Anonymous said: I've always felt bullied by certain UCB instructors/coaches. I have a sense of humor about myself and I'm an acceptable target, but this isn't jokes or constructive criticism. It's cheap shots and jabs. If it's repeated unwanted verbal attacks, that's harassment (albeit a LOW level form but still). I know if I reply that I don't say hurtful things to THEM, it'd be funny. I'll look pathetic. I (sometimes) have a thick skin, but this sucks! I realize I ask for it and could quit, but I like improv.
I assume you’re asking advice on this? Either that, or you’re referring to me as one of those instructors and don’t feel comfortable actually talking to me about it. I could believe that, I love a good aggressively negative bit (just ask various members of Winslow.) I would have preferred to answer this directly to you as well, but Tumblr wont let me since it’s anonymous.
But, if you’re asking advice… I sincerely am sorry you feel this way! My advice would be to talk to the person or persons that you feel are being unfair/unnecessarily shitting on you. Really… just talk to them. I can almost guarantee that whoever it is is not trying to make you feel crappy, or trying to ruin improv for you. I would bet good money that they have no idea they’re having this effect on you. I can’t think of a single UCB teacher that wouldn’t want you to just pull them aside and go “Hey, this makes me feel shitty. It’s not cool. Lay off.” It might be intimidating, but I would be shocked if it didn’t affect the behavior.
I’m not entirely sure from your message, though, what form this is taking. You say cheap shots and jabs and verbal attacks… in notes on scenes? Outside of the context of a class? In general conversation? Is it someone doing an aggressive and unwelcome bit, or is it someone actively seemingly trying to insult you? Also you say you’ve always felt that way… does that mean you feel it in every class? Or just with some people? All of those things might have a different reaction. If it’s a class problem, you can talk to Johnny Meeks, the head of the training center. If it’s outside of that, then yeah, I think talk to the person. You won’t look pathetic. The WORST case scenario is that you learn for a fact that this person is a true blue asshole. And then you can write them off. But, realistically, I think it will help you be more comfortable in the long run.
I enthusiastically agree. Take them aside. Talk to them in private and tell them that it hurts. The most likely outcome will be that they will apologize and stop.
Years ago, my team at UCB had a series of Harolds where we teased one member of the team on stage. We thought it was a game we were all playing together and that the target of our teasing knew that we were “just joking around”. We assumed that his irritation on stage was just him playing into the bit. After all, the things we were teasing him about weren’t true. He’s one of the smartest, funniest, most awesome guys I know and I assumed he knew that.
But years later, after the team had long been disbanded, I found out that the teasing hurt him much more than he was showing on stage. Yes, he was playing along to some degree, because he knew that the audience was enjoying the bit. But it felt like bullying to him and it reminded him of how he was treated earlier in life. He didn’t like it, and I wish I would have been sensitive enough to stop it when it happened.
Some Suggestions for Level One Class Etiquette
Without a good teacher monitoring, most improv exercises favor bold, aggressive students. Whoever either thinks faster or at least acts fastest tends to affect the scenes more and therefore have more chances for feeling validated that they are doing well. While there’s a place for boldness (and certain exercises explicitly focus on being more bold), any good improv team has a mixture of aggressive types with more patient and calm energies.
Believing that, here are five simple rules of conduct which I think help the less aggressive students find their footing in lower level improv classes. These are also just common sense policies for fair play. They’re not meant to leave out aggressive students. And I never state them as being “for the students who are bit more hesitant.” They’re just good etiquette for improv scenes which happen to also help the non-alphas find themselves in the scene.
Merely my opinion: Take ‘em or leave ‘em, fellow teachers!
This is good advice.
If you teach beginning improv students read this and think about this before your first class.