Just a Suggestion

It’s a poor craftsman who blames his tools and a subpar improviser that blames their audience. After all, it’s improviser’s job to entertain, not the audience’s job to BE entertained.

Even so, when you do enough improv shows, there are certain truths that come out. When you ask for a suggestion of an ordinary household object you will, nine times out of ten, get spatula. Now spatula is a sort of a funny word, but I don’t think it’s that funny.

And as far as asking for occupations, the top two are prostitute and proctologist. It is so pervasive that many shows, when asking for a suggestion of a job do it with the caveat of “except prostitute and proctologist.” This is not just an issue when doing shows for high school and college kids, grown up people with jobs and perhaps children are the worse offenders.

The Chainsaw Boys were doing a series of shows at Surf Reality, a small venue in the lower east side. It might be said that the name of the show, “Out of Uranus” was the impetus for the suggestion we got one night. We may have no one to blame but our own foolish selves.

At this particular show, the parents of Miriam Sirota, one of our group, were in attendance. Both her folks are extremely well educated people. Her father is a highly regarded physician, well respected by his peers. Please remember that.

At the top of show, we would ask for a suggestion of anything at all. No stipulations or cautions, literally anything. Doctor Sirota shouts out “Painful Anal Fissure!” I cannot recall what we made out of that but both of Miriam’s parents enjoyed the show.
Perhaps the only thing you can take away from this is that trouble will come from where you least expect it, so just lean in and try to enjoy the “Painful Anal Fissure.”

Posted in Yes and so this happened

Just Keep It Clean

The Chainsaw Boys went to the Big Stinkin’ Improv Fest in Austin Texas. There are more stories about that trip, which I will tell later but one result was we made a lot of new friends. Improvisers from all over the country and some from other countries. It was a blast!

A while after we got back, one of the many performers we met contacts us, he’s in town and wants to know if are we doing a show? Yes indeed, please come on by! He shows up with his octogenarian, little old Irish grandmother with him. A sweet, white haired lady straight out of central casting.

We meet her before the show, it’s very pleasant and cordial. Then we hurry backstage and immediately decide that we cannot do our usual, profanity laced, sex infused, semi-violent style. Don’t get the wrong idea, we were not trying to be edgy but we also were doing a late show on a Friday night, so things had a tendency to get a little blue.

So we promise to be, if not G then PG-13 and proceed to do perhaps our filthiest show ever. I won’t do a blow by blow of the ribald proceedings, but our opening scene was someone being nailed to the floor while a parade of prostitutes entered and described what they were hired to do. I ended the scene as an Amway salesman; make of that what you will. This was the level of discourse for the rest of the show.

Fortunately for us, Gran thought the show was splendid, she laughed heartily and often. I think her grandson was relieved to not have to explain our antics. As much as we all want to be wholesome, decent people, sometimes you just need to nail someone to the floor and order hookers.

Posted in Yes and so this happened

Some good news

Hey constant readers,

My short story, An Odd Missive, just made it to the Quarter Finals of the Screencraft Short Story Contest, a link proving I’m not delusional is below.

You can also read it here on this site in the short story section.

Have an outstanding Thursday and weekend!

-Leo Byrne Jenicek


Posted in Short Stories

If they liked it, it’s good

I know I’ve been focusing on my less-than-glamorous moments in improv. Many times failure is a better teacher than success. This is not so much a fail as an example of reluctantly accepting praise. Even when you don’t think you deserve it and would like to put the whole incident behind you.

There is an old tradition in theater that if there are more people on stage than in the audience, you cancel the show. This seems to be in direct contrast to the adage of the show must go on! The second embodies the show part while the first is more on the business end of things.

One night I stood on stage with four or five other improvisers for an audience of three. One of whom was another improviser, and the second an improv student. The third I didn’t know but I strongly suspected had just taken an improv class.

Did we apologize and head for the bar? If we had, I might not be writing about this, unless we had more adventures at the bar. This was a “the show must go on” evening. I must confess, I couldn’t tell you one thing that was done on stage. I cannot accurately speak to the quality of the show, but we were not booed so there you go.

Once the show was over, I quickly said my good byes and all but ran for the door. All I wanted to do is hop on the subway, listen to a podcast or read a book and put this all behind me. Unfortunately, once I reached the train platform, the audience of three was there.

Do not think that these were unpleasant people; they were nothing but complementary, sweet and kind. We rode downtown and chatted amiably about the show and improv in general. I might not have been pleased with the show, but they were.

This goes to another maxim of performance, any show the audience liked, was a good one. Even if you feel that you stunk up the joint like raw pork left to rot in the August sun. If they loved it, you cannot tell them they are wrong. They enjoyed it, ergo it’s a good show, maybe even a great one.

I might have wanted to see that show recede in the back window of the No. 1 train, but it wasn’t done with me. More lessons from a universe that knows more than I, which given the size of the universe is basically infinite. Thanks again. I know that sounds sarcastic, but I really mean it.

Posted in Yes and so this happened

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.

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 Yes and so this happened


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