When I squinted and tried to look past the blinding stage lights shining down on me, I could see the silhouettes of no more than 20 people in the audience. Still, I was terrified. Those 20 people were strangers. They were staring directly at me, and since they were promised hilarity, they were expecting hilarity. Problem is, I'm not that funny. Especially when nervously speaking in front of a crowd. Or even a single person. I was in no position to make anyone laugh.

Some would argue that improvisational theater is far from hilarious, even at its best. But that's what I was there to do. With no training, and no practice, I was going to perform with a group of actors from local improv casts including Jet City, Unexpected Productions, and Stimulus. Ugh. It was basically my worst nightmare come true. I was thankful it was this recurring bad dream and not the one about the headless murderer chasing me down the street in front of the house I grew up in while all my teeth fall out...

There was a time when I would've embraced an opportunity like this. To be honest, I used to like improv theater. I haven't seen an improv troupe perform for at least five years, but in high school, I was a fan of unexpected things— like presents and pregnancy. I would go see Seattle Theater Sports every once in a while at Pike Place Market; I even saw Jet City Improv perform once or twice. There were a few months of my life when I secretly harbored the idea of becoming an actor and doing improv for a living. Delivering memorized lines? Psh! Dogs could do that! I believed that the ability to create an entire script and perform it live, unedited, unrehearsed... that's where the real talent was.

But standing on the stage, I was far from the girl I was in my teenage years; I just wanted to go home. I don't remember much of what was said before delivering my first monologue—something about me being Megan from The Stranger and a modest admission of being terrified—but I do remember faces staring and me worrying that I was going to have absolutely nothing to say. I was there to tell a story based on what someone in the audience yelled. Then, a group of eight actors would perform it. Great.

After a brief introduction from the group's ringleader (Jason Anfinsen of Jerk Alert Productions), I took a breath and stepped into center stage. A friend in the audience later told me he had never seen me look like I wanted to vomit as much as I did at that moment. But I didn't barf. I asked the audience for a word to get my story started.

It felt like days before someone yelled an idea. I kept thinking someone was going to shout out something useless like "motherfucker" or "dick." I don't have any stories about fucking mothers, with or without dicks! Finally, someone yelled out "llama." Perfect. I have a story about a llama.

After hours (okay, probably about a minute) of rattling on about the time a llama pissed on my foot while I was visiting a petting zoo as a child (true story!), I staggered offstage and tried to relax, but my stomach was still in knots while I panicked about whether or not I had given the group enough material.

The actors went into, uh, action, and began re-creating their version of the story. They were all very nice people, but as I watched them, I kept thinking "Really? I used to want to do this for a living?" Watching them now, it looked awkward, almost like a chore.

There were a few moments that sparked laughter. I took the stage one more time to feed the starving actors more material. I described the time my sister and I occupied ourselves in the bathroom of a California airport during a long layover by playing with the automatic flushing toilets and sinks. When you're 8 years old, shit like that's amazing, you know? The group started acting out a wall of urinals flushing periodically. It slowly grew into a hiphop song, with loops of flushes, whoops, and bathroom lyrics. I know that doesn't sound all that funny. But, like all improv theater, it was funnier than it sounds. recommended