Last night we bid our founder and friend Mike Borden a fond farewell with an epic six-team show. It was a fitting goodbye, representing the culmination of all Mike’s hard work behind the scenes as our fearless educational leader. Mike put in more time, sweat, and love into growing our Collective than anyone. Most every team has his coaching fingerprints on them; he built our level one curriculum and class programming from the ground up; his performances are consistently damn funny; 90% of Collectivists learned improv from him.
And yet, I’m not going to miss Mike Borden at all.
Whenever Mike was on stage last night, I had a strange, magic sensation. For once, the improv I was watching was permanent. Mike gifts Collective students a motto, and it hinges on improv’s disposable nature. ‘We suck, and we love to fail!’ is our class cheer, a tongue-in-cheek creed focused on self-improvement. In improv, scenes come and go. Nothing is precious, so we make the most of our art in the moment and keep growing. Last night, moment by moment, Mike positively danced on stage. Every line and gesture felt masterfully planned, like that sublime top-shelf compliment for improv comedy: it felt written. By the end of Gentlemen To Bed’s set (one of Mike’s first, classic teams), the audience applauded like never before, earning the rarest of improv accolades – an encore. I felt as though Mike was engaged in a never-ending dance with us, like we were all on his team and every laugh was a gift, a physical treasure to hold in your gut and keep safe for years and years.
I won’t miss Mike Borden, because last night I felt certain that he will be with us eternally. His legacy in the SIC is tangible. Between all the classes and shows, Mike showed us all the real power of Yes, And. Everyone wanted to work with Mike Borden, because he is inspirational and so good to work with. Mike is one of the nicest people around, just as present in his day-to-day conversation as he is on stage. He has an inventor’s mind for his art and always looks for new adventures: different venues, a podcast, a livestream marathon. And he put in so much work. Here is a self-sacrificing leader whose dogged pursuit of awesomeness raises the bar. He is a man of integrity, helping steer our little Collective with the future always in mind.
Mike Borden the improviser will always be with the Syracuse Improv Collective. He gave so much, he’s part of us already.
Once this change actually sinks in, I’m going to finally miss Mike. But when I do, I’ll do it on stage with a strong emotional reaction, like he taught me, or by ‘listening and being changed’. Most of all, in between memories of craft beers, board games, wild stories, and his enormous, generous laugh – I will miss Mike – my buddy, pal, and friend.
Peace out, man. Good luck in Portland.