Jam for Joy!
JOY – the word itself brings a little smile. It’s an emotion we all know, love, and would like to feel more often. The good news is that we seem to be hardwired for joy, meaning we can feel confident that it’s within our reach.
Further, joy can be cultivated, strengthened and developed, and when that happens, we discover an elevated quality of life. We can lift ourselves out of depression, stress, anxiety, and even isolation. We discover enhanced levels of communication and confidence, and the next thing we know, the under-appreciated and all-too-often taken for granted emotion of Joy is at our fingertips. How can that happen? One, perhaps surprising path to Joy, is through playing simple improv games, games that are all about having fun. Improv, just like joy, is hardwired. You do it all the time – but you almost certainly aren’t maximizing your improv-abilities.
I hear this pushback frequently: “improv sounds like fun, but I’m not funny.” While laughter is a frequent and natural result of improvisation, you don’t have to be funny appreciate the benefits of laughter. And to be clear, jokes are the opposite of what we do. We listen. We relate. We support. We have fun. And, as we demonstrate in every class, the best humor comes from listening and responding honestly (a.k.a. "Truth in Comedy"). To be 100% clear: this is not a performance class and you don't need any experience. You simply need to be ready to have fun and be able to say, "Yes, and...".
Still not sure? Check out these testimonials and see what other brand-new improv players are saying.
We exist on the Pay it Forward model.
The schedule for classes is opening up - please Email me with a few dates and times that work for you and I'll try to align.
Improv snuck up on me. The first time was in a high school theater class. I was a three-sport jock looking for an easy, stress-free elective for my senior year. Mind you, the whole idea of being in theater class to begin with was a lark. I had a blast. I quickly became hooked on “Whose Line is it Anyway?” and while it was terrific fun, it was in no way practical at the time. It never dawned on me how much those improv games and exercises would influence my life and even shape my future.
While on my path to becoming a screenwriter and cultivating skills in stand-up, filmmaking, and musical theater, I took another improv class, this time at El Camino Junior College in south L.A.. Our class went on a field trip to a little Hollywood theater where I saw my first ComedySportz show. Most auditions I went on involved improvisation. The pipeline from improv to commercial, sketch and sitcom success was tangible and tantalizing. I trained at with the Groundlings in the late 1990's – but something didn’t quite click. I moved away from L.A. and continued improvising in various ways.
It wasn’t until I studied with The Second City, that I began to think about improvisation as a life skill. From there, I included improv games and philosophies in the classrooms where I taught film and media studies - my students loved it. I was impressed by the diverse, positive effects improv had as a way of promoting teamwork and communication, often beyond my expectations.
Fast forward to making the second documentary in the award-winning Boys of Summer documentary series in 2014. It dawned on me that if I introduced my dad, who has Parkinson's Disease, to improvisation, he might benefit from it as a life philosophy and it might help to improve the quality of his life. He found it both interesting and helpful.
I began to look for research on improvisation's effect on Parkinson's, knowing it would be a needle in a haystack. I found it.. By now, I was convinced of a relationship between improv and quality of life for people with Parkinson’s and was certain the literature must have more than just this one Second City study investigating this relationship ... but no. Since I couldn’t find any other work to support this idea, I decided I'd have to do it myself. I enrolled in the PhD program in UNLV's Interdisciplinary Health Sciences department in 2019. In the spring of 2020, as I was preparing to begin pilot testing some of the work, COVID paid us all a long visit.
Though improv had never seriously, clinically or in any measure professionally been done online, I started what is now known as YAX -- "Yes, And...eXercise!". We've been fortunate to work online with wonderful Parkinson's support groups and participants from across the U.S. and U.K.. The Davis Phinney Foundation ambassadors stepped up in a big way in early 2021 to test out two series of six week, 12-session classes. The qualitative feedback was amazing. A woman with PD named Susan transformed from the most outspoken "what does this program really do?" to a stark-raving fan. This brings us to the fall of 2021, when I will initiate a clinical trial on this work. The results will be part of my dissertation and will demonstrate what this program really does scientifically.
Apart from the clinical trials, this less formal class, "Jam for Joy", has been around since early 2021 when a first follower named Sarah contacted this lone nut (me) via the Interwebs, saying she sort of wanted to try it out. To be clear, she doesn't have PD - she was just looking to try something new and, as it turns out, a way to manifest joy. I'm happy to say YAX helps. In fact, it’s funny how much it helps!
I hope you'll join us at the jamto see what this is about.
PhD Student, UNLV Integrated Health Sciences
Jam for Joy founder