We talked to Freya C. who started doing improv with us this year. After taking some time off of work at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, Freya found herself in a Black Mirror-esque world where all of her interactions with her peers were online.
In our chat, Freya shared her experiences of coming to work video calls later than everyone else and how improv helped her catch up with her colleagues and get comfortable with our online world.
I had about 6 months off work at the beginning of 2020. I did a little bit of Zoom (which I’m using as a catch all for all online meetings) in that time but it was either chatting with friends one on one, or in social groups where it’s fine not to say anything. Whereas, at work when it’s a meeting, everyone needs to contribute and that’s a totally different thing. When I went back to work it was like ‘Oh fuck, I’m on video all day’. My team had continued to work while I was off over those 6 months and I felt really behind.
I remember the first time someone put us into breakout rooms, I thought “Oh my God, i don’t know who i’m in a group with!” and it was massively anxiety inducing.
All I was doing on video meetings was getting stressed, so I wanted to find something fun to do. I found Hoopla online and I remember thinking “Oh cool, I can do improv on zoom!” I would never have thought to do it in real life. It just wouldn’t have occurred to me, it felt more accessible online.
Once I started having fun on Zoom in the classes and relaxing and having a laugh, it just took the fear out of being in video meetings. I was used to being on camera and being spontaneous. Suddenly, speaking in meetings wasn’t a big deal anymore.
When I was first having video meetings I was worried about what I looked like and how I sounded. You just can’t worry about that when doing improv. The experience of being spontaneous helped me stop being anxious.
While doing improv isn’t totally like being in a meeting, in some ways it is. You might be put on the spot or you might be asked a question you need to respond to. Learning how to be spontaneous in this Black Mirror world, it just desensitised me to it, it just wasn’t a big deal anymore. Now that I’ve mucked about and had fun on Zoom, it’s taken the sting out of it.
Anxiety makes you worry about what’s about to happen and you try to plan ahead. You can’t do that with improv, you have to be in the moment. I’ve noticed that on video calls I used to plan what I was going to say in meetings. I was quite confident in public speaking but on Zoom I got into the habit of over planning and writing too many notes. Now I just show up and wing it.
In improv, you can’t be in your head because you’ve got to listen to other people you’ve got to respond to what other people are saying, if you’re in your own head planning what you’re going to say next, it doesn’t work. That applies to life in general too!
When doing improv with people online, it feels like you’re in the same room. It’s not that it removes the sense of having a screen but it makes it easier to forget about it. Because we’re having a laugh together and pretending to be in a scene together, I stopped noticing I was on video. That has definitely gone into the rest of my life now, I’m less bothered about being on video.
This sounds daft but I never used to like video calls as I always associated them with apocalyptic movies! I used to hate things like Skype and early on; when I was really stressed about the pandemic, it reminded me that we were living through this situation. Whereas now, it’s where I go to do improv and other stuff. Video calls are no longer just something I associate with catastrophe.
A massive thank you to Freya C. for talking about her experiences!
If you’d like to know more about the course she took, find out more information here: https://www.hooplaimpro.com/beginner-improv-comedy-course.html
For more about adapting to the pandemic life, check out our resource here: https://www.hooplabusiness.com/resources/2020/6/4/on-the-grief-we-are-feeling-now-and-the-will-to-change
For a selection of exercises and games you can try out for yourself, see our beginners improv exercise guide: https://www.hooplaimpro.com/improv-exercises-games-formats.html