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“If you like Big Boobs you must LOVE Aviva” – A Post on Plastic Surgery

16 Jul

“He told me to get back into my bunk and that if I’m out after curfew again he was gonna tell Rabbi Johan.”

“What did you tell him?”

“I told him I liked big boobs!”

Avishai and Josh laughed next to me. I was 17 and working in a Jewish upstate bungalow day camp. My friends and fellow coworkers two favorite past times were making fun of Laizer, the overweight and long suffering head counselor who had to reinforce the rules for a bunch of obnoxious teenagers who took huge amounts of pleasure in teasing him for his weight.

Avishai looked my way. We were in the same class in high school and I considered us to be pretty close friends.

“If you like big boobs you must LOVE Aviva,” He started laughing hysterically.

Josh awkwardly looked away from me. Avishai glanced around for approval and I couldn’t stand the silence so I started laughing too. I didn’t understand why he was dragging me and my large breasts into this story that I already felt uncomfortable with but I knew that if I didn’t laugh, I would be seen as uptight and maybe not as “one of the boys” as I had crafted my high school persona to be.

I spent the rest of the summer in loose T-shirts. I never went swimming.

I’m 21 and sitting in the college guidance office. Mark, the counselor assigned to me, was explaining my course options for the upcoming semester. He will not take his eyes off my large chest. He is literally talking to them. I shift in my seat. He doesn’t meet my eyes.

Later, I’m telling this story to my roommate.

“What were you wearing?” She asks.

I take out the dress I had picked up from Rugged, a cheap Ross-like clothing store off campus, one of the only clothing stores within walking distance that didn’t have TERPS emblazoned on it. It was a sleeveless dress with a high neckline and peter pan collar. I laughed when I told her the story. I made a funny Facebook status about the “classes my breasts were taking in the fall semester” that got a lot of likes.

I didn’t wear the dress again.

These are only two stories because to write every instance where my breasts have created awkward situations or difficulty for me would take a while. I’m a size 30H. I’ve been the same size since 10th grade. I hate running. I go to a specialty store to buy bathing suits. Even though the national bra size is DD, larger sizes than that have to pay 60, 70 80 dollars a bra.

It’s a pain in the neck – literally. My posture is horrible, my shoulders always slumped forward from the weight of my 6 -7 lb boobs hanging on me.

Every few years I would look into reductions. I would mention it to my mom who would counter with a gym offer instead. Seeing as she signed me up for a gym membership when I was 12, that was her solution for a lot of things. I would drop the subject and focus on things about my body I could change; the color of my hair, the size of my belly, the amount of piercings on my face. My breasts never changed size. Not when I worked out all summer with a weight-lifting trainer. Not when I went down to 129 lbs on my 5’7 frame after beginning a regiment of anti-depressant pills in 2013.

This month however, I finally snapped. I decided that I was an adult now, I didn’t need anyone’s validation to get a surgery I wanted.

I wasn’t an extreme case – I knew that from my exhaustive research into the world of plastic surgery. There were women with sizes in the alphabet I didn’t know were possible, J, N, M. Women who couldn’t wear seatbelts. I made an appointment with a doctor in my network and a few days later, I got a phone call.

“Hello, is this Aviva Woolf?”

“Yes it is.”

“Oh my God, your boobs are gonna be so beautiful. You’re gonna be the most gorgeous girl on the beach!”

The gravelly voiced woman calling was the office manager for the plastic surgeon I had picked. She was also her mother (and a character I would use as a basis in improv practice later that week.) She assured me that her daughter, the doctor, did reductions all the time – they were very popular! She asked questions about my weight, my height, my size. When I told her my cup size she said:

“Too big. I understand. They give off the wrong message.”

The wrong message? My boobs were annoying. Large and unsexy (in my own opinion). I couldn’t wear certain dresses. Men stared at me in the subway. Once at trivia I told patrons they could draw a picture of me for extra points (I did that sometimes as a joke but with mermaids eating pizza, dragons on a skateboards) and one was returned with a obscenely large chest. I didn’t like that but felt I deserved it because hey, I had asked. They took up a lot of room but never did I think they were “sending a message.”

What was that message?

I assumed the only message my breasts were sending was “We exist.”

I debated doing to the surgery for days – reading everything I could online. I spoke to friends who had had it. I didn’t find one piece of evidence that anyone who had gotten it had regretted it.

I went to the appointment and met the very nice surgeon. She took pictures and asked me questions. She showed me a portfolio of her work, faceless women with anchor scars.

She explained that a breast reduction would possibly affect my ability to breastfeed. I thought about the fertility issues my husband and I were having for the past year since I went off birth control. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to conceive at all due to my diagnosis of PCOS, let alone breastfeed. Who knew how long is would take to even get a baby, let alone worry about breastfeeding one.

I went to her partner, an orthopedist who would examine my spine to see if there were any other factors that were contributing to my neck and back pain besides my breasts.

He took 2 hours to come into the waiting room. He was a cold, unsmiling, older man.

“I would tell one of the girls (!) to bring you a gown and to get undressed but you’re basically undressed now anyways.”

I was wearing shorts and tank top.

What message were my breasts sending then?

Currently, I’m waiting to here back from insurance now. They are notoriously finicky about approving surgeries. I don’t know what Ill choose to do if it’s rejected. I’m not sure what I’ll do if it’s accepted. At times I feel vain and stupid for choosing to alter my body to improve my quality of life. Other times I can’t wait to have it done already – to be able to jump and swim without being stared at.

Seeing as I’m currently between jobs at the moment – or day jobs, now is the perfect time to schedule the surgery. I don’t know if it’ll happen but I hope it does. I want to get it for me. Not for the Avishais or college guidance counselors of the world or subway drunks.

Like Hailee Steinfeld says in her song Most Girls:

You know some days you feel so good in your own skin
But it’s okay if you wanna change the body that you came in
‘Cause you look greatest when you feel like a damn queen

Either way, I’ll keep you updated.

 

 

The Aviva Show

13 Jul

Hey mamas!

It’s that time again. I’m unemployed again! Preschool ended in June and since then I’ve been studying to become a Certified NYC tour guide. Hopefully I’ll be taking the test next week but until then I’ve been studying, doing improv, standup, writing sketches, hosting trivia, interning at the QED theater in Queens, babysitting and putting off writing this blog. So not as totally unproductive as I figured my “vacation” would be.

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“Babysitting”

 

My friend Mike (of Pepsi commercial auditioning fame) and I have seriously started performing as a two-person improv team (or as seriously as anyone can commit to playing make believe on a stage). We had one show last month at the People’s Improv Theater in which I produced, hosted and performed in. Hey, if I’m paying the tech 30 dollars and not making any profit from ticket sales you better believe I’m gonna take advantage and turn it into the Aviva Show.

 

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Always work with children and animals.

 

 

The show was actually not a failure! I know that sounds self deprecating but I tried to keep my expectations super low – especially since it was the first show I ever produced. I told myself it would be messy and maybe go wrong and that that was OK. That way, when people came late due to Pride parade, our coach was two hours late for rehearsal, the stand-up I booked got stuck in Brooklyn, and the tech cut off the first team early – I was OK with it! I shrugged it off and said hey, live theater. A pretty far cry from when I almost threw up on stage during my UCB 101 show because I wasn’t doing perfectly. Life is live, you have to prepare for things to get fucked up. I mean that in the most optimistic way possible.

Next week I’m producing another show (@ The Pit Loft, 7/19/ 8pm) and I feel I’m more aware of steps to take to make sure the same mistakes aren’t made and that’s the whole point of having a stupid first show and getting it out of the way.

Up up and away!

 

 

 

 

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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