My Second Audition!

16 Mar

“Do you want to go to a Pepsi commercial audition?”

Like a surprising amount of my blog post beginnings, this one started with a Craigslist ad. It was 10 am when I texted Mike, my go-to buddy when it comes to spontaneous activities such as midnight Dave and Busters runs, margaritas on the ferry to Governor’s Island and now a commercial audition.

“Why would a Pepsi gig be non-union?” he texts back. I sent him the post and it was a little…odd – words were misspelled. RaNdom lEtterS were capitalized. It said the pay for the job, should you book it, was 2,000k. That’s two thousand thousand dollars! Too good to pass up!

We decide to meet downtown anyways mostly because we are artistic procrastinators and this would prove to ourselves that we take action in life as well. Every couple of weeks Mike, whom I met at my UCB 401 class, meet up and discuss projects we are totally going to do like podcasts and web series and live shows.We bounce ideas around, think of names and scripts and laugh until our stomachs hurt. And then he goes back to Brooklyn, I to the Heights and neither one of us follows through on it. Today we were going to do something.

At 3pm I wait outside 630 9th avenue, a building I never noticed before – ‘Film Center Building’ the facade outside announced. Inside was like stepping into The Great Gatsby – gorgeous art deco lines and gold paint.

I decide that maybe we aren’t going to get murdered by showing up for this semi-sketchy casting call – but it reminds me of one of my favorite serial killer stories. I don’t know why I think about this story so often but I do – basically there was this dude, in 70s California who really wanted to murder women but didn’t have the charisma and charm that a lot of psychopaths have. He was very sad about it. So what he did was put out an ad in a newspaper saying he was looking for blonde models to be a part of a photoshoot for a police  magazine. Blondes show up and he asks to put them in handcuffs. No problem. Tape over the mouth? Gotcha. Get in this box? Sure thing boss. And then he just like slits their throat! Easy peasy. Now, I’m not a serial killer psychopath and obviously this is a terrible story but I don’t know, something about it just seems like such creative problem solving.

Anyways, Mike finally arrives and we head to the 5th floor, walk down a long hallway and into a tiny room with 15 other people. Immediately I look for a sign-in sheet like we’re in a walk in clinic or something. No dice. It seems that every few minutes a woman with dyed hair comes out and points at 3 or 4 people to come in. There’s a boombox (!) in the corner blaring what seems to be 90s R&B hits. People mouth along to the music and stare at their phones.

“I have an idea for a commercial,” Mike starts to me when we find seats. “It’s like a house that’s burning down, and there’s puppies that are burning. A firefighter drinks a Pepsi and it says ‘Yeah, it’s that good. And the puppies die.”

“That’s pretty bleak and also I’m pretty sure they already have a commercial in mind.”

“Okay, here’s another one but it’s for Sour Patch Kids. You know how it’s like Sour Sweet Gone? So it’s a gummy bear bitching about their ex for 9 minutes – that’s the sour part. And then it just ends.”

“What if I just introduce you as my son and I pretend to be a stage mom. Like, this is my 18 year old son. I’ve never let him leave the attic until today but all he drinks is Pepsi.”

“What if they ask us to drink it and we’re like umm…we’re allergic.”

“Legit the only reason I came today is because I was kind of thirsty.”

Everyone else in the room is quiet while we pass our stupid ideas back and forth. Even though there’s no official line (I hate that), we make our way to the door up front and wait because everyone who was in the room when we got there has already left.

When it’s my turn I open the door to a tiny room and ask if Mike can join me so we can do the audition together. “Sure – whatever,” is the response.

We both walk in and stand next to each other because there’s only one chair. It feels like we’re in the principal’s office. There are two posters on the wall – Spiderman 2 and SALT.

“Names?”

“Uh, Aviva and Mike.”

“Do you guys work?”

I say no because I didn’t understand the question. I thought she meant as an actor. Mike says he’s a music manager even though I was pretty sure he worked at a soap factory.

“Resumes? Headshots?”

No and no. The Craigslist ad just said to bring your selves (“no food drinks or freidns (sic)”)

The woman sighs. “Here’s what I want you to do: WITHOUT shouting – I want you to pretend you’re at a Beyonce concert and she’s playing your favorite song – and go!”

Mike and I jump around like idiots, mouthing OH MY GOD and clutching each other. In my mind I’m at a Gavin DeGraw concert because I’m not a huge fan of Queen Bey. I have no idea where Mike thought he was, probably at a pizza shop or any place they serve pizza. After 30 seconds of me waving my hands in the air like a Southern preacher the woman goes “STOP.” She tells us to send her our resumes and headshots and thanks us for coming in. It’s been an hour since we first got there.

I got the feeling we weren’t getting the two thousand thousand dollars.

Mike and I stop in at a diner across the street. The walls have these trippy Times Square scenes that seem to move when you walk past them. We laugh about how annoying we probably were to everyone else in the audition room. We talk about how we’re definitely going to follow through on more projects once the weather stops being so frigid.

The waiter stops by our table and I ask for a Coke Zero.

“Eh no sorry…no Coke,” he answers. “Is Pepsi all right?”

I realize I never got my free Pepsi I was expecting from the audition (do they ever give free beverages at these kinds of commercials? What do I know?). I laugh and tell him that it’s fine.

Mike pays for it because I don’t have any cash so technically I did get my free Pepsi in the end.

 

 

 

Nothing Is A Setback

5 Mar

Recently I got an e-mail from WordPress telling me it was time to renew my website and before I remembered that I had a blog I’m too scared to write on anymore, I got another email thanking me for my payment. I forgot I had enabled auto-renewal for this thing. So here I am trying to write a post.

Why did I stop writing? Unclear. Probably due to the pressure I have been putting on myself to constantly put out top-notch quality content all the time. Whether on-stage doing standup or improv practice. And when I’m not feeling perfect, I decide it’s better to not write at all. Even though these struggles are exactly why I decided to start a blog to begin with. Stupid anxiety. Trying to sabotage me at every turn.

What have I been struggling with lately? Besides feeling the need to be ‘on’ all the time? Probably finding something to do when the school year ends. Even though I love working with my kiddies and I super love being able to walk to work – I know that working in a preschool is not where I’m meant to be. Where am I meant to be? Excellent question. Ten points to Gryffindor. Unfortunately, I have no answer. Zero points to me.

I have a drawing hanging on my fridge that I made one day. It’s a quote I found on Pinterest that says “There is no elevator to success – you have to take the stairs.” I think about that quote a lot because I’m not even sure what success is. These days, I get to go on stage and tell jokes or improvise or host trivia. I love it. I don’t get paid for it. I’m not famous. But I love it. Is that success? I know what an elevator would look like – an opportunity to rise before I’m ready. But the stairs are tricky. Sometimes it feels like I’m not moving at all. Even worse, sometimes it feels like I’m taking steps backwards.

Recently, I’ve been meeting with people to glean more advice about certain industries. I was very fortunate to meet with comedian Myq Kaplan and ask him questions about his life as a full-time comic. I asked him how he dealt with setbacks and he said something I very much liked.

“I don’t even like the word setback. Nothing is a setback, as you are never further back than you were before. You are never ‘less than’ after an experience. You are always moving forward.”

So. That’s where I am these days. Moving forward whether I want to or not. Doing things I love and considering it not good enough. It may not be pretty and I may want to delete this whole post because I don’t think it’s funny or interesting enough but I won’t. I’ll post it. And maybe it will make want to write more tomorrow too. And then maybe the day after that.

Hello, It’s Me

20 Sep

Casually pretending like it hasn’t been six months since my last post…

Today was the 6th day of preschool. I know this because every day, the ayudarte del dia  (we’re a bilingual classroom) puts another pom-pom on the big fake gum ball machine I drew on a large piece of cardboard. We’re counting to the 100th day of school because of a reason I’m not clear on. The 100th day of school is actually sometime in February and it’s a big thing.

Let me back up.

This September I started working as a assistant in a local preschool. I get to walk to school and I spend all day playing ‘sleepy bear’ with 3 year olds. Sleepy bear is a game where you pretend to be a  sleeping bear, there’s a song that goes with it too. For some reason it is like crack to the toddler set. There’s a LOT of bear imagery in books/games for children, I would say like 50 percent of our picture books involve a bear somehow. That’s insane because bears are godless killing machines and children should be afraid of them. But sure, let’s tell them stories about how all they do is drink cocoa and learn about manners.

I really love working with kids as a day job, mostly because I can wear leggings to work and come home covered in glitter. They’re also hilarious and adorable. But most importantly, I can work on crazy impressions and voices without fear of judgement. On stage, my accents pretty much range from my jappy New York accent to a slightly more nasally jappy New York accent. Last week at my improv team’s show I played Batman like “Hey guys! Like, I’m Batman. What’s up?”

“You need you to commit more,” said Improv coach/life mentor, Chris, afterwards. “Go all out, when’s the next time you’ll be able to play Batman?”
Well now I can play Batman every day in school.

I haven’t had too many stand-up shows recently (although the Lifetime thing I did in January finally came out which was super de duper cool and I got to be famous from my couch again).

Last Wednesday I went to an open mic for the first time in a few weeks with a friend. He was late so I waited at the bar.

I always feel so dorky at open mics alone. I always try to talk to people who are busy scribbling in their notebooks. Since I was 13 I’ve always felt too big in body somehow, always much bigger than my friends, always hyperaware of how large my hands are during handshakes. Open mics are one of the only places I feel small and like a little girl. Maybe it’s my headbands. Maybe it’s because I never know what to order right away and ask the bartender if they have any ciders on tap instead of just getting a Modelo like the  crowd of mostly guys around me. Maybe it’s because I smile too much.

This was a bar with some games lined up against the wall, I pulled out Jenga and started making a tower. A guy sitting next to me tilted his head towards it. “Do you wanna play?” I asked. Like a five year old. He shrugged and started pulling out blocks with me. We didn’t even talk. We were just two strangers, comedians! who didn’t even know each others’ names, building a tiny tower (half the pieces were missing). New York is a strange place.

Either way, the night was good because it was bad. I didn’t prepare a lot and left the stage with three min left on my clock. It wasn’t my best but I know that it happens and I don’t beat myself up over it anymore. I stayed for my friend to support him. I took the A train home and it stopped at 168th, forcing me to walk the last 18 blocks alone at midnight, but it was so beautiful out I didn’t care. It was one of those quiet, chilly early Autumn nights where you feel a change in the air but you don’t know what it is.

I feel the winds changing and I’m not sure what it means but I know that I should keep on listening. And writing. And I sincerely hope you guys are doing well too, wherever you are.

 

Jewish Comedy Blues

29 Mar

“Mrs. Woolf, why aren’t you coming to the Storytelling Festival?” A fourth-grader asks me sweetly.

I’ve told them it’s Ms like 40 million times but it’s March and if they don’t call me Ms. by now, it’s a lost cause.

“I have work. I run trivia at a bar next to my apartment.”

“A bar….with alcohol?” Another kid asks.

“Noooooo….a candy bar.”

*Silence*

“Haha! I’m kidding. Obviously an alcohol bar. Duh.”

I can’t believe it’s March already. I have learned so much long-division and so many facts about the Thirteen Colonies. It fills like 1/3 of my brain now. Do you know how often those things come up in conversation? None times. I have nothing to add to conversations now except what new thing Tim and Moby taught me. Oh, you don’t know who Tim and Moby are? They’re just some child/teen? boy and his friend robot who answer snail mail for some reason and know freaking everything. Bleep bleep blorp.

 

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Things get really weird in the later episodes when Moby gets into drag.

 

Stand-up/Improv is going really well.

I’m performing weekly for Thunderbolt Comedy starting this Sunday. It’s really the first time I’m with a team of improvisers who make me so anxious with their talent (why anxious? Because when you have Obsessive Disorder, anxiety is an appropriate response to everything!). They’re so good! And I’m not just saying that because I want you to come to our shows. Though you should. They’re only five dollars. C’mon. They’re also awesome because when I said I couldn’t hang out on a Friday/Saturday they were like “Oh man! Let’s hang out on Thursday then! We want everyone to be a part of it!” My heart was warmed as I checked my calendar and saw that that Thursday was Purim, a Jewish holiday. Shoot.

When I first started telling people I was a comedian, the immediate response a lot of people had was “But what about Shabbat? How are you gonna be successful when you can’t do shows on Shabbat?”

It’s a good question. A kind of rude one but a valid one. But since I was so new, I’d never really had any problems with conflicting  events since it’s not like people were begging me to be on their shows anyways. I signed up for Sunday shows, took classes during the week, not a problem.

Last month, a very nice man from the Broadway Comedy Club offered me a spot on an “industry night.” A show that’s for bookers and agents to assess new comedians and give them feedback. It seemed awesome. The producer called me and told me about what a good opportunity it was and how they’d love to have me.

“We do these shows about eight times a year. Our next one is…..the third Saturday in May at 7pm.”

My heart sunk. There’s no way I would be able to make it. I told him I wouldn’t be able to make it since I’m orthodox and keep Shabbat, getting there before 9pm just wasn’t an option in May. He wouldn’t let it go.

I’ll look up what time sundown is,” he offered. “I know about the different times because I do a lot of hiking.”

I laughed, sure go ahead.

“Hmmm….May, May, May….ah. Sundown, here it is. 8:13pm. Oh. That doesn’t work.”

“I know.”

“Can you walk? Can you stay by a friend? Can you take a train if someone else pays for it?”

I appreciated his interesting Halachic (Jewish law) questions about work and travel on Shabbat but still, I respectfully declined the offer.

I felt really bad. Like, not bad for him that I cancelled, but bad for myself. I threw myself a little pity party in the teacher’s bathroom. It wasn’t fair. I deserved this opportunity and I had to cancel it because of some random covenant with God? But through my quick and superficial disappointment, I understood that I had set these parameters when I started. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy and that I wasn’t going to make exceptions. Shabbat has “booked” me for those 25 hours for the rest of my life and it’s not a gig I can back out of easily, nor is it a particularly good idea to. Shabbat is when I’m not working on my “brand.” It’s when I’m not checking my Twitter follower count or my blog page hits. I’m not seeing how many likes my statuses have. Buy mostly, it’s when I can sleep for a blissful 12 hours and spend time with people in my immediate vicinity.

A few weeks later, when my Harry Potter improv team wanted to switch to Saturday evenings, I mentioned that I wouldn’t be able to commit to that, our coach immediately responded that we’ll keep it to Sundays. It was the most amazing thing – it really confirmed my feeling that if you work hard enough and are talented enough, people will wait for you. Of course sometimes they won’t, or can’t, but as long as you’re doing your thing, do it for you. Not them. I’ve met some really special people in this community who have such a respect for religion and culture, it’s incredible. Those are the people you want to build something with.

 

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Specifically this. Thanks Del Close!

A lot of people I meet have ultimate goals to be on Saturday Night Live. That can’t be mine and I know that. I just want to perform and have fun, maybe make some money. Maybe do a commercial or two for a bank or insurance. Who knows?

Just like I tell the kids I teach: “Stop yelling and please step back you are really inside my personal space right now.”

 

 

A Leap Day Post

1 Mar

It’s Leap Day!

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Which means TECHNICALLY I’m still living up to my blog-at-least-once-a-month-you-lazy-hunk-a-junk resolution!

Speaking of junk, in 6th grade I had a shirt that said “JUNK IN THE TRUNK” in really swirly letters. Why did my mom let me have that shirt? Also, I never got in trouble for it at my Orthodox Jewish Yeshiva so I’m pretty sure no one else including me understood it. Every day is another elementary school memory resurfacing.

I bet you’re all in suspense about that thing I wrote about a month ago – Yes! I did get the part and filmed it and it was awkward and amazing and terrifying and just the weirdest. It still hasn’t aired so I can’t show you what it is yet. Stay tuned!

I’m still teaching during the day. Still taking away heavy-duty tape dispensers away from kids who are deeming them to use them as weapons. I swear it’s like a prison yard sometimes except that in this case the shanks are pencils and can be sharpened quite efficiently and readily in every classroom.

Here’s some news about comedy: I’m on an improv house team at The Experiment Comedy Gallery. Which means you can see this beautiful face doing improv in Williamsburg three times a month (possibly more if Harry Potter Improv falls out on a Sunday I’m not doing a house team show). Better go quickly before the L train shuts down and strands us all on this God-forsaken island!

I’m still doing stand-up. I was on a “New Talent Night” show the other night. I went on last. When the host finally came half an hour late to start the show he made a big deal about how “WE HAVE A WOMAN ON THE SHOW TONIGHT YOU GUYS ISNT THAT CRAZY GET YOUR CAMERAS OUT.” It only went downhill from there, especially since there were actually TWO women that night on the show – it really makes you feel welcome at a show when the other comedians say the word ‘pussy’ about 45 times each, spend most of their 10 min talking about teenagers they slept with and end every jokes with a “right guys?”

If you’re wondering if women exaggerate their uncomfortableness at open mics and in comedy in general, from what I’ve heard and experienced myself – it is no hyperbole. 95% of interactions I’ve had on shows or with fellow male comedians has been great and supportive and wonderful but I get asked all the time how it is as a “female comedian” and I just need to have it on the record that sometimes it’s at best, icky and at worst, leaves you feeling like you’re in real danger (in my own experiences).

That’s where we all are right now! I’ll be back soon because it’s SPRING AND MY SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER IS GONE THANKS OBAMACARE.

 

My First Audition

12 Jan

*Tries to sneak into my blog like I haven’t been AWOL for three months.*

HI FRIENDS!

I’ve been reading an EXCELLENT book I borrowed from the UCB library called Long Story Short by Margot Leitman about learning how to craft stories for the stage (or seminars/Ted Talks/funerals/what-have-you). And one thing that really stuck with me so far is this quote she lives by “Most events in life can be categorized in one of two ways: A good time or a good story.” This quote really calms my anxiety about everything I’ve been doing in comedy so far (and non-comedy, but I don’t take that many risks outside of comedy these days) because it frames everything in a win/win situation. If whatever I’m worried about is great, then awesome! If it’s terrible, then I still get something out of it, either a story or learning experience (I read another wonderful quote that said mistakes are the fertilizer that grow our amazing ideas – not a great image but a good message.)

This is especially good to focus on after my Harry Potter Improvised show last night wasn’t me and my team’s best work. But instead of hyperventilating about it, my teammates and I sat down at a nearby pub afterwards and mapped out a game plan over beers on how to get better. It makes me wanna write myself one of those “grit tickets” we have in our classrooms that the fourth graders fill out when they stick with difficult math problems or logic puzzles.

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I definitely had a new experience tonight. After seeing a friend’s post about a network looking for female comedians to participate in a “Comedy Project,” about women, I sent in my tape and bio, and got an audition for this past evening at 5 pm. The e-mail specified that I prepare 3-5 jokes centering around womany things. I was so nervous! I can count the amount of things I’ve auditioned for on one hand – and three of those things were talent-show related. One was an African American Drama Troupe (don’t ask.)

I showed up to the studios at 4:45pm. I had spent the past 15 minutes in the Duane Read beauty section across the street putting on hand lotion, sweating off hand lotion, nervously spraying myself with various perfumes, putting on more hand lotion. I am weirdly insecure about my hands (their size, feel, nails – it’s just all wrong) and I never pay more attention to them than before I know I’m going to have to shake someone’s hand. But hands aside, I was jazzed. Super jazzed. Cool people went to auditions. Joey Tribiani and people who wore leather jackets and people with perfect bedhead. I felt cool. But like cool and overly excited. Like a Golden Retriever puppy in  a swimming pool.

 

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Pictured: Me

 

 

“Aviva?” asked a man poking his head into the waiting room where I had been watching a man shoot basketballs into one of those arcade hoop game that was there for some inexplicable reason. “Come on in.”

The audition room was a table, a few chairs and giant TV. There were four people, two men and two women sitting around the table.

“HI MY NAME’S AVIVA AND THIS IS MY FIRST AUDITION!” I blurted in their faces.

“Oh, haha great! It’s like we’re taking your audition virginity,” said the man who was conducting it.

“HAHA YOU’RE WELCOME TO IT,” I yelled. Stop talking now. Everyone laughed like “Look at this adorable little naive puppy.”

“So basically you’re going to be right here by the chair. You can sit or stand, whatever you feel comfortable doing.”

“I’M GONNA LEAN” Stop narrating everything you’re doing, I berated myself. Leaning isn’t cool! Stop leaning! Just sit!

“That’s fine,” he responded. “Now, you’re gonna look into the camera, say your name. Pause. Tell us which female comedians inspire you. Pause. Say your jokes but with a breath between each one. Got it?” *Camera clicks on*

“GOT IT!

Hi my name’s Aviva Woolf. And. Um, what was a supposed to say again?”

I’ve been an actress for 12 seconds and I’ve already forgotten my lines.

“Comedians that inspire you….”

“RIGHT SORRY. Um, A lot. Like, Irma Bombeck, Nora Ephron, Lindy West. Mindy Kaling, Jessica Williams, Samantha Bee, Kristen Schaal, Aparna Nancherla, Megan Amram…umm…I’m sure I’m forgetting some…but yeah.” Smooth

I do my jokes to laughter. Genuine I hope. Do people at auditions fake laughter to be polite?

“NOW WHAT?” I ask, like we’re all gonna go get smoothies or something.

“Well, we’ll let you know if you’re right for the project in a week, we generally don’t tell people if they got it at the audition.”

“RIGHT. Okay, so like, should I just go home and refresh my e-mail inbox every five minutes…?”

“No. If a week passes and you don’t hear from us, then you won’t. But we have your info so…”

“OKAY. Great! I mean, not about the not hearing from you. I’d like to, but if I don’t like, it’s okay.”

“Well, we have your picture…” *Gently ushering me out the door*

“Yeah! So like, you know what I look like! If you see me on the street…okay. BYE EVERYONE I HAD SO MUCH FUN BYE.” *Closing door slowly while staring at them*

 

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“Are you sure you guys don’t want smoothies?”

 

“Oh my God, did you ever leave????” texts my actress cousin Chana when I recount the audition to her. “Eventually” I type back.

So that’s the story  of my first non- high school audition. I legitimately have no idea if it went well or not. I was striving for memorable and I think I achieved it. Yay!

Onto the next adventure! Have a great night snowflakes!

 

 

May The Fourth (Grade) Be With You

14 Oct

Hello friends!

It’s me! I’ve missed you so much! Sorry I’ve been so MIA since July. I’ve wanted to write…it’s just been a rough couple of months. My old friend Anxiety had returned full force in the beginning of the summer and it’s been rudely stifling my creativity and confidence. Every time I opened my WordPress browser, that persistent little voice interrupted whatever I was going to write to pipe up “This is stupid. You have nothing to write. Why do you even have this website, idiot. Go back to the kitchen! (sorry, my inner voice is a little sexist) Cracker! (and racist).” So even though I can still hear it now, we’re just gonna power through.

Thankfully, I found an super awesome therapist who likes to ask me if I want to “be the next Amy Schumer.” (I wasn’t 100% sure if he actually knows who Amy Schumer  is or just Googled ‘current popular female comedians’ when I started seeing him regularly). And I also found Zoloft and Klonopin again. So the gangs all back together for now.

In other news, I have returned to the fourth grade. Many of you have expressed confusion for my recent status updates detailing my exploits in elementary school. “I’m sorry, are you a teacher or something now? Weren’t you selling beet juice last year?” Yes. That is factual. And it was a beet ENERGY drink, thanks for paying attention to my life, mom.

But in a surreal plot twist and one of the greatest ironies in the whole history of Aviva Woolf, I am being paid money to help teach children, sometimes in math! MATH! Me! In elementary school! Of my own volition! Ms. Lets-Just-Block-Schoolyard-Memories-From-1997-through-2005 because they were so awkward and weird.

Yup. Went from being a adorable chubby cheeked toddler to a beautiful adult. No awkward middle stage at all, no need to investigate.

I got this job the same way I get all my jobs, by overhearing someone mention that employees were being sought out for a position somewhere and I volunteered as tribute. In this instance, it was my friend Mel who mentioned they were looking for assistant teachers at the Jewish school she teaches at. A couple of months later I’m back in knee-length jean skirts, filling out book orders and standing alone at recess. Except this time I’m the one doing the grading. And it feels super weird.

“Weren’t you going into comedy?” You ask. “What happened? Did your parents finally convince you to get a job where you weren’t mocking them in front of strangers at sketchy bars?” Good question. I am still doing stand-up (this past month excluded) and having anxiety about wasting my youth and potential on Criminal Minds marathons every night instead of writing sketches but people need to eat (and by people I mean Whiskey because if we can’t afford cat food he will rightfully murder us in our sleep) so I chose a job that lets me get home at 4 p.m., eat lunch for free and steal routine material from hilarious 10 year-olds.

I will never be as sassy as this 4th grader.

And if I can help some poor child understand expanded numbers then so be it. God knows if anyone understand what it’s like to fall behind academically at a young age, it’s me. Plus, I get a discount at Staples. I haven’t tried it out yet but I assume that’s why people go into education. And also to buy cutesy adorable shit like this on Etsy.

Gah! Buy all the kitsch!

So that’s all for now. Wait, I did it! I finished a blog post! A+ and a sticker for me! And as an extra credit assignment for you, try not to laugh at this picture of me at 9 years-old, being dressing up as Morticia Adams (did I mention I was weird…?)

**I told you not to investigate.

My First Del Close Marathon

30 Jun

Friday:

“Happy DCM!” Ben Ramaeka says as he hugs me. I’m standing in line at the Upright Citizens Brigade Training Center waiting for my intern badge. I do what I always do when my former improv class teacher sees and immediately hugs me: “Oh! hi!” And think “I was awful in your 301 class!”

  He says “Happy DCM” like its a normal thing people say casually all the time that’s lost some meaning, like “Happy Birthday” or “The bathroom smelled like that before I went in.” But to me it’s a new greeting. DCM, or #DCM17 if you only understand Twitter speak, is the Del Close Marathon, an annual 72 hour improv celebration hosted by the founders of UCB to honor Del Close, a premiere influence on modern improvisational theater and former teacher to the likes of Amy Poehler, Adam McKay, Gilda Radnor and Bill Murray. Basically, the comedy cult leader that started it all. Teams from all over the world, UCB alums and popular show writers all come to NYC to perform on nine stages. 

It’s improv Christmas and Hanukkah (considering how many pale Jews grace their stages) rolled into one.

It was my first one and as an intern, I was required to work a shift. 

  “Now take care of this wristband,” says the volunteer automatically as he snaps a red band around my wrist. “It will get you into shows and the party space. It is IRREPLACEABLE. Don’t lose it.”

“Lose it? It’s attached to my arm how could I misplace it?” I wonder out loud.

“I know how much you love fisting, Aviva!” Yells my co-intern Spencer from a few people behind me in line. “Don’t lose it up someone’s ass!” People chuckle.

“Thanks Spencer!” I shout back.

Everyone’s a comedian.

Saturday:

 Since I am an orthodox Jewish person, I suffer from FOMOBOS (Fear of missing out because of Shabbat). I would be missing all the shows that started Friday night and Saturday day so as soon as we said Havdallah, Ari and I rushed out the door to see the show “Let’s Have a Ball,” featuring Kimmy Shmidt. I would also be participating in a show at 1:40 a.m., called Everybody’s Got a Gun, the premise of which would be that everyone on stage would also be holding a toy gun. In a moment of misguided brilliance, I decided that bringing my brother’s old Davy Crockett rifle would be hilarious, not quite planning on how I would carry this 2 foot semi-realistic looking gun from Washington Heights to the East Village. In the end I stuffed it into a long box taken from my father-in-law and hoped that no security guard would ask me what was in my box. 

  The show we saw was all right. Ellie Kemper was disappointingly underwhelming, but Improv Nerd‘s Brandon Gardner is a gem and actually one of my favorite improvisors at UCB so in the end it was a pretty solid. It ended at 11:15, I said goodbye to Ari, grabbed my fake gun in a box and headed down to the party space while it poured outside and my Bob’s squished with rain.

  The party space is pretty self explanatory. An area for performers, crew and VIP to hang out between shows with free alcohol and plenty of outlets to charge iPhones. The line to get in was looooooong. After waiting easily 35 minutes in the rain with other improvisors who were in various states of inebriation, I was close. The security guard at the front started yelling BACK, BACK everyone MOVE BACK. I turned around to see Nick Kroll and Rafi from The League walk right past us and into the elevator. This is an important detail for later. I also saw a high as anything dude get off the elevator and start shaking people’s hands down the line like he was the mayor.

  Finally, I made it upstairs and was greeted by a prom where I didn’t recognize anyone. It was so loud and dark, it was like a club filled with people in flannel, wearing backpacks. I stashed my gun to the side, got a beer and walked around. Eventually I ran into another intern and started chatting.

“Look, there’s Nick Kroll.” He said, pointing to a small group of people gathered outside the VIP area.

“Haha, Fuck Nick Kroll. He cut me in line before! The nerve of some people!” I said jokingly.

“You should go over there and tell him that.”

“Haha, yeah I don’t think so.”

“C’mon, go yell at him. I’ll hold him down if you want to get in any punches.”

I laughed and then kind of went, yeah OK. Let’s go yell at Nick Kroll, what else am I doing right now? Surprisingly, I had only drank 1/3 of my beer. My friend followed behind me.

“Excuse me, Nick Kroll?”

“Yes?” He said.

“I’m Aviva, I wanted to say hi.”

“Hi, are you comedian?” He asked while politely shaking my hand (his were very soft if you were wondering).

“Yeah…it’s going all right. I also wanted to tell you that you fucking cut in me in line earlier.”

He laughed, “Yeah, I don’t feel bad about that. Not even a little bit. Like, out of all the things I’ve done in my life, I feel the least bad about that.” He kind of gestured around himself like “Do you see who I am?” I nodded and felt that I had accomplished what I wanted to, but I was still in this conversation.

“Uh, well I have to go…um, get my gun now.” I said. “It was nice meeting you!” And walked away hoping that I said “TOY gun” or maybe that I had said nothing at all. My show was in ten minutes and I needed to get to the Magnet Theater.

  DCM shows ranged from hour long productions featuring Amy Poehler at 7 p.m. to 15 min bit shows starring students at 2 a.m. I was still jazzed to participate though. “Everybody’s Got a Gun,” starred around 17 people (most of whom worked with me at the East theater), which you’ll notice is a lot of people for a short show on a small stage. It wasn’t great. Before we walked on, I turned around to Spencer and said I said I was nervous. “Just remember this,” he said softly. “None of this matters at all.”

  After our show, it was too late to wait on any lines since they only kick people out of the theater every six hours and I didn’t feel like waiting four hours in the rain with my gun. I packed it in at 3 a.m. and went home to sleep for my shift on Sunday.

  Sunday:

I woke in the morning at nine. I had meant to wake up early to wait in line to see more shows but I decided to sleep instead. My shift was at The Theater for the New City, which I remembered from my days as a theater reviewer. Most of the shows for DCM there would be short ones put on by teams. My job was to stand at the front and answer questions. Most questions were “Where are they playing Pride and Prejudice?” One old lady asked me if I was an actress because I was so pretty. That doesn’t really have anything to do with DCM but it’s my blog and I’ll tell you about random compliments if I want to!

  The shift was uneventful and kind of an anti-climactic end to the IMPROV EXTRAVAGANZA. But I don’t think I prepared for this year. I didn’t make time to see shows, I didn’t research what would be where. I didn’t give myself enough time to hang out at the party space and yell at more famous people. I think next year I’ll be readier. Hopefully it won’t rain and hopefully I won’t be lugging around a cardboard box with a heavy rifle inside.

  But ultimately, it was a great experience. Not just the marathon itself but the feeling of community surrounding it. The building excitement weeks beforehand, the fact that I could meet a visiting Australian performer at a workshop and just talk about improv and connect over beats and characters and game. It’s cool to bond with people who value big choices and mistakes and learning. It’s actually a pretty good cult and I’m glad I joined.

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Cry On Stage! Yet Another Motivational Post

7 May

Hey-ho Hey-ho It’s BLOG DAAYYYY (which is arbitrarily decided by me based on how many episodes of Friends on Netflix I can watch before I start thinking about what I’m contributing to the world)

Speaking of Friends, I just need to say something. Growing up it was my all-time favorite forever for-realzies show and even though watching it in 2015 is a little rough, it still holds a special place in my tiny heart. But watching Friends as a 25 year old in 2015 is getting on my nerves a bit. I just watched the episode where Joey tells Rachel about a job at Fortunata Fashion and she’s like “Great! my dreams of being in fashion are finally coming true!” And then she spends ONE day doing standard shitty intern work and then complains near Mark at Monica’s restaurant and he’s like “It sounds like you don’t have much of a work ethic in a really competitive field – come work for meeeee at Bloomingdale’s!”

When I was younger I remember being like “Yay! Dreams! You go Rachel You’re so pretty and nice you deserve everything!” Now I watch it and I’m like, what th-?? Quick question: What about everyone ELSE who worked really hard at their annoying fashion internships for years and years and didn’t get jobs handed to them by strangers drinking coffee alone at cheesy diners? I guess they should all just start complaining loudly too in case someone from Versace is on that public city bus with them.

Onto the next totally unrelated topic of conversation: me wanting to be amazing right away at comedy and that not happening the way I was conditioned to believe it would!

Last week, I found out what’s even worse than the case of the crickets onstage. Not going up at all. Not even when they call your name. I had decided to go to the open mic at the PIT and was just not feeling too hot about it. As the comics got up and for the most part flawlessly delivered jokes without reading their notes, I started to panic. Like a full on panic attack. It felt hot and crowded. I went over to the woman running the show and was like “Okay, so I know I’m next but instead of going up…I’m just gonna go.” And then I literally ran away.

And it felt worse than bombing. It felt like hot disappointment. It felt like the bad kind of quitting. But it also made me mad that I didn’t have the confidence to go up or the guts to wing it. It wasn’t my first time sniffling on the subway (that belongs to 2007 Aviva thinking her 11th grade crush liked her best friend, and crying into her The Fray hoodie as she listened to Red Jumpsuit Apparatus on her iPod mini – oh God 2007! Take me back!).

The next night was my internship at UCB and I knew it was the 5th Thursday of the month and that means the Open Michelle (UCB’s Ladies’ Only Open Mic). I had practiced and sharpened my stuff. I told all my coworkers that I had to go up so they would pressure me in case I backed out. I was working in the bar waiting for my name to be called, doing stretches and breathing exercises to get pumped up. Two talented UCB comedians and bartenders, were discussing comedy and trying not to stare at me doing some relaxing yoga poses I made up. I interrupted them to ask Brandon how long he had been doing stand-up for.

Brandon: About 6 years

Me: This is my 10th open mic

Brandon: Oh…that’s cool

Me: I’m really nervous. I didn’t do so well at the open mic last night. And by not so well I mean I started crying from pressure and so I left as they called my name.

Brandon: You left?! You should’ve gone on stage!

Me: But I was crying…

Brandon: Then you cry on stage! You do four minutes of crying but you never ever leave!

I don’t know why that advice/chastising resonated with me. Maybe it was the hilarious thought of someone just doing a set of crying for 4 minutes or the fact that everyone everyone everyone has some bad experiences when starting new things.

Either way, “Then you cry on stage but you never ever leave,” has become my new mantra. Feel free to borrow it. It’s almost as good as David Woolf’s 2011 inspiring quote of “Always know that I have confidence in you. And if you feel like you don’t have enough confidence in yourself you can borrow some from me.” Or Paulette Woolf’s 2005 classic gem, “Being scared is not a good enough reason not to do something.”

So I got on that stage. And I didn’t cry. I tried out new material that I had practiced and believed in. And it was all right! Enough to keep me back in the game. And enough to know that anything is better than leaving. But you know what? Sometimes it’s OK to leave and get perspective and then try again. One step back and all that. Even though that kind of negates all the advice I just laid out. Fuck it. Aviva Woolf 2015: You shouldn’t leave when you’re scared but that’s advice you can only give others when you’ve left and then felt bad about it and cry into your boring, plain H&M hoodie. So I’m giving that wisdom to you to ignore and then you can learn from your own mistakes and write your own pep-talk blog, I don’t know your life.

That’s all the motivation I can dish out today.

I need to get back to loudly complaining at this Starbucks about how I really need a high-paying job in comedy. Mark where are you???

Quitters Anonymous (Or: How I Bombed For The First Time)

23 Apr

Hello frienditos!

Time for my monthly blog update because I don’t understand the concept of a daily blog. Remember when I would write every day? Man, I had some nice free time. i should go back to living in Baltimore with no friends.

Since I have decided to document my journey into the comedy world (which is like the regular world but with a lot more errant banana peels), I feel I need to talk about Monday – in which, firstly, I fucking KILLED IT in Improv 401 with my new best friend teacher Dan Hodapp. I was nervous for my first day at UCB’s highest improv class since my 301 class had been weirdly stressful and not super fun at all. I would leave class crying (crying! like it was some kind of math class!). So I was apprehensive. But I walked in, sat down next to some dude. Looked at him and realized he was wearing the SAME EXACT OUTFIT as me. Seriously. Black shoes, dark jeans, black T-shirt with a white design of an animal, maroon H&M sweatshirt. I was like “Bro, what the heck? Stop stealing my style, son.” He also found it funny. And a friendship was born.  Then we were randomly picked to be in a few scenes together looking like twinsies. So it was easier to perform now that I had a supportive mirror image friend.

(And just so everyone knows in advance, 401 has three graduation shows – and they’re all on Sundays so you can pop on by and see them like a supportive mirror friend you want to be! May 17th, June 7th and 21st – and they’re all at 1:15 pm so you can watch me and then go home early and nap.)

Now, before I talk about my bomb-a-thon, here’s some stuff about me as a preamble (more like pre-ramble amiright? Okay sorry).

I am an impatient person, which my husband sweetly reminds me every so often. Not in sense that I have outbursts when old people take their time at the grocery store checkout but in the sense that I want to be really good friends with people right away without awkward small talk. I want religion to move faster in accepting women in positions of power, I want congress to stop fucking around and solve all our problems right now. I want to be great at something without having to patiently practice for years and years. I want big sweeping changes all the time and not teeny tiny modicums of progress – which, as you’ll note, is how the world fucking works despite how I might feel.

I don’t have a huge concept of working very hard at something for years and years. I am a grade A quitter. Because I don’t see it as quitting really, but as moving on to something else more interesting. Tired of tennis? Good thing there’s ceramics, ice skating and karate. This sewing machine instructions are too hard to figure out? Fine, just leave it in the box and start baking instead! I can’t remember a time where I didn’t just quit when something got too hard, or boring or just annoying. And Monday night seems like something that, in the past, would make me be like “Eh, I don’t need this comedy – maybe I’ll do something else, like go to medical school.” But I’m trying hard to focus on progress, not perfection – to borrow a phrase from everyone’s favorite anonymous group.

So the open mic was at Gotham. Actually, the basement of Gotham. A nice basement though, it had pretty clean curtains and a little stage. And no seats wet with spilled beer like one I recently went to at McSwaggins. Ari had come for moral support and because we were gonna go to Madras Mahal later (which closed/left BTW! What? Don’t worry, we ended up going to Mr. Broadway.)

I had practiced my set a lot more than I usually did, starting to take this whole stand-up thing more seriously. And coming from my awesome improv class, I was so set on being a fan fave. I went 4th in the lineup which is also usually good because the crowd thins out the later you go.

I introduced myself with a joke. Crickets. Every punchline. Dead, not even polite laughter, or nervous laughter. At one point I remember thinking “Oh you don’t like these jokes muthfuxers – well I’m just gonna double down and do them with even more aplomb!” At one point I went off script to make some off-hand joke about how they didn’t like something and they laughed the hardest at that SO WHAT EVEN IS COMEDY?

I ran off the stage when my light came on. The next girl got up and started making jokes about how she handjobs and everyone was rolling on the floor. I don’t wanna say that my jokes were too *smart* for this crowd but really – I feel like it’s usually the case where someone will be like “Grapes give me diarrhea” and these dudes will be like OMG that is the funniest fucking thing I’ve ever heard! (a true story BTW). I’m trying not to be bitter or angry that they didn’t like me because really, I understand that jokes are subjective and open mics aren’t about impressing other comedians but still, this had never happened and it kind of stung. It was the kind of thing that made my little quitter voice go “You’re probably not nor have you ever been funny – everyone was probably lying to you forever and maybe you’re on the Truman Show.”

In a rare moment of self-pity I posted about it on Facebook and a bunch of comedian friends, pro’s and amateurs alike were like “Bro, it’s not a big deal – it’s gonna happen thousands of times, just keep trying and failing.” Which was like ‘Oh good, I can’t wait to keep embarrassing myself!’ But they’re totally right.

So after a few days of reflection, I’m ready to try again. After I asked if I should change my routine, or whether I should try to say stuff I think the audience will like, Ari firmly told me that I should I only tell jokes that I think are funny and not to pander. Be true to yourself I guess is the moral and you will eventually find your niche.

So we’ll see how it goes from here on out, and I will try to keep posting as often as I can. I hope you all are following your dreams and not getting discouraged from failure!

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