By SARAHANN KOLDER —
For Lauren Eisenman, good improvisation is about practice and being quick. “You’re not yourself in a job interview,” she says. “It’s you, but it’s the you that’s not shy.”
Eisenman is a member of Without a Box at the Claremont Colleges in Southern California, “an improvisational and experimental theater group,” according to the troupe’s Facebook page. Without a Box’s most recent show featured several short comedic games, but Eisenman is trained in long-form and is also comfortable improvising 40-minute plays.
Separate from improv skill, being funny is being smart and genuine. Eisenman’s parents called her smart-aleck behavior as a child “being cute.” She remembers realizing, “you could do whatever you wanted and not get in trouble if you did something funny after. So that was a big motivator for me.”
This semester Eisenman, a junior at Scripps College, works in the post-baccalaureate office, is an organic chemistry tutor and grades calculus.
“It’s all about the neurons, making those synaptic connections,” she says, gesturing with her hands and making the face of a passionate academic. Returning to her interview persona, sitting upright and relaxing her brows, she says, “I should know more about this; I’m a neuroscience major.”
Eisenman practicing or performing improv is different from real-life Lauren, but there’s improv in almost all situations and interactions she faces. “I’m kind of improv–ing right now. … With improv you really need to be in the group setting … but it’s kind of a thing you can practice everyday,” she says. “Everything can be practiced and done.” She quoted Bob Ross, a well-known painter and television host, once saying, “Talent is a pursued interest.”
Eisenman described the ultimate sensation of improv as a spirit passing through the body. “Ideal improv should be brain, mouth, go.” She says that sometimes, “I literally feel a numbness in my forehead.” To her, good improvisation tells a story, immediately and accurately.
To Eisenman, when a comic makes audiences uncomfortable in a way that doesn’t make them think, “‘are they (the comic) gonna be OK?’” the comic is failing. Eisenman has “no sympathy at all” for comics who complain, “‘I can’t go to college, can’t tell my jokes.’”
“If you’re just genuinely a person who truly cares about these kinds of things, about not making people … feel bad, I feel like that should be easy,” she says. “Sometimes that can be hard because we’re born into this world with all these prejudices and we learn them. It takes time to unlearn them. …
“It’s like anything else, you just gotta practice it.”
Though she is unsure whether she will participate in performative comedy after college, her improvisation and humor know no bounds, and her intelligence and sincerity will surely transfer into any context.
(Written by Sarahann Kolder; Sept. 27, 2016)