First things first – this article is not meant to argue that introverts are in any way better than extroverts, at improv or otherwise. Furthermore, I do believe that being introverted or extroverted is a spectrum rather than a binary distinction. That said, I fall into the more introverted side of that spectrum. I have noticed that a few of the things people say to me about it keep coming back. Here is a few of them.
Yeah. I know a lot of introverts with great voice projection but I am not one of them. Nothing worse than making a hilarious joke and having to repeat it. It is the offline version of “You’re still on mute”, only then the solution is quite a bit harder than turning off a button. It can make you feel powerless to not be heard. Ever since I took lessons with a vocal coach, I found out my voice works just fine. I am just a bit uncomfortable with being loud. I am working on it though, and I hear the “What?!” less and less now that I got better at talking (or maybe I just got worse at listening).
“Everyone is so loud, and then there’s you”
If I got one euro every time this has been said to me, I would have enough money to hire ten vocal coaches. It’s meant as a compliment, but it’s a weird one because it also sets you apart from the group. There have been times where I absolutely believed this, in a negative way, especially when I started doing improv. Maybe there were no improvisers like me and if I wanted to be one, I would have to invent that role all by myself. Now that I have gotten to know a lot of improvisers, I would argue that introverts might not even be the minority.
Comfortable silence is the secret handshake of the quiet people. To start a scene without saying something is a gamble, because what if your scene partner decides to fill up your silence with words and leaves no space for you? But if your scene partner accepts the silence as an offer instead, giving more silence in return, that is something I can thoroughly enjoy. Especially if the players are comfortable, while their characters are in a very, very uncomfortable silence.
“You? An improviser?”
I have heard this a few times when I was a little more insecure and just going about my non-improvising life. I think there is a certain stereotype that people have of improvisers, especially of comedy improv, and I didn’t fall into that. Such a shame, honestly, because not only does it affect actual non-stereotype improvisers, but it might also discourage non-stereotype non-improvisers from trying out improv.
“You? An introvert?”
And on the other hand – there’s stereotypes about being an introvert, too. A lot of things I have learnt from improv are stereotypical extroverted things: saying what comes to mind, stepping into the centre of attention, starting up conversations with a stranger. Sometimes being introverted is confused with being shy (like extroverted is confused with being loud). It’s not that I am not an introvert anymore, but being introverted comes with its own set of challenges. And improv helped me overcome some of them.