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Transcript: Justin Howard on Follow The Fear at TEDxDayton

Justin Howard, founder of the Black Box Improv Theater, presents Follow the fear at TEDxDayton conference…

Listen to the MP3 Audio here: Follow the fear by Justin Howard at TEDxDayton


I will be with you guys in a second. We’re going to tweet that.

Yes, social media!

All right. I am Justin… Howard. And I own the Black Box Improv Theater in Dayton, Ohio. Those are all the people that are like, “Yeah! I was going to go there, but I haven’t yet, but I was going to.”

You guys have been inspired today? I have. I really genuinely have. There were some talks where I really almost teared up on a couple, and I think that’s really something powerful when you can get up on a stage in front of people, convey what makes your heart beat and make their heart beat, which is amazing. So, the speakers have been fantastic.

I was inspired at one point, some time ago, to open an improv theater. I’ve done improv since 2002, I was at Wittenberg University. Anybody from Wittenberg tonight? Just a few of us, because the rest of us have jobs that are making money. It’s a Wittenberg thing! So, whatever.

Laugh it up, UD! And for the college-aged students who want to transfer or the high school students who want to find a college, I loved my experience at Wittenberg. And I specifically loved one experience in general which was my class improvisation for the theater with Dr. Corwin Georges.

I don’t know if you’ve ever had a time in your life where you did something and all of a sudden you realized, “Ah! That’s me, that’s my jam, this is the thing that I was supposed to do in my life.” If you’ve had that thing, and that thing you’re supposed to do in your life makes you money, good for you. Because improv does not! Even now.

So, I’ve got the bug for this thing and I spent some time doing it, and studying it after college. I even moved to Chicago to spend a couple of years studying and teaching. And I always wanted to open an improv theater. I wanted to open it in Dayton, because I grew up in Tipp City, and I always had a special place in my heart for Dayton, especially when you move to a big city like Chicago and you realize that’s what a city can be, we’ve got one in Ohio that’s kind of blank and ready to roll.

And so I wanted to move back, and I wanted to do it here. And so, I moved back to Dayton, and I opened my improv theater. And let me tell you something about fear. Just because I do improv — which if you didn’t know at this point — improv is getting on stage with no lines, taking a suggestion and just making it up as you go. If you want to see an example of that, I’m going to show it to you in a minute. If you want to know what it’s like, I’m doing it right now. I didn’t write anything. I promise you. And it drove the people with TEDx crazy. This is me at my best.

But I can tell you this: I can get on a stage, I can improvise, but I don’t open businesses. That’s not something that I know how to do super well.

The idea of opening an improv theater, scared me to death, absolutely. Thus, the fear part. But what I realized is I just need to do in my life what I do on stage.

When I get on stage, there are two things generally that kind of move things along. And they are really all about just one big thing and it’s following the fear. The guy who came up with that term was a drug addict. So if it doesn’t make sense to you, it’s OK. I don’t think it was ever supposed to.

But this is what we do when we get on stage. And I think you can apply this to your lives. We say yes. That’s fundamental. Just saying yes. Now, if you are someone who is like, “Oh, my God, I say yes all the time.” People at work are always like, “You should do this activity,” and I’m like, “OK, I’ll do it for you.” That’s not saying yes, you’re afraid of confrontation.

Saying yes, saying yes is when an opportunity is presented to you and instead of thinking it through and applying all your analytics, you just say yes to it. And I would tell you, if you can apply that to your life, so many things will happen. Not always great things. But things will happen.

Quick example, I said yes when I walked in The Dayton Dragons once to be in the in-between innings entertainment, and if you didn’t know, baseball fans don’t like cheating because during the entertainment, I was racing a tricycle, mine broke, and I cheated the rest of the way and I got booed by an entire stadium. So, those things happen, too.

But here is the other thing: once you’ve said yes, when we get on stage, we have to let go. Letting go means when I look at that other person instead of waiting for them to finish talking, and then saying that thing that I was thinking the whole time, I just shut off the thinking. And I just let go of the thing that’s holding me back, right?

Look, this is really true, and like in marriage, too, right? When you say yes, it’s actually taking this full commitment in the marriage, it’s not holding on to this lifestyle and then trying to be a part of this one.

And this is true at any point. If you want to push anything forward, I’m the biggest advocate of that. If you’re trying to do something in Dayton, come contact me, and I will be a big fan of yours, probably. Well, depending on what it is; some of your ideas are terrible.

So, I’m going to introduce my friend David Michaels out here. David is a performer at my theater. And you guys are all like, “Yeah, we are inspired.”

So here is my question, who is so inspired they’re willing to come up here right now and do so improv? Come on up! Get up the stairs here. They’re going to give you a mic.

All right, so, we’re going to do a few minutes of improv for you, guys. If you want to see more of it, we’re open every Friday and Saturday, 8:00 to 9:30.

[David Michaels: including tonight.]

We have classes. OK. What I need from you, we’re not going to have anything pre-written. What I need from you is any one-word suggestion. Someone, yell something.

[Audience: Blasphemy.]

What was it?

[Audience: Blasphemy.]

All right. You’re weird. Blasphemy. Thank you.

Now, I picked the right person, come on.

[Woman: Oh, OK. Thanks, great, great. I appreciate it so much. ]

Oh, god, OK. We are in character, sweetheart.

[Woman: I’m so sorry.]

No, it’s fine, it’s fine. It brings up really a good subject. People are saying things about me that aren’t true.

[Woman: That’s probably because I started to say it.]

Did you say stuff?

[Woman: I mean…]

What did you say about me?

[Woman: I mean, I was drinking and then I was watching Scandal, I was really… my emotions… So… it wasn’t like about you, but like some of the characters from the characters had reflected you…So, I was like, oh, my god! Mellie is so like him! Oh! I could punch her in the face. But it wasn’t like about you. It was about the character that reflected the characteristics of you. Come here!]

No, sit down. It’s fine. You apparently have stuff to say. It’s blasphemous! If you said that in front of our son —

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