Comedy Nerdism and the Power of Improv

I am a comedy nerd. There's no hiding or denying it. I remember staying up late on Saturday nights when I was 5 years old just to catch a glimpse of Saturday Night Live. Comedy has always been a huge part of my life.

Whether it was SNL, The Simpsons, Seinfeld, Cheers, In Living Color, or just about any HBO stand-up comedy special, you name it I devoured it. As a young moviegoer, I became obsessed with Ghostbusters and then later the Holy Trinity of raunchy comedies: The Blues Brothers, Caddyshack, and Animal House. Those were my absolute favorites.

My childhood was filled with Robin Williams, George Carlin, Bill Hicks, Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, Lily Tomlin, Ellen DeGeneres, Steve Martin, Mel Brooks, Arsenio Hall, Johnny Carson, David Letterman. So many greats.

I would often memorize entire stand-up routines and SNL sketches so that I could perform them to friends and family. I grew up and eventually made my way to Chicago where I learned all about improv and sketch comedy from some of the best teachers and performers in the world. I auditioned and was accepted into the Second City Conservatory Program. I graduated from Second City and iO (formerly ImprovOlympic). The Chicago comedy experience was like a dream come true. 

For years I thought I was the only one who took comedy so seriously. The last several years have given rise to an explosion in the way comedy is experienced. Improv is booming in just about every city in the country, especially here in Austin. More and more people are taking improv classes, finding like-minded people, embracing comedy as a form of self-expression, reading Splitsider, listening to WTF, reading Patton Oswalt books, going to comedy festivals, joining troupes, trying open mic nights, sharing in the belief that comedy is a true art form. No longer just viewing comedy as an audience member but experiencing it.

As a therapist, I began noticing that there is so much crossover between improv and therapy. Psychology, wellness, laughter, improv, humor. It's all connected.

Sure laughter is fun, but it's so much more. The beautiful thing is that laughter is good for us. The healing power of laughter is a real thing. Laughter therapy is real. The time is right for people to start using humor, laughter, and improv as tools for wellness and self-improvement.

Improv is all about collaboration and the spirit of "Yes and." Treating others as poets and geniuses. Listening, agreement, bravery, and empathy. Positive thinking. These aren't just tools for performing. They're tools for life. That's what this is all about. 

I want Upside Wellness to be a destination. It is a therapy center, but if I can reach enough people... if this idea resonates with enough people... this clinic can be so much more. Something bigger. Part of a larger movement. I want Upside Wellness to be a place where people can appreciate comedy on a deeper, perhaps even spiritual level. Yes, that's right I said spiritual. A bold idea, but I'd like to think the great Del Close would be proud. 

I envision Upside Wellness as something big. A destination. A hangout. A place for people to gather and share ideas. Eventually I want to offer group therapy sessions and workshops, merging together improv with therapy and life skills. Laughter therapy combined with cognitive-behavioral therapy. That's what this is all about. I hope this resonates with you. You are not alone. We are in this together.

Lane Ingram, M.Ed., Licensed Professional Counselor

Texas License #72859