I am a closet waffler

I find that improv brings out the best and the worst in people. Regardless, it certainly brings out what lies just beneath the surface of your thoughts. How could it not? The very action of “saying the first thing that comes into your head” by its nature relies on the subconscious.

I can remember with brutal clarity the show night where every scene was about failing relationships because one of the members of my troupe was breaking up with her boyfriend.

And of course there was that rehearsal just after my co-actor’s father had passed away where I had to mention death, oh, about 4 thousand times.

Whatever sits in the improviser’s subconscious mind will crop up in his scene-work, and all improvisers are plagued with repeated character types and scene choices that reflect what character flaws and tendencies they have in their real lives.

So, it is no mystery to me that I must guard myself against the evils of waffling, because I am a waffler.

Leggo my eggo

For those not in the know, waffling on stage means “not being able to make up your mind.” Of course the issue with this is that it stops any story from moving forward.

A number of years ago I was performing with Unexpected Productions in Seattle. We were closing out our show with a five minute musical and I was the hero. I think I spent 4 of those 5 minutes deciding if I was going to buy a horse or not. Should I, shouldn’t I… I was so torn. I thought it was f-ing brilliant.

I still feel the sting of UP director Randy Dixon’s comment at the end of the show. We were doing notes and I waited with anticipation for Randy to get to the end of the show and comment on MY musical. He finally turns to me and says, Um, Todd, what the hell was that crap?

Whenever I feel my character waffling on stage, I drag that moment up in my mind and get myself moving forward again.

I wish this would work for me in real life.

In real life, I second guess and analyze pretty much everything I do. Oh, I commit! There is no question about that. In fact, when I commit, it tend to over-commit, diving in head first with both feet (this being the problem of living a “yes and” lifestyle). But afterwards I agonize…

You have no idea how I agonize…

You are glad you have no idea how I agonize…

Two roads diverged in a wood and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
But I still looked back and kinda wished I had taken the other one… I think.

My general theory about improv is that it can teach you how to live your life better. It can teach you how to commit, how to move forward, how to yes-and, how to play, how to be present, how to talk gibberish….

I am still waiting for it to teach me how to stop looking longingly at those burned bridges while mentally searching for planks of wood.

What personal foibles do you find cropping up in your scene-work?


About improvmantra

What is an improv mantra? An improv mantra is a phrase you repeat to yourself just before you go on stage, and continue to keep in your mind while you are in a scene. An effective mantra makes you a better improviser. Todd Erler, like all living creatures, has been doing improv every day since he was born. He has been performing improv on stage for more than 20 years. He is a teacher, writer, musicain, director, actor, and member of The Portable Reality Show.
This entry was posted in Attitude, Fundamentals, Improv Life Lessons and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to I am a closet waffler

  1. erin says:

    Waffling only ends up pissing off your scene partners, especially if they are out on a limb, and stalling out everyone’s progress. Part of growing up is realizing one choice will rule out another and accepting it. No one gets to have it all. Second guessing just gives you an excuse not to really commit in the moment, and isn’t improv or all acting (or life) about presently committing?

    In not trusting myself or trusting in the value I have to give, I tend to hold back on making clear offers and let others take charge, which is pretty stupid if I am in a scene with wafflers.

  2. improvmantra says:

    One great thing about having a blog: having someone you’ve never met tell you to grow the hell up! You are so right, Erin. Waffling in a scene pisses off your scene partners… waffling in life pisses off your life partners. Even secretly second guessing myself holds me back. How can I be 100% committed, if I am not 100% committed? Thank you.

  3. Beth says:

    I can’t speak to the improv part. On the life side, I try to tamp down the backward looking regret by evaluating the positives of where I am now and looking forward to what is next. No regrets, just opportunities (not always easy).

  4. I’m not an actor, so get me the butter and syrup.

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