Teen Angst — for Laughs
The monthly Improv Diary Show finds humor and catharsis in the struggles of growing up
By Christina Campodonico
“This shit is dark,” says puppeteer Katrina Lofgren, about to read a poem from her teenage diary for an audience gathered at M.i. Westside Comedy Theater’s monthly Improv Diary Show.
“The joy of comedy though is to turn darkness to light,” she adds before starting to read.
Her poem — called “They,” about her parents’ crushing expectations of her — is both macabre and melodramatic all
“They restrain me like a noose. / Their tight grip will not let me loose … It is because their dreams were not fulfilled they wipe out mine and my heart, too. / When I am older will I too make whole my dreams in my children’s new life? … Will I have the nerve to end it, watch them scream and throw a fit? / When I am dropped will I slip through? / Or will I hang and my face turn blue?”
Even though Lofgren’s poem ends on a morbid note, it results in peals of pure laughter from the audience.
It’s the kind of laughter that comes from feeling relieved — relieved for Lofgren, and for yourself; the feeling that you’ve made it through the long, dark tunnel that can be adolescence and emerged on the other side unscathed enough to speak your truth with 20/20 hindsight.
To top off the madcap teen madness, a team of improv actors takes these readings and transforms them into zany comedy sketches — everything from frenzied family European vacations to high school hijinks in the principal’s office — right on the spot.
Laughing at these wild and grim teenage thoughts is a special kind of catharsis, and it’s why Nicole Schubert, the current producer of Improv Diary, believes the show has been so successful over the past few months.
“We all can relate,” says Schubert, who writes young adult fiction and took over producing Improv Diary from original creator Kerri Fernsworth Feazell earlier this year. “I think teenagers are experiencing adult issues for the first time that are wildly intensified. And so weas adults can relate to them, and it’s fun to hear those experiences and get in touch with those emotions, I think. … It’s an interesting idea that you can revisit those things and then see where you’ve come and actually share it with other people, so it’s not in the dark, in just your head.”
For actor and comedian Curtis Davis, reading from his diary at July’s Improv Diary Show was a vulnerable but liberating experience. He read about getting in trouble at school and taking care of his aging grandfather.
“As an actor, I’m at home being other people, but when you do yourself it’s a whole other ballgame,” Davis says. “It’s like opening the blinds in your house and letting people see right in.”
Expect more juicy, cathartic and embarrassing revelations when Improv Diary takes over the M.i. Westside Comedy Theater again this week as it continues its third Wednesday of the month residency.
The upcoming lineup includes Wendy Paris, the author of “Splitopia: Dispatches from Today’s Good Divorce and How to Part Well”; businesswoman and comedy club moonlighter Gina Ruelas; and podcaster Cole Stratton.
The Improv Diary Show happens at 9 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 17, at M.i. Westside Comedy Theater, 1323-A (A stands for alley) Third St., Santa Monica. $5. 21+. Call (310) 451-0850 or visit westsidecomedy.com.