Mindy McHale is a certified personal trainer at Stronger Now Fitness and Pittsburgh Kettlebell & Performance. She is also the host of Celebrity Sofa and a comedian in the improv troupe Jeffrey the Plant, which has been featured at the Detroit Comedy Festival and the Pittsburgh Comedy Festival.
I’ve been a fan of you for years as a trainer at our gym (Pittsburgh Kettlebell and Performance), but only recently did I find out how funny you are as an improv comedian. How long have you been doing comedy?
I took my first improv class in summer of 2013, and I starting officially performing comedy in early 2015.
I’m not a trainer, but I find exercise to be therapeutic. Do you think exercise is especially important for people who choose comedy as their profession?
Gabby, you are one my favorite athletes because you understand that mind-body connection! There is real power in knowing how the physical and mental complement each other.
I think most performers struggle with self-doubt and other things that can negatively affect a performance, or make them feel low even after a performance has finished. Working out helps release feelings and energies like these and can even help change them long-term.
Working out increases your physical strength and your mental capacity. When I am feeling particularly self-confident because of the strides I make in the gym, I think my improv performances are better. I use more stage-space. I do more daring things in a scene, I am more patient with my scene partners, and I have the stamina to get through the show.
There’s SO MUCH MORE I can say here. Let me know when you have more time to talk about this. WE COULD WRITE A BOOK!
You should write a book about this. I would buy it! What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you while working out?
I was just reminded by my own personal trainer (Chris Leventis) about the time I accidentally pulled the top of my shirt all the way down to my belly button with a landmine bar during one of our sessions. I remember him being totally surprised, and he yelled, “Whoa, what happened there?!” and I shrugged it off. I told him I figured he’s seen way worse than my bra and he agreed with me. By the way, I haven’t worn that shirt in a session with him since.
Reverse question: What was the most physically demanding thing you’ve ever done in an improv scene?
One of my teammates was playing a physically looming and intense character to my novice character. He was close to my face, growling words at me and he kept leaning into me as I leaned back to the point that I was on the floor. So, I just slid around while he stayed in my face until his rant was over. That was fun!
What’s your advice to young people wanting to start improv?
Do it! I took classes as a way to become less shy. I decided to perform as a way to help me get over horrible stage fright. If you discover that you want to perform, you will work within an incredibly supportive and creative community. If you decide to just stick with classes, you will learn skills you can use every day: patience, listening, vulnerability, and trust. And you will be laughing the entire time! You may even meet Gabby Bonesso!
Comedy and health never seem to coincide. What advice can you give to someone who has been afraid to start exercising regularly? Especially someone as thin-skinned and loud-mouthed as a comedian?
Everyone should! In comedy, starting an exercise routine can help with confidence and clarity (see above). Additionally, the comedy scene tends toward the late-night bar scene. Having an exercise routine can negate some of the physical side effects of this life. An early-morning workout also gives you an excuse to leave early.
Success with workouts is not based on getting a reaction from someone else. Take a break from that pressure and that world and focus on just yourself and how you are making yourself feel.
Final question: if you could only do one exercise for the rest of your life and you had to choose between burpees and Turkish get-ups, which would you choose?
Turkish get-ups ALL DAY LONG! I love them! This is one of the few full-body exercises that leaves me feeling powerful and exhausted at the same time. Plus, when you tell people you do Turkish Get-Ups, I’m pretty sure they thing you’re talking about sex.
Learn more about Mindy as a personal trainer by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org. Watch her perform with Jeffrey the Plant at various local venues around town. Celebrity Sofa is currently on hiatus.
Follow featured contributor Gab Bonesso on Twitter @gabbonesso.