“Sometimes, I start a sentence, and I don’t even know where it’s going. I just hope I find it along the way—like an improv conversation, an improversation.”—Michael Gary Scott
In college, our coach used to schedule our weekly, Sunday morning long runs for 9:30 am, her brilliant, cruel, but ultimately futile attempt to curb late-night tomfoolery. We’d show up a little worse for the wear, regretting a few of those daddy sodas, then plod along for 8 to 18 miles depending on the day and depending on the dude. The runs (no pun intended) rarely felt good, but I remember them fondly—partly because of the post-run pancakes, partly because of the camaraderie, partly because of my short-lived slam poetry career.
By about mile 4, my teammate and good pal, Mark, and I would find ourselves bored, slightly less hungover, and in need of comedic distraction. One of us would start spewing nonsense then the other would do an improv YES AND, building off the other’s stream-of-conscious Poetic Poo Poo Platter in a lyrical give-and-go. It was utter dog shit. It was the Portlandia of Spoken Word. It was just what the doctor ordered.
It didn’t matter what we said or how we said it. It only mattered that we committed to listening—to our partner’s madness, to our own instinctive madness, to our desire to be clowns. We blurted and didn’t second-guess or go back to edit. It was harmonious disharmony; we were mindful of when we should hop in and be mindless.
I don’t remember any specific “poems.” All I remember is whenever we sensed we were nearing the end (until we would start up again a few minutes later), we’d dramatically pause and say, with emphatic hand gestures and spastic diction, “In this country…..IN this country……………in THIS country………………………in this COUNTRY?” It was the dumbest and the best. Our teammates either laughed and thought we were bumbling idiots or ran away and thought we were bumbling idiots.
Eventually, our headaches and nausea faded, and so did any fear of being wrong—which, creatively, is all you can really ask for.
This week’s embarrassing story:
When I was 6, my mom told me she was bringing some old clothes to The Good Will. Naturally, I was mortified. I didn’t say anything about it for a few days. Eventually, though, I summoned the courage.
“Mom, if those clothes are for The Good Will, does that make me The Bad Will?”
“The most important thing is to have a ball, to be joyful, and to love being explosive.”—Ray Bradbury
“It’s all about paying attention. Attention is vitality. It connects you with others.”—Susan Sontag