In general, you are confident. You always choose your words wisely and delivery them eloquently. When people describe you, they use words like classy, composed, and posed. When you walk into the room, other people smile your way because - gosh darn it - you make them feel better about themselves, just by proximity.

What is above describes no one I know.

I have known people who come close to this description in one way or another, but when you get down to it, we're all broken people. It's part of the human condition. Anyone who believes otherwise is destined for either a therapist's couch or a pew, although I think the latter helps gain more answers to the "why" question.

So we deal with Gorking-Out. Gorking is when the awkwardness we feel sort of blurps out of our ugly butts into reality and the only thing we can do about it is bray like a donkey or fall over and die of embarrassment.

I remember a time a player was onstage, pretending be a bartender. He was miming that he was going to spit into a drink. So he "cleared his throat" and accidentally forced himself to cough - inadvertantly "hocking a lugie." Time slowed down as the dime-sized mass caught the stage light and fell. He tried to (yes, God bless him, what could he do?)  catch it but missed. It hit the stage. I'm not sure how I would have reacted, but he actually tried to pick it up. The audience was going NUTS! They were about to throw chairs, they were so disgusted. You can imagine what noises you would make if you witnessed it, but it came from a packed house... and got louder and LOUDER. Finally, when he realized everyone had seen it and there was no way to hide, he literally dove offstage and covered his face, lying on his belly for many minutes. I think he was laughing at himself, mostly.

So what happened? It all turned into laughter, of course. It was a riot. We were all so simultaneously grossed-out and entertained, we didn't know what to do with ourselves.

The same thing happened to a certain person who will remain nameless because I want to live. She was doing Forward-Reverse when her pants split from her right heel all the way up to mid-cheek. The rip was so loud, everyone heard it. Unfortunately, that was also a packed house. Her back was turned stage right, where a pack of pre-teen boys happened to be sitting. They erupted into, "I saw her butt! I saw her butt!" She covered herself and edged backstage. Another cast member deftly jumped in her place and the scene barely continued. We had to stop because the crowd was going nuts.

I'm sharing this because we're all going to deal with it. It's improv inside improv and it's so powerful when it happens that you cannot hide from it. It's what people are going to talk about for the rest of their lives when they see it.

How will you react when it happens? Here's three tips.

  • Most importantly, SAFETY. When the unpredicted happens, get clear of danger. Stop the show, if need be.
  • Try to move on. Don't assume the audience finds it as funny as you do.
  • But if the audience is going nuts... give them time to enjoy it. Pause for a moment or just end the scene and let them drink it up.
When the laughter dies down and everything gets going again, don't ignore that it happened. They are going to want it to become a part of the show. Give them that.

In the example above about the pants-rip, the lady was ushered backstage by her teammates and someone happened to have spare pants she could wear. She rejoined the performers and, for the rest of the show, she was a good sport as pun after pun about pants ripping flew her way. She took it very well, the audience roared with laughter, and it was a night we'll never forget.