Don’t say IT out loud!

In what was the first couple of years of my improv career, such as it was, I felt as though I knew what I was doing. I consistently got laughs, I had a solid grasp on the rules of the craft, and was wholly confident. None of that was wrong.

What was wrong is I said it out loud. I’m not an overly superstitious person despite being born on a Friday the thirteenth and the fact I will pick up a penny I find on the street, heads up or not. However, by saying that, with my voice, I found that I had tempted fate.

Very soon after that verbal hubris, I put together a team for an improv competition and our name was Otis. I got the idea in an elevator. As I used to say, it’s not funny, but it’s true. I even included a friend of mine, Jason, who desperately wanted to be in on the fun, which will become even more ironic a little later.

The day of the competition has arrived and Otis is there, ready to make the funny. Unfortunately, we do not. Not only are we not funny, we seem to be actively unfunny. I cannot recall what went wrong, it’s like an accident, full of twisted metal and broken dreams but I know that’s it my fault.

Whatever cleverness and talent I had evaporated like a dream upon the jagged, sharp rocks of the dawn. I knew I was not funny that night, it was a dour certainty, but I was still the team captain of Otis. When deciding what we do for our next form, I took myself off the list, no need to albatross things further, and turned to my friend Jason to be in the next scene.

He just shook his head. No verbal reply, just a desperate shake, as if I was asking him to wrestle a grizzly bear blindfolded with one arm tied behind his back and holding a fresh salmon in the other. Despite that, we got through the rest of that horrible, soul crushing evening. In case you wondered, we didn’t make it to the next round, this is not that kind of story.

Fate was laughing, even if no one else was.

For the next few months, I was not funny. It was losing one of my senses. I could not get a laugh. This was not a time for sober reflection where I thought deeply about where I was as an improviser and a person of comedy. It was a time of desperation and sadness, which normally is a source of humor, but not at the time. And the stink of my failure was very evident, I was comically broken.

While I can find the humor in this now, tragedy plus time equals comedy or T+T=C, it was impossible to move past then. I needed for someone to believe in me, and that person certainly wasn’t going to be me.

Previous to this horror show, I was in another more humorous show, where I was part of a group scene about Santa’s rejected elves that worked in an annex to the North Pole workshop. This had gone over very well, we were all dysfunctional and misanthropic toymakers.

The director of that show had been asked to put together a sketch for a Christmas show and was adapting that scene. I desperately wanted to be part of that, partially because I wanted to prove that I was still funny but also because I was in the original scene and was annoyed to not be included.

It took quite a bit of cajoling but I got in the sketch and it was funny. After that I was back on track. And all it took was badgering someone to believe in me.

Now, I’m not sure there are comedy or improv gods looking down upon us, but I’ll also not not sure there aren’t, let’s just say I’m agnostic about it, I think that it is arrogant to assume we know or don’t know what is beyond us.

However, I am sure that anytime you think you’ve figured out what’s what, the universe will smack you down. That’s how it works, at least in my experience. But go ahead, say whatever you like, I’m sure nothing will happen. For me, I’m keeping my big mouth shut.

Advertisements
Posted in Yes and so this happened

Which lie is funny?

Comedy is mostly about suffering, usually about someone else’s suffering. Many comedians tell stories about humiliating incidents in their lives and we all laugh. It doesn’t matter if they are completely factual, but they should have a kernel of truth.

I’ve done quite a few improv shows in my life, more successful than not. That sounds like a boast but improv is a team sport, so at any given time, there was at least one other person on stage with me.

In one show, I was doing a scene with one other person and I made a snarky remark, that got a laugh. He replied, “That’s’ why your wife left you.” This also got a laugh. My rejoinder was, “At least I was married.” To which the audience, if not outright booed me, made it clear that I had crossed a line.

The question is why is the idea that my imaginary wife leaving me is funny, but the concept of my scene partner not ever having an imaginary wife a step too far? Each comment is equally mean so why is one funny and the other not? Truthfully, I have no idea. I wish I had some sort of profound insight into the nature of humor, but at the end of the day, sometimes, one thing is funny and the other isn’t.

I did say, “I think I’ve alienated the audience,” which did get a laugh. So maybe if you find yourself in a similar situation the best course of action is point out what just happened. It might not work in real life, but give it a shot, you never know.

Posted in Thoughts

Resolute

It’s January 1st. We all want it to be a fresh start, but let’s not go nuts. There is nothing inherently magical about January first. It’s just a day. If you want to start running, have at it. I will be doing something less strenuous, probably a binge of some sort.

If you must make a resolution, aim low, that way you can proudly say you kept them. Here are a few suggestions.

1-Spend more time on social media. You’ve shared pictures of what you had for dinner but what about the often-ignored snacks? Are you a Frito or Dipsy-Doodle person? You’re friends are dying to know. Also, are you sure there are enough pictures of you pet posted? Probably not.

2-Pretend to read more. What should you read? It doesn’t really matter, as long as it’s big, people are impressed by the number of words contained in a book. You could read on you phone or tablet but you lose points for not hefting a hunk of dead tree. This also can count as going to the gym. Complete your ensemble with a pair of fake glasses so you can look extra smart.

3- Volunteer. It doesn’t even have to be a charity, you can volunteer to help out friends and family. Someone needs help with some bags, take one, maybe a small one, you don’t want strain yourself. Does someone need to eat better? You can help out by removing any fattening foods from their house! Make sure to send a note with pictures of you enjoying the treats, that way you’re motivating them as well. Remember, you don’t need to be asked to volunteer, jump in where you think you’re needed.

Or resolve to do nothing, that’s the easiest one of all.

Happy New Year!

Posted in Uncategorized

Are we there yet? I hope not.

When you’re a kid, Christmas Day seems like a distant and ever denied land, until it actually, amazingly arrives. As an adult, it’s here and gone before you know.

I think I may have written about this before, but I think I enjoy the Christmas season more than the holiday itself. Not that I dislike Christmas, it’s pretty great, but the stuff leading up to it is even better. Before you send an angry email, let me explain.

Parties- there are parties leading up to Christmas, all month long. No other holiday has pre-holiday parties. Not sure I need to say more about that, so I won’t.

Food- People start to bake so there are cookies all over the place. Free cookies, an excellent combination of words. Much like the parties, what more need be said.

Presents- You don’t spend Christmas with everyone you know so you will get at least some gifts early. Even if they are terrible presents, you can always re-gift. Don’t get huffy, you probably know someone who would like that Garfield desk calendar.

I was dismayed by the early intrusion of Christmas in advertising, given it leaps out right after Halloween, but maybe I should embrace it. If it offers us more Holiday Season, it’s not terrible.

Either way, Merry Christmas.

Posted in Thoughts

It’s the thought that counts

It’s always said, “It’s the thought that counts,” with regards to presents. I know that I deeply appreciate a small thoughtful gift that show that the giver knows me and has taken the time to find something they know will delight me.

However, this can be challenge to some people, due to time, finances and perhaps a lack of observation. Fret not! Here are some quick and easy ideas that show you are a deep and attentive gift giver.

1 Where we first met. Go to the place where you and your loved one saw each other and take a small bit of dirt from that spot. Then carefully place the speck into a tiny box, put that into a slightly larger box and repeat until you have a decent sized present. This might take some explanation on the part of the gift giver, especially since a speck of dirt is very likely to get lost. Tip: take a selfie of yourself picking up the item in question as proof of your devotion.

2 Take care of a chore. Sometime the best gift is the gift of time. We’re all busy at this time of year, offer to run an errand. Perhaps pick up some groceries, walk the dog, or even break up with someone. Now, that might seem a little cold, but if they really loved that person, they would be breaking up themselves. It’s the best for all concerned because now everyone had more time for holiday drinking.

3 Make something. Anyone can just buy a present, but when you make one, that shows you care. Start by prospecting iron, zinc, copper and other metals, smelt and forge them, get a degree in engineering with a minor in design, create a custom blueprint, subcontract any components you feel less confident about, assemble over a period of five to seven months and ta-da! You’ve made a sophisticated mechanical device that says I care. While the outlay of student loans and the warehouse full of machinery might seem a little much, you’ll soon find they pay for themselves. To say nothing of the look on the face of whoever receives your custom made creation, you can’t buy that in a store.

I hope these give you a few ideas on how to make your next gift unforgettable. If you’ll excuse me, my forge is ready and I need to fold some steel for the thirty-seventh time today.

Happy Holidays!

Posted in Thoughts

Holiday Traditions

Every family has their traditional meals, for some it’s a deep fried turkey, others have grandma’s special kugel, and don’t forget the feast of seven fishes. For me, the holidays will always mean my father’s Austrian Peasant Stew.

As a present to all my readers, I want to share this recipe, because this time of year is all about spreading joy. I hope that this becomes a tradition with your family.

Enjoy!

AUSTRIAN PEASANT STEW

Take a pail of water and wash it clean. Then boil it till it is brown on both sides. Pour in one bean. When the bean begins to worry, prepare it to simmer. If the soup will not simmer, it is too rich, and you must pour in more water. Dry the water with a towel before you put it in. The drier the water, the sooner it will brown.

Serve hot.

Posted in Thoughts

What can we do?

It’s the holiday season, a time for friends, family, togetherness and caring for our fellow humans, as the song goes, the most wonderful time of the year. Except for the fact that the majority of our elected leaders are no better than cartoonish super villains who delight in stealing from the poor to give to the rich. Also, apparently everyone you trusted is a secret monster. If that doesn’t curdle your eggnog, I don’t know what will.

So what can ordinary people do?

1 Get involved-Make a donation to a worthy charity, or if money is tight, give of your time, or write a letter to your congress person or senator and shame them for not voting in the interest of their constituents.

2 Be Kind-Open a door, help someone do something or let someone know that they are appreciated or that they’ve done a good job or that they’re a good person. This is especially important with those who we disagree with. Remember that all people have valid concerns and listening is the first step to accord. Reducing someone to a cliché is a dead end.

3 Make Something-I have found that when I’m writing, I’m happier than when I’m not. Creating something new makes the world better. Paint, sing a song, or cook a meal, the act of making enriches life. Don’t destroy things. I really shouldn’t have to say that, but just in case I wasn’t clear.

None of these things will change the world overnight, and may seem like throwing a pebble in the ocean. But, you never know what effect your actions have until you do them. And don’t be a monster.

Posted in Thoughts