How Dallas Comedy House (and Improv) Gave Me the Courage to Start My Own Business

This post is not what I originally had planned for this week, but because of the current circumstances that  surround Dallas Comedy House at this very moment (read this article by Katy Evans for the backstory on that), I thought it was more urgent than ever to shine a light on a very special place in my life.

Before (and while) starting Babes Never Die last year, I performed improv at Dallas Comedy House for 4 years. I stepped away from performing and coaching teams last year to fully focus on Babes Never Die because I realized that I couldn’t juggle two full-time hobbies and that I wanted to give 100% to focus on this dreamy, little business. Stepping away from improv was a very difficult choice for me. The thing I realized when I stepped away was that I didn’t know what life on the other side of improv looked like. I started classes in 2013 because I had very bad social anxiety and wanted to break out of my comfort zone, which I NEVER left. I went in to classes one person and came out a completely different, much better person.

There is no way that I would have been able to start this business without the tools I learned in improv and the constant support that came to me out of the Dallas Comedy House friendships that I am lucky to have. Improv is ultimately a tool in your toolbox for life that can help you in so many different areas, but I found that there are some definitive ways that improv gave me the courage to start my own business.

  1. Yes, And – This is one of the basic principles of improv and once I learned this, I quickly realized how much I was saying NO to everything in my life. I also realized how negative everyone else around me was. Once I opened myself up to saying Yes! To new opportunities (even if I wasn’t 100% confident in what I was doing), opportunities started flying off the shelf! To me, the “and” portion of “yes, and” boils down to adding something to the conversation and staying engaged. Prior to shifting my mindset, I would engage as little as possible with people. I was often locked in my world and didn’t have anything I felt like I could add to conversations or social gatherings. Once I started actually engaging and adding to conversations, I was able to open up to people and share my art with them. It’s through their encouragement to start my own business that I was able to say “Yes, and” and blaze ahead.
  2. Confidence – The scariest part of improv at the beginning was getting on the stage. Being in front of an audience. Knowing that everyone in the room was going to have their eyes on me and would be judging how funny I was. That did not sound fun, BUT I was in it – I loved doing improv so it was a part of the package, and guess what? Just like with everything, repetition and practice made that all subside. I learned not to focus on the audience, but focus on my teammates and listen. I learned how to stand up on a stage and speak with confidence, a tool that has become invaluable in my life. Without the confidence I learned through performing at Dallas Comedy House I would not be able to take these big, scary leaps in my life without the confidence that I’m going to land on my feet and be supported by my teammates.
  3. I’m the Expert  - There’s a fun exercise you do in Level 1 of improve called “Ask the Expert”. One person in the middle is given a topic that they are an expert about and the group has to ask them questions about their topic. It’s all an exercise in (again with the) confidence, and trusting yourself that you know everything. I often come back to this as a mantra in my business when I’m stuck and feel like I need to research things until dawn before I start a project. I remind myself that I have all the knowledge I need and I’m the expert of my own life and business and it empowers me to make my own artistic choices. 
  4. Being Vulnerable Will Free You – Vulnerability is a key part of improv. If you’re not being vulnerable with your team during scenes, it is really obvious and the audience can feel it and it’s just weird and fake. Without learning to be comfortable with vulnerability I would literally not be writing this blog post about a very special part of my life and publishing it out into cyber space. Once I learned to be comfortable with vulnerability it made me realize how much I value that in others, especially in other small businesses. Instead of putting up a front when I’m struggling, I want to be vulnerable and share those struggles with others because even the smallest chance that they can relate to that struggle and get something out of it is worth it.
  5. Supportive Relationships are the Secret to Success – I think it’s probably an inherent quality of improv theaters to be uber supportive spaces. It’s in improv’s blood. That said, I do think Dallas Comedy House’s community is an unwavering place of support, more than any I have ever seen or experienced before. When I started my business my firsts several orders were all from my friends and fellow improvisers and that continues. They believed in me and wanted to support this new journey I was taking from the very beginning when I was scared and doubtful that anyone would even want to support it. And it’s not just me – it’s widespread. Is someone having a birthday? Let’s throw them a surprise birthday show and we can all cry on stage! Is someone moving away? Let’s get them boxes of Whataburger chicken strips to let them know we love them! Starting a new business, writing a book, suffering a loss, the people at Dallas Comedy House SHOW UP FOR YOU. I take that with me everywhere now. I make sure to support other small businesses, I support friends’ new endeavors, give advice when I can, and try to just show up for others in whatever way they need.

If you’re in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and want to show up for a theater in need, support Dallas Comedy House soon. Take classes, go see a show, and share the thoughtful articles that are being published. Without DCH I wouldn’t be the person I am and love today.