floored. What did I do? I know I’m funny but how can I do more of this? I didn’t even know it was the beginning of my long term improv career.