Christine Walters Delights in Improv and Humor

By Annie Tobey | August 11th, 2020

'Yes, and ...'

Christine Walters doing some sort of improv exercise

I’ve known Christine Walters as a proponent and teacher of improv (think Whose Line Is It Anyway?), as founder and longtime leader for ComedySportz Richmond. She promotes improvisation for all ages, for the humor it elicits and, especially, the life skills it teaches: communication, active listening, acceptance of mistakes, flexibility and more. Walters is also a person who projects enthusiasm, positivity and a delight for life.

What delights you?

Being in service to others – holding a door for someone, helping someone with a task. Other things that delight me are getting lost in a hobby, an art form.

Richmond delights me. I love Richmond, to the moon and back. I appreciate the land, the river, the nature, the aesthetic, the architectural design – there’s beauty everywhere, down to the people and the tattoos.

Overall, I find delight in being able to work to help others and connect with others, so without that [during social distancing], the question has completely changed. Now, you have to ask: how do you find delight today? If you look at it from the point of view of where do you find delight like you used to, you’ll get too dark.

So how to find delight today? It’s cooking a good meal to satisfy those that are in your home, to appreciate the art of cooking, which I didn’t before. What I find delight in now is the little things. Even yesterday, going out and raking the yard – it was great to be outside, appreciating the air and the gorgeous day – and also to be in service to the person I’m sharing this home with, to work together.

I hear that you’ve picked up a new hobby.

After some family losses, I found myself wanting to grieve through art, which was kind of bizarre because I’ve never been in the world of visual art. I’ve gotten proficient at felting. I just look at the felt, and I know how to do it. I just go with it. If there’s a mistake, I let it be and move forward. I think that improvisation – mistakes happen, accept it, go on – has probably helped me in developing my art.

Christine Walters, left, leads an improv exercise
Christine Walters, left, leads an improv exercise

What are the benefits of improv?

[Improvisation] is beneficial for communications, not just performing. [I’ve done] programs for kids, the blind and visually impaired, seniors, caregivers of seniors with dementia and Alzheimer’s. [Improvisation] helps caregivers connect more with the person they’re taking care of, how to find “yes, and” in such a challenging situation. [In improv performance, a “yes, and” attitude keeps a scene active as participants respond to each other positively; in life, “yes, and” keeps communication respectful and affirming.]

Being of service in those workshops, it’s like breathing. To be able to help those people with the thing that I’ve fallen in love with – improvisation and the art of “yes, and” – that is true delight. It’s like spreading butter on warm toast!

Did your family encourage an appreciation for humor?

Oh, my God, yes. Truth be told, as the third-born child, my place was to be the comic relief, so my way of deflecting punishment or reprimand was to make them laugh.

My first crush was Harpo Marx, and then Tim Conway – huge crush. When he came to Richmond with Harvey Korman and they walked on the stage, I cried like I was seeing the Beatles.

What benefits do you see from humor?

All the benefits of laughter: relieves stress, anxiety, fear; helps you appreciate the little things; helps you enjoy life; and helps keep the blues at bay.

Has humor helped you manage sheltering at home?

No, but acceptance has.

How do you inject humor into your life?

I love pet videos, and the animals I live with make me laugh. Today, it’s raining, gray – I feel the blue meanies, the red meanies, coming on, so while I sit here and do an art project, I’ll put a video on, maybe a rom-com.

More from Boomer