Kids Build Confidence Through Unthinkable Comedy | Scarsdale Moms

Article by Drew Isserlis Kramer

If the thought of public speaking and performance triggers heart palpitations, have I got news for you. While the prospect of improv might induce a full blown panic attack, it might just be the answer to build self-assurance and stage presence in people of all ages. Improvisation is an unscripted performance. While it can occur within the context of music or dramatic scenes, alone or in groups, most improv troops are in it for the laughs. Famed comedy troops like Upright Citizens Brigade and Second City launch legendary comedic performers from Bill Murray to Tina Fey. But improv is not just for those on the path to stardom. From elementary schools to corporate settings, improv builds character. For kids, improv is particularly helpful to build social skills, creativity and chutzpah. A generation that came of age during COVID isolation, many children still grapple with social anxiety that can be crippling in the classroom and on the playground. Whether you are raising an introvert or extravert, childhood can be socially scary. Improv can help.

So says Sarah Sommers and Gary Goldsmith, the husband and wife co-founders of Unthinkable Comedy, a new Westchester-based inclusive improv program for elementary through high school aged kids. Sarah and Gary met in college and started doing improv in the New York City comedy scene in the early 2010s. Both working day jobs in other industries, comedy began as a source of community and creative fulfillment rather than a way to make a living. Gary, a project manager by day, brought his goofy personality, love of comedy and operational chops to improv, starting his own troop, MARTHA, as a side hustle. Sarah, born and raised in Manhattan’s West Village, grew up with a love of theater and performance. After graduating from Syracuse University with a degree in Psychology, she dabbled in improv at Upright Citizens Brigade, while building a career in partnerships and business development. Moving through the UCB core program, Sarah eventually joined her husband’s improv group, performing at venues like the People’s Improv Theater (The PIT) and bars on the side of  highways in Queens. As Sarah puts it, “those were the days.”

When parenthood inspired their move from Brooklyn to White Plains in 2018, the Sommers-Goldsmith family hunted for comedy in their new suburban community. Unsurprisingly, the landscape was empty, especially for kids. Longing to introduce their kids to what they love, and to bring the fundamental benefits of improv to all children, they developed Unthinkable Comedy in August 2023. Of the benefits, Sommers cites “listening, confidence and indulging children’s inherent ability to be creative” as core takeaways from the craft. For Gary, a person who stutters, performing improv and sketch comedy was a huge confidence-builder. His experience demonstrates the power of improv to nurture young people’s social emotional learning, especially for those with visible and invisible disabilities.

Players in the program join a circle of peers where silliness is encouraged and there are no mistakes. Classes consist of short and long form improv games that showcase the power of storytelling, enhance teamwork skills, inspire the imagination, and most importantly, create a fun, safe space for students to be themselves. 

Want to give your child the gifts that come from spontaneous performance? Unthinkable Comedy is currently operating classes at Shake It Off in Scarsdale, NY. Their Spring 2024 sessions kicked off in April with their Funables classes for 1st to 3rd graders and you can stay tuned by joining their waitlist for more sessions and more age groups launching in the Summer and beyond! They’re also popping up at Garage Pod in Dobbs Ferry, the Scarsdale Music Festival, and more. Have a curious, shy, funny, quiet, introverted, outgoing and/or loud kid who could benefit from an improv class? Sarah and Gary say improv is for all kids. They encourage parents to “yes and” the opportunity to try something new. And just maybe they’ll fall in love with the art of improv comedy along the way. 

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