To the followers of this blog who forgot I exist, it’s a pleasure to be back after years of avoiding you. To the new visitors, thanks for stopping by. I’m glad you’re here!
Waaaaay back in 2012, I made a few unscripted YouTube videos and blog posts, which ultimately gave me the right to call myself a comedian.
Although I landed a few cool hosting and writing gigs (shout out to the fruits of shameless self-promotion during Twitter’s early days), the first iteration of my comedy career was short-lived. At the time, I was finishing grad school and had decided that I needed to stop “fooling around online” to focus on starting a career in academia.
Two years into my role as an assistant professor (and eight months into being a new parent), I wasn’t sure that abandoning comedy—something that gave me so much joy—was the right decision. Feeling in serious need of a creative outlet, I searched online for an improv theater where folks with little to no professional training could participate in improv jams and take classes. My search led me to an improv theater in downtown Cincinnati.
I went to my first improv jam in August 2016. I remember being incredibly nervous when I arrived to the theater alone (and Black). When I entered the theater, I put my name on the sign-in sheet and went straight to the bathroom where I hid in a stall for a few minutes to avoid other humans. Eventually, I found the courage to stop avoiding social interaction and left the restroom to find a seat. When they called me to the stage, I almost pretended to not know who the hell Erin Harper was, but I pulled my big girl drawers up and went on up there. While on stage, I had no idea what the hell I was doing, but I felt an incredible sense of pride for not backing out. I remember thinking, “You’re doing it! You’re finally doing it!”
I never returned to that theater, mainly because it was a long drive from home and work, and I found it too hard to justify spending that much time away from my baby and work. And, although many of the people at the theater were friendly and welcoming, there were very few people of color there, which caused me to worry that I would not feel a sense of belonging. Of course, that might not have been the case had I decided to attend more of the jams or enroll in classes at this particular theater.
Fast-forward to two years later when I relocated to Dallas for another academic position. I still had a burning desire to receive formal training in improv, sketch, and maybe stand-up and also thought that taking classes would be a great way to meet people in a new city. A quick online search for improv classes in Dallas led me to Dallas Comedy House (DCH). The programming looked solid, so, I asked my husband what he thought about me taking classes on weekends and he agreed that it was a great idea. Still, I found myself making excuses:
“I’m too old for this.”
“It’s selfish to spend big chunks of time on the weekends away from my family.”
“Again, I’m too old for this.”
Eventually, I silenced my interfering self-talk and enrolled in the Level 1 Improv class (there are 6 levels of improv at DCH). I’m now halfway through the Level 2 class. Taking classes and performing has been incredibly fulfilling. I’ve met some phenomenal people and I’m more inspired to create than I’ve been in a long time. I can’t stop thinking about developing the ideas that I’ve been scribbling down in my notepad for the past 6 years. I’ve also been thinking a lot about possible ways to apply what I’m learning to my academic work. And, I think my husband would say my bitchiness has been at an all-time low.
Hopefully, my little story inspires at least one of you to lean into doing something that you think will bring you (and maybe those around you) joy. As I write this, I realize that not everyone has access to the resources to enroll in classes to learn a new skill. Some places (like DCH) offer internships, scholarships, and discounts to help make classes more accessible. If you’re interested in taking classes in your area, don’t forget to look for special programs and offers for free or discounted classes.