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No dipping your toes in the water

By Tyler McCarthy
On February 7, 2013

As many of my regular readers know, this is my last semester at UConn. In just a few months, the real world will begin and I'll be left with nothing but the memories of writing my column every week, getting a Grab-n-Go wrap and finding places in the Union to sit with friends and waste time. Every graduate who I speak to tells me how important it is to cherish these last few months because the family that you make here - and make no mistake, it is a family - will soon be scattered to the wind. It is my most humble opinion that finding a group of people on campus to share these four years with is the most important part of the collegiate experience. It is also my opinion that stories are the best ways to convince people of something, so here's a story about how I met one of my UConn families:
During my sophomore year I was a campus change student from UConn's Avery Point campus in Groton. While it's a fine campus filled with intelligent and committed educators, it isn't heavy on extracurricular activities. When I moved away from home and up to Storrs I decided, for reasons I cannot remember, to attend a meeting of the improv group "Scared Scriptless," formerly "Molotov Improv" and before that "UC Improv," which was a pun on the phrase "You see improv." I quickly learned that puns are highly regarded as the Cadillac of improv jokes.
I walked into the fully windowed room across from the Blue Cow in the Union. Here I was, looking to attempt doing something on stage for the first time in my life, and we had to meet in a room that makes the inhabitants seem like a zoo exhibit. The only difference was that people weren't shy about tapping on the glass. All of the returning members were there looking incredibly relaxed, like they didn't even notice the people walking by and staring. It was clear that sitting idly wasn't the most embarrassing thing they'd be doing that night.
I sat there for the better part of two hours and watched as some of the most talented human beings of my age created comedic gold out of thin air. Two brothers in the group caught my eye because they seemed to have mastered improv comedy as an art. That night they and the group leader taught me about always saying "yes" no matter what, never making my partner in a scene look bad and understanding the keys to not thinking but just believing in your own sense of humor and trusting it in real time.
I was assured that I could go, sit in the corner and just watch if I wanted to just dip my toes in the water instead of just diving in. However, the dirty little secret about improv is that there's no such thing as dipping your toe in the water. There isn't even a shallow end of the pool - you either stand up to perform a scene from nothing or you don't.
I remember my first joke. It was during a theater game called "Scenes from a Hat." We were given the premise of "worst ways to propose." I got up my courage, stood in the middle as the humble "new guy" bent down on one knee and said "you'll do." It got a laugh. Not much of one, but enough to make me fall into an obsessive love afair with improv.
That was the first semester of my sophomore year. Here I am, about three years later, still showing up every week without fail to feed my addiction. It's become more than that, though. I've been in some difficult scenes on stage with an audience waiting on baited breath to either laugh with us or at us. We've grown together, and I truly can't imagine a time at UConn when these people didn't have my back, either on stage or in life. Ask anyone at UCTV, in an a capella group or even at The Daily Campus, and they'll tell you that when you spend some of the most difficult times of your life with people, you're bonded forever.
If you're a freshman or sophomore and you haven't yet found a place like this, I highly encourage you to look for one. Your college experience is about much more than academics. 


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