Lent for Improvisers

By Julie Marchiano, The Second City | Feb 20, 2015

I am not a religious woman, but I do like giving up stuff for Lent, probably because I’m a glutton for punishment (and pizza). As I was thinking about what I would give up this year, I realized that Lent has a lot to teach improvisers.

Lent is all about making strong choices.

And Jesus and stuff. But mostly, making a choice and sticking to it. And so is improv! If you make a big, bold choice and stick to your guns, your scene work will soar. And if you decide that for Lent you’re going to give up something you really love, like pizza, you’re probably going to feel great about it, even though it will probably be the hardest thing you ever do in your life because pizza is everywhere, and it’s cheap and easy. Kind of like a bad joke.

Lent is kind of about “yes, and.”

Traditionally speaking, when you give up something for Lent, you are supposed to do something positive in place of say, eating a whole pizza. Use that money for charity or to pay a personal trainer, stuff like that. You’re essentially saying “Yes, here is a good thing I’m doing, AND here is another thing I’m going to add to that.” And that’s the most basic tenant of what we do.

Lent is about reflection.

You know, thinking about stuff and striving to be better. We should treat our work that way, don’t you think? Have a dialogue with our teams after shows rather than high-fiving and going home to eat pizza in bed. We should always be proud of the work we’ve done–but also aim to be better.

Lent is about penance.

If you’re a praying person, do some more of that during Lent. And if you’re not, add it into your routine. And if you’re an improviser, maybe substitute “praying” for “seeing other people’s shows,” if that’s not a thing you usually do. Or, write a couple more desk jokes per day if you’re already working on your late night packets. Or do the Christian thing, and pray to all that is holy that you can resist the lunch special at Pequod’s. Whatever penance means to you.

Lent is about supporting your buddies.

You know, all of this kind of came about when Jesus was like, about to die and stuff and his friends? Co-workers? Disciples. And his disciples were like, hey, we got your back on this. We’re gonna support the shit out of your message and tell people about it. It might have been an unpopular idea, but they were a team and they were going to jump on the bandwagon to make their guy look good. And that’s what we do. If someone says to you in a scene, “Hey, Butthole Alien! Let’s go get some pizza!” YOU GO AND YOU EAT THAT IMAGINARY PIZZA AND YOU SAVOR THAT MOMENT.

Lent is a time to recharge!

Jesus, erm, died. And then he went to a cave and then came back and then folks were like, “Okay, we get you now.” I’m not saying diiiiiieeeee or anything, but like, if you aren’t doing the work you want to be doing, maybe make like JC and take some time for yourself if shit just ain’t goin’ right. Emerge from your cave a better and brighter person who is ready to share themselves and their POV to the masses. This one was kind of a stretch, but I’ve been without pizza for almost 2 days and 12 hours and I am shutting down.

Julie Marchiano is probably giving up pizza for Lent. Be kind.

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