Too Old For an Improv Class?
July 3, 2019 7:40 AM   Subscribe

I'm a fifty year old man with no background in comedy thinking about taking an improv class. Is this a stupid idea?

I am considering taking a Level 1 class in long-form improv at a local training center. I don't particularly aspire to performing publicly in shows, although I wouldn't rule out participating if an opportunity ever came along. But I'm more interested in just finding out how this kind of work is done, and developing some skills that I'm not particularly strong in...confidence, attentiveness, collaboration, etc.

My concern is that I'm a 50 year old man with extremely limited experience on stage, the most recent of which was back in college, and none of it comedy. While a part of what motivates me to do this is the opportunity to get outside my own comfort zone, I don't want to create an uncomfortable situation for the other people involved, and embarrass myself as a result. I'm assuming that I'll be the oldest person present, but will I be so much the oldest person that this is bad idea right on the face of it?
posted by Ipsifendus to Society & Culture (30 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
Do it! I've known many people in your situation who have taken up improv at 50 (or older -- don't assume you'll necessarily be the oldest one there!) and they have had an absolute blast. Classes like this are great opportunities to learn new skills, and they're designed with beginners in mind. Whether or not you go on to perform in shows, this will likely be a great opportunity to push out of your comfort zone and meet a bunch of other people doing the same.
posted by ourobouros at 7:46 AM on July 3, 2019 [5 favorites]


Go for it.
I did the same thing at close to 50 with no problems (it actually didn't occur to me to worry about my age). I'm 60 and would have no trouble doing it again. Also, it's a level 1 class. That means they aren't expecting people to have experience.
You may not be the oldest in the class, and even if you are, that's totally OK. If someone actually is uncomfortable, that is that person's problem, not yours.
posted by FencingGal at 7:50 AM on July 3, 2019 [4 favorites]


It's an awesome idea!
posted by supermedusa at 7:53 AM on July 3, 2019 [2 favorites]


And don’t go into it expecting that you have to be “funny” or good at comedy! Improv is about creating scenes and stories and if you’re all lucky you’ll find something funny in it, but the worst is when people are forcing jokes. Just learning to listen to what others are giving you to work with is key. Good luck!
posted by stefnet at 7:53 AM on July 3, 2019 [4 favorites]


The fundamental rule you will learn in improv is how to turn down the inner critic voice that says "no" and answer questions "Yes, and".

Should a 50 year old take an improv course? Yes, and it'll be great for you.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 7:56 AM on July 3, 2019 [8 favorites]


Absolutely go for it, and I wouldn’t assume you’ll be the oldest one there.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 7:59 AM on July 3, 2019 [2 favorites]


Do it! I did it in my early 40s and I met a lot of great people and learned some new skills and confidence. Do it!
posted by bondcliff at 8:00 AM on July 3, 2019 [3 favorites]


My son is a 35 year old man with limited experience on stage, the most recent of which was back in college, and none of it comedy*. He is now in the third tier of the Groundlings program in LA and loves it. I was thinking of doing it myself after I retire. I should be about 68 by then, so unless I am considerably more unique than I think, there are people even older than you taking such courses. There's absolutely no down-side to this.

* OK, he's a lawyer, so he may have more experience in comedy than I'm admitting. But still...
posted by ubiquity at 8:08 AM on July 3, 2019 [2 favorites]


I live in Chicago, home of Second City, and worked for 20 years in the advertising business. I've known many older people who have taken these classes. They did it as a fun thing to try, and also to help in business skills. Giving presentations is always going to be 99% preparation and sticking to the script. But that 1% of the time that someone asks a weird question, or an accident or mistake happens? Being able to improvise on the spot in front of people can be a valuable skill.

I've known voice actors who got into that business at a later age. People who happen to have a great voice, and happen to have the right person tell them to try it out. They just never thought about the possibility of doing voice acting or voiceover work. Right place, right time. Just because you're 50 doesn't mean you shouldn't try something new. You seem to have the right attitude about it, not "I'm going to make it on TV in 2 years!" get rich quick. Have fun.
posted by SoberHighland at 8:09 AM on July 3, 2019 [3 favorites]


Sure, why not? It's a beginner's class. Have fun!
posted by praemunire at 8:21 AM on July 3, 2019 [4 favorites]


As someone who's in his forties and took his first improv class in the last year or two, absolutely, categorically not too old. (Vulture: 8 Comedy 'Late Bloomers'.)
posted by WCityMike at 8:27 AM on July 3, 2019 [2 favorites]


Of course you should do it! I'm in my mid-40s and keep re-reading your question wondering if I've missed something, a bit baffled by the idea that 50 is too old for anything, let alone that it might be 'uncomfortable' for other people to see 50-year-olds doing things... huh? Do whatever you want to do, until you're physically incapable!
posted by penguin pie at 8:31 AM on July 3, 2019 [2 favorites]


Not stupid at all, you'll have a blast!
posted by TheCoug at 8:35 AM on July 3, 2019 [1 favorite]


I took an improv course a year ago at age 57, with no previous acting or comedy experience at all. It was fantastic fun and everyone was absolutely supportive of each other. All you need is a willingness to let the magic happen - and it will happen. Don't hesitate!!
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:49 AM on July 3, 2019 [3 favorites]


I have colleagues around your age or older who have gone to improv courses as part of their business personal development for exactly the reasons you've mentioned: getting outside their comfort zone, developing confidence and interpersonal skills, and so on. These are not people inclined to pursue the performing arts otherwise, but they had a great time. You definitely don't need past on-stage comedy experience to be funny or have fun in improv, and there are no age limits on a sense of humor. Go for it!
posted by rather be jorting at 9:01 AM on July 3, 2019 [2 favorites]


> My concern is that I'm a 50 year old man with extremely limited experience on stage, the most recent of which was back in college, and none of it comedy

Sounds to me that this is an excellent reason to take the class.
posted by cirgue at 9:16 AM on July 3, 2019 [1 favorite]


It's a great idea! This is exactly what level 1 improv is for, and while you do sometimes cross paths with one or two classmates who are truly gifted and/or experienced and maybe just starting over in this particular program (this is common for someone starting over at a new place, even if they've gone completely through the system at another school/club/program) or doing it for teacher training, for the most part everyone's going to be starting from the same relative experience and learning at the same rate.

I think every class my husband and I were in (in our 30s, so not kids either) had at least one if not a couple actual middle-aged people in them. 90% of the time it was a non-issue - you'd have scenes come together where a 20 year old woman was playing the grandmother of a 45-year-old toddler or whatever, because that's how it's supposed to work. Every once in a while you'd get someone who was maybe super self-conscious about their age and always stepped in playing the oldest person in the room, even for a character that didn't need an age - be mindful not to do that, in improv you're a baby and a teenager and a parent and Zeus and a novel-writing T-Rex all rolled up into one.

There was also (just frequent enough to be a trope) That Guy, who made every scene about sex or how mad he was about his divorce, and sometimes people wondered if his attendance was court-ordered in some way because he didn't seem to be having fun or want to actually play along. You are obviously NOT that guy, maybe be mindful that other people may be nervous of you for a minute for fear you are, and the fix for that is to just be game, don't be too stiff to have fun, and follow instructions with enthusiasm and be nice and accepting of all your classmates. Everyone there is going to be nervous, and possibly as the oldest guy in the room you will know better than them that embarrassment isn't fatal and may be able to just give off a calm "we're all in this together and it's going to be great" vibe that can be really helpful in those first hundred step-ins to scenes.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:46 AM on July 3, 2019 [7 favorites]


Nthing excellent idea. You will have fun, gain some skills, meet some people; it's all win.
posted by theora55 at 9:53 AM on July 3, 2019 [1 favorite]


Of course! And may it disabuse you of the notion that age has anything to do with much of anything...
posted by MountainDaisy at 9:56 AM on July 3, 2019 [2 favorites]


I took my first improv class when I was 49. I was not the oldest person there! My age was irrelevant. I keep doing it because it's great fun. BTW I had no stage experience when I started. Now I perform occasionally with a local group.

Take the class, do what the teacher says, and you'll find yourself opening up to new experiences. Don't worry about making mistakes-- everyone does.
posted by tuesdayschild at 10:21 AM on July 3, 2019 [2 favorites]


Do it! I took my first improv class 7 years ago, fell in love with it, and now perform weekly on a house team in NYC. Even if you have no particular aspiration to perform right now, you might surprise yourself and go deep. The improv bug can hit hard, and without warning. On the other hand, you might have a great time in Level 1 and decide to stop there. Either way, it'll be something fun, new, and exciting, and the training you get in your class will indeed help with confidence, attentiveness, and collaboration.

A note about age and improv classes. I was 29 when I started, and it's laughable to me now, but I was worried I'd be too old, too. The worry disappeared immediately once we started goofing around in class. To be frank, the stupidity of the things improv makes you do, especially in early levels, tends to level out age differences.

I'll also say that I've taken an *embarrassing number* of improv classes, and in my experience people get excited to have a classmate who's lived a life before signing up for 101. I know I do. You'll bring a lot of perspective that a 20 year old coming straight from their college improv team doesn't have, and it'll make your scenes better and more interesting.

Have fun!
posted by scarylarry at 10:48 AM on July 3, 2019 [3 favorites]


When I saw your question this morning, I thought 50 isn't that old, why not try it? There weren't any answers yet so I didn't say anything and would wait to see what other MeFis had to say. The answer looks overwhelmingly like GO FOR IT! I think that this has encouraged me, in my 60s and inna wheelchair, to give it a try, too. I'd love to hear how it goes.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 11:33 AM on July 3, 2019 [8 favorites]



When I saw your question this morning, I thought 50 isn't that old, why not try it? There weren't any answers yet so I didn't say anything and would wait to see what other MeFis had to say. The answer looks overwhelmingly like GO FOR IT! I think that this has encouraged me, in my 60s and inna wheelchair, to give it a try, too. I'd love to hear how it goes.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 2:33 PM on July 3


This is awesome! Have a great time!
posted by scarylarry at 11:44 AM on July 3, 2019 [1 favorite]


You should do it! I took my first class at age 39 and ended up performing for audiences for 6 years. I wasn't the oldest in my theater. Not even the oldest one in my troupe. Improv--just like acting in general--is for people of all ages, not just 20-somethings.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 12:18 PM on July 3, 2019 [1 favorite]


Not too old at all! I've recently got into improv and people of all ages have been in my classes, from 19 year old college students to 65+ retirees. One piece of advice: you will embarrass yourself, though... so will everyone else in the class!!!! Then after a while you won't care so much about feeling embarrassed (in your class). I tend to hold myself back A LOT in life and am always afraid of being embarrassed, so I get that fear. Half a year of improv hasn't gotten rid of that fear, but I'm slowly learning that I'll survive these feelings in a low stakes environment.
posted by VirginiaPlain at 12:42 PM on July 3, 2019 [3 favorites]


I've been involved in the improv scene in Cincinnati for the last ~5 years and people in their 40s and 50s are well represented. As others said, if you are interested you should definitely give it a shot.
posted by mmascolino at 1:34 PM on July 3, 2019


I am 62 and currently taking an improv class. No theatrical experience since high school. I could happily recommend it to a 75 year old.
posted by jcworth at 1:45 PM on July 3, 2019


Did you know that Leslie Nielsen didn't even do comedy until he was about your age?
posted by Countess Elena at 2:30 PM on July 3, 2019 [1 favorite]


You easily could be the oldest person in the room, but unless you're aspiring to get cast on Saturday Night Live or become a sitcom writer, there's pretty much nothing that those classes offer a 22 year old they don't offer you.

More importantly to the social setting, improv is nerdy as heck, and with the modicum of chill and interpersonal insight age gives, you'll be on pretty even footing, cool-wise, with the many weird and awkward people younger people in the room. Clear a very low bar of not-creepy-older-dude conduct (don't hit on the 20-something girls, don't invite yourself into the kids after-class drinks, make a tasteful early exit from the whole-class-after-class-drinks) and you'll be great.
posted by MattD at 7:08 AM on July 4, 2019 [1 favorite]


unless you're aspiring to get cast on Saturday Night Live

Leslie Jones joined the cast at 47; George Coe and Michael McKean at 46½. Not that it can happen for everyone, but not impossible ...
posted by WCityMike at 6:30 PM on July 14, 2019


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