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Tonight is the second of our run of four shows at the State Theatre this fall. It’s just a small part of the many different activities we at Happy Valley Improv have been working on. In our group Slack chat, we have multiple conversations going over multiple channels; we met for lunch yesterday to discuss business and future scheduling; we’ve had to sign up for a bunch of different apps just to keep up with everything going on. It’s times like these that it feels more like running a business than an improv group.
All four of us are busy adults. Two of us have kids, a fact that Sam never lets us forget (he’s also 37 years old, you know!). But all of us have decided to spent time, energy, and effort into building Happy Valley Improv. And it’s a lot of effort! This isn’t a “woe is me” post, though. This is a post about why it’s all worth it. Let me take you in the way-back machine to 2011.
My wife and I had just moved to Charleston, SC. The first couple of years I lived in Charleston, I didn’t have much of a social life. I worked evening shift while my wife went to school during the day. During my off-time I’d watch TV or play video games, sometimes with friends from back home, but I wasn’t building any sort of network there.
That all changed after I saw my first improv show at the Charleston Comedy Festival in 2013. I was hooked. I signed up for classes the day after – luckily, they offered a daytime class. I kept hearing about this “Improv Practice Group,” or IPG, that met on Monday nights. Working evenings, I could never make a Monday night a 7, but finally, one day, I had a day off and decided to go.
It changed my life. The night was so fun, and the people were just…on the same wavelength as me. They made jokes and they made me feel supported. When I got home that night, I literally told my wife, “I have found my people.” I decided to switch from night shift to day shift, in large part because IPG and improv classes and shows were all at night.
I met almost every friend I have from Charleston through improv. A lot of us still keep in touch, even though I’ve been gone almost a year. One of them has been playing D&D with me every Monday night for the past 5 years, and I consider him one of my best friends.
Then, fast forward about five or six years. I moved from Charleston to State College. I knew no one. The only connection I had was an email with a guy named James Tierney who told me that he and two other people were doing improv in a church basement downtown. I didn’t know them, but I wasn’t nervous. They were, after all, my people.
That’s the reason I continue to devote all of this time and energy into building the improv community here. So that one day, maybe there will be a State College IPG, where someone who moves in from out of town, or someone who’s never done theatre or comedy or performed in any way, will be able to come to a meeting and leave saying – “These are my people.”
And maybe, someone in the crowd of our show tonight will be like me during Comedy Fest in 2013!