News came out recently that Whose Line Is It, Anyway? (at least, the American version) would be returning to television after a long hiatus. You may remember it—it was ostensibly a show of improv games with Wayne Brady, Ryan Stiles, Colin Mochrie, (someone else) and hosted by Drew Carey. It was popular in the first years of this millennium, right when I was performing at clubs, and whenever I’d say, “I do improv,” I’d inevitably be asked, “What, like Whose Line?” Well, yes, I’d say. Except, you know, made up.
There are a lot of risks when performing improvisation. You might get an aggressive or vulgar audience. The first thing that pops into your head may be wildly inappropriate. The set-up might not be a good one, the other performers might not figure out where you’re going, the scene may just fall flat. But all those risks make it that much more exciting, engaging and incredible when it does work out. We can transpose this sentiment into jazz—the players may not mesh well, a cue might get dropped, the tempo may be off, a solo may be uninteresting, but when it works—wow.
So what if we take this to the churchly level? What if we say that the church is called to improvise as well? That we have to work together for a common goal, using all our strengths, weaknesses, stories and hopes together? What if jazz speaks a truth about us that we might be too scared otherwise to profess? Improvisation does that to folks.
I do hope I’ll see you this Sunday as we launch a jazz mass at 11 a.m. If you have any questions or concerns in the meantime, please send them my way.