Check out this video of Tina Fey in her early days, back when she was growing her skills doing improv at Chicago’s Second City. A few things leap out:
- Young Tina’s not all that funny.
- Young Tina takes LOTS of risks (as evidenced by the sketch).
- Young Tina sees the direct connection between taking smart risks and getting better. Listen to her at the 1:45 mark: “There’s a huge amount of risk but there’s a really fun freefall once you’ve done it a bunch of times and had it go really, really poorly. There is a freedom in that freefall that is kind of like skydiving, and that’s when you find something interesting.”
Once you’ve done it a bunch of times and had it go really, really poorly.
We often talk about the fearlessness of great comics (and athletes, and writers), but we frequently overlook the fact that it’s a learned fearlessness. They become fearless slowly, by making mistakes, learning from them, developing fast, fluent neural circuits.
For Fey, the circuits are definitely firing: