A couple of years back, somewhere in the Finnish Summer, I met a Dutch improviser that had everything Dutch: tall, loud, whitty, and somehow pretty direct. I quickly fell in love with him, because he happened to also be kind, smart, friendly, and vulnerable.

This improviser is Johan Hoekstra. He lives in the North of the Netherlands, in Leeuwarden, and is part of a group named Man met Snor.

After a bit of sharing about vulnerability, what it means to be vulnerable and talking about modern masculinity, we decided to start a short correspondance through letters. We sent each other letters, old style, to talk about this topic. I will be sharing these here at the rythm of one per week, hoping for it to inspire people to talk more about what they feel, what they fear, and open their hearts around.

PS: As we just realized we don’t have any picture together, here is a very serious picture of Johan.

Credit photo: Lieuwe Terpstra

Letter 1 - from Johan to Gael

Dear Gael,

How are you? All is well here. It has been too long since we caught up on life in improv and a recent situation is prompting me to really dive into the subject of vulnerability in the improv scene. Let me explain.

When I was at IMPRO Amsterdam in January of this year, I spoke to Paula Galimberti right after her show. I did one of her workshops earlier that festival and I already held her in high regard. During that conversation from one improviser to another, she told me she had been struggling with her ego during the show, feeling that her show partner was getting more laughs. She told me that she needed to change her mindset mid-show, to not be bothered by those thoughts.

Now, I am sure we have all felt similarly or at least experienced an emotion comparable to that one. What really amazed me is that she was so frank about it. I loved that. No pretense about playing an awesome show and being an all-round improv Rockstar. No. Humility and the courage to voice her insecurities.

I’m not saying that we all should start sharing everything, but I do get the feeling that we may be pretending that everything is fine all the time.

Then again, this may just be me and my struggle against my own improv insecurities, which are plenty. But before I even start getting into that, I’m curious; is this something you struggle with at all? Or am I projecting my own insecurities on the scene as a whole? Are you ever insecure about a performance, either on or off stage? Do you worry -as I do- about people liking who you are and what you do on stage?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this matter. Looking forward to receiving your reply.