It’s become something of a clichéd joke that improv is a big old mad cult.
Maybe it was after one too many improvisers waxed lyrical to their friends about how much t
heir confidence has improved, the sometimes queasy reverence towards gurus or the brilliant parody towards the end of series two of BoJack Horseman. But maybe; just maybe, we are all in a big old mad cult
.I’ve decided to sort this out once and for all by taking some questions from a random online questionnaire (link below)! I’ll be tracking my score and it might be fun if you did the same, so grab a pen and paper; or an IPad as we live in the future, and let’s see if we should be careful about drinking this delicious Kool-Aid.
- Have you noticed that the groups ideas have filtered into all areas of your life, work social, personal life?
Oh fuck. I pretty much wrote a confession letter to this on Holly Bartolo’s website The Phoenix Remix. For fear of repeating myself: https://thephoenixremix.com/2017/10/09/how-improv-changed-their-life-liam-brennan/
Am i in a cult? Yes: 1 No: 0 (Not a brilliant start)
- Have you noticed that you spend less and less time with your family and friends and more time with the group?
If anything, I’ve probably spent more time with my family since doing improv. On the other hand, the majority of the friends I hang out with these days do improv. I’m going to consider that half a point each.
Am I in a cult? Yes: 1.5 No: 0.5
- Do you find it boring or awkward spending time with people outside the group because they seem boring, or they don’t understand the language of the group?
Luckily I have a decent number of friends who don’t do improv, which I find extremely healthy for keeping perspective.
Am I in a cult? Yes: 1.5 No: 1.5
- Have you thought that if only everyone knew this stuff the world would be a better place?
Am I in a cult? Yes: 2.5 No: 1.5
- Has someone close to you told you that they think you are in a cult?
No, only people who are also potentially part of that cult but I think they’re joking… Half a point each!
Am I in a cult? Yes: 3 No: 2
- When you ask yourself “Am I in a cult?” you think straight away… “Of course not, I would never join a cult…”
I think the very fact that I’m writing this gives me something of a free pass.
Am I in a cult? Yes: 3 No: 3
- If someone criticises the leader, the group or the ideas, do you have to explain why they are wrong?
I’ve never really been in a position that I’ve had to defend improv to people who criticise it. It’s actually a lot more common for different improv philosophies to clash with each other. Any time I’ve been part of this situation it’s come down to a discussion, rather than a case of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’.
Am I in a cult? Yes: 3 No: 4
- Have people said that you are pushy or obsessive about the group?
I don’t think anyone’s directly said that to me but for the sake of fairness, I will confess to being obsessed.
Am I in a cult? Yes: 4 No: 4
- Do you sometimes feel like you know more than outsiders about life, about people, about the world?
I think my perspective towards the world has changed considerably over the last year or so. I’ve become very cynical towards the expected norms within society and in frankness I’m starting to become a massive hippy. However I don’t necessarily think I know more about life, people and the world. On the flip side, I do feel like teaching, rehearsing and performing improv has given me some insight into life, people and the world that others don’t have. Hmm… Half a point each!
Am I in a cult? Yes: 4.5 No: 4.5
- Do you find yourself recommending the group courses or group techniques for many different types of problems?
I was tempted to say yes to this but I want to add just a bit of perspective here.
Nearly 10 years ago, I was going through a phase in which I fancied myself as an up and coming philosopher and had particular interest in Theology. As you can imagine, I was an absolute riot at parties. This essentially acted as my gap year, although most gap years don’t involve witnessing the exorcism of a woman while her child played with lego in a corner (I genuinely can’t wait until I find a way of crowbarring the full story into an improv blog). The other big highlight during this period was visiting the London Church of Scientology and as you can imagine, shit got weird.
In amongst the weird encounters I had with Scientologists that day, I was shown a video about their beliefs that played out like a mini drama. An intelligent, good looking, All-American College Football player was injured during a game and was confined to a hospital bed. He was told he would never walk again while a villainous Psychiatrist skulked about in the background planning all manner of experiments he could do with his new specimen. Understandably, Bret (probably not his name but it might as well have been) was pretty depressed about the whole situation.
However, Bret was in luck. A passing advocate for Scientology was in the hospital and he recommended that Bret read Dianetics by L. Ron Hubbard. As Bret read through the first few chapters, the very power of the words in Dianetics allowed him to forget that he was paralysed from the waist down and gingerly (because this is very realistic) get out of bed. Seconds later he started slowly running on the spot, before achieving a full on sprint. He was cured! Just as he was leaving the hospital with his All-American family, the malicious Psychiatrist returned ready with some horrendous brain experiments and couldn’t believe that his prey had escaped him.
So, for perspective: I think improv is a pretty good tool for confidence building and for assisting a creative process but I don’t believe it can cure paralysis.
Am I in a cult? Yes: 4.5 No: 5.5
So, am I in a cult?
Luckily, it looks like improv just misses out on being a cult. Having said that, I could probably do with branching out a bit with my interests. I’m quite keen to indulge in outdoor drinking with a ban on improv chat to take advantage of the nice weather if anyone is game?
Feel free to take the whole questionnaire that’s linked below. However; upon actually reading the website title, it does look like it’s attached to a cult of some kind: http://www.decision-making-confidence.com/am-i-in-a-cult.html
Thanks for reading! What was your score on the Cultometer? If you scored higher than me let me know and teach me how to be a better peon! LiamBrennanImprov[at]gmail.com