I have funny friends. Not just funny peculiar, but also ha-ha funny.
Yesterday my arguably funniest friend, Rome’s Comedy Club founder Marsha De Salvatore stopped by The American University of Rome where I work to give a Lunch and Learn Workshop for my Media, Art, and Social Activism class and students from AUR’s Film and Digital Media Program.
Marsha started out with a stand-up comedy introduction, poking fun at the name her Calabrese immigrant parents gave her to deal with in Cincinnati, Ohio. She then launched into the comedic misadventures and frustrations that expats, foreigners, and tourists alike must deal with on a daily basis as a right of passage being in Rome, the Eternal City. (Hint: Don’t even THINK about paying for that cappuccino with a 50 or even 20 euro note. You don’t have exact change? You are pure scum.)
Marsha, also a “comedy therapist” also moonlights as an official “cheerer-upper” to children and adults dealing with medical illnesses and treatments in hospitals in the US and Italy. As someone with a blood disorder herself, requiring blood transfusions every 2-3 weeks, Marsha soon learned after moving to Italy that frequent blood shortages here are no laughing matter.
Marsha ultimately found comedic solace in creating and performing her multilingual one woman show, DM55: Because You Can’t Get Blood From a Stone that was performed to sold-out theater audiences in Rome last year and is now on the road in cities all over Italy. She also inspired my Media, Art, and Social Activism students in 2013 to launch AUR’s first ever blood drive, something that this year’s students would like to consider taking on as well.
Marsha ended her talk by teaching AUR students the fine art of comedy improv, skills that she learned herself while studying at Chicago’s famous Second City. Students played “the name game” and “the mirror game” and got firsthand experience in learning how to:
1.) Be in the Moment.
2.) Give Up Control.
3.) Say yes.. and (Allowing the moment to continue and move forward as opposed to shutting it down with a NO.)
4.) Allow Oneself to be Playful and Not Be Afraid of Making Mistakes.
I personally would argue that every college student and adult for that matter could benefit immensely from learning improvisation skills. By using improv wisdom, just think how much better everyone would do in job interviews, at cocktail parties, or even during the Q & A portion of presentations! I personally need to use improv skills while teaching. (Oh! You want to know my personal thoughts on nuclear fission? Um.. We’ll cover that next class.”)
Many thanks again to Marsha for kicking off our Spring 2015 Film and Digital Media/ Media, Art, and Social Activism guest speaker series with such a bang. Here’s to a funny and fruitful semester ahead!
Special thanks to Maria Luisa Miller for the photos!