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!

Winter Magic and Glow

15 Mar

Hello friends! It’s been ages!

I’ve been hibernating for the past few weeks. Trying to outsmart the cold by hiding under my blankets watching so many late-night episodes of Law and Order SVU that I’ve started having weird hyper-consensual sex dreams about District Attorney Rafael Barba. I know you were all wondering so now it’s out of the way and we can move on, OK?

I’ve been doing a couple of open-mics since last I was on stage. Trying to feel comfortable with the shrouded faceless blob staring back at me when I’m under the lights. But as I said, it’s been hella cold in NYC and I feel 60 degree and above weather is much more conducive to comedy and me voluntarily going outside.

Unless you are a walrus of course.

     Unless you are a hilarious walrus of course.

But LUCKILY I did get an internship at the cult that started it all, Upright Citizen’s Brigade. I started last Thursday and I was super jazzed to clean the bathrooms, scan tickets and sit at the front booth looking all cool and bored (and please know that the previous sentence was not sarcastic at all! I really was jazzed! Because I’m a weirdo who likes doing menial tasks in super rad places. Like that time I had to give out bumper stickers for that Israeli TV station! I liked it!) I showed up at 4:59 pm to a seemingly empty theater. I wandered around. I picked up a mop and started looking for water. I saw the tech guy and was like “Hi? I’m Aviva? I’m new? What am I doing now?” and he was like “Here’s a tour of the theater!”

Eventually I found the other interns and the house manager and tried to bond with them but apparently everyone was not that into it. Not that they weren’t nice, they were a normal amount of nice. They were just not the same hyper “tell me your life story!” level I was up to. I don’t know why I’m like that –  maybe it’s the journalist in me, maybe it’s me overcompensating for never talking to anyone until I was 15 years old. Maybe it’s lingering side effects from that weird growth in my neck that I got from watching my food cook in the microwave all the time. Who knows.

The main jobs during the shows are divided into three – sitting by the front desk, standing in the theater scanning tickets and making sure people turn off their phones during the shows (one of my ultimate joys), and sitting by the door in the bar making sure people don’t enter during a show. I got to see two shows, Thursday nights are stand-up night and the first show was great, talented people, good audience. The second show was horrendous and I begged my house manager to not make me watch it again. It was four bros on stage doing a power hour and talking about the worst ways they were ever dumped. And then they called up people from the audience (who were actually part of the show and ALSO doing shots) to come up and do a sketch or set or whatever. One guy’s “jokes” were all about how 9/11 was a super exciting day if you forget about all the dead people and another guy’s “”””jokes”””” was him taking off all his clothes and throwing chocolate donuts into the audience. A big no-no in the UCB theater if you were wondering.

I was in the bar for the second to last show, sitting at the little booth on the lookout for any shenanigans to shut down when I see John fucking Mulaney. Standing arm’s length away. I could have reached out and never let go! But something about my boss being right there told me that maybe that was frowned upon even more-so than chucking chocolate donuts in the theater. I’ve always prided myself as someone who was like “Ugh celebrities, they’re just NORMAL people – no need to freak out, they Febreze their clothes when they’re too lazy to do laundry just like everyone else.”

Or am I ONLY one who smells like "Winter magic and glow"????

Or am I ONLY one who smells like “Winter Magic and Glow”????

But embarrassingly enough my only thoughts were “Oh my goodness I’ve seen you on my television! And now you’re alive! In front of me! It’s amazing! You were on my Netflix! And you’re so tall” So I just stared, not saying a word. Until he saw me, made a weird smile/grimace and walked out of the bar. I’m sure he’ll think it’s a funny story when I retell it to him in a few years when we’re hanging out backstage at the Comedy Central Roast of Siri, or whatever they future is like.

That’s enough of an update for now! These SVU episodes aren’t going to watch themselves!

Have a wonderful Sunday you weirdos! XOXO

The Comic Gotham (Barely) Needs, Not the Comic They Deserve

6 Feb

Guys – today has been one of the BEST days and that’s saying a lot because one time I MET JOHN STAMOS. And he tickled my neck. It was weird. Also, I had a wedding one time. So it’s a big deal.

Didn't bel

Didn’t believe me about John Stamos       DID YOU?

I had my Manhattan Comedy School graduation on Monday. The classes were more of a workshop than a class. Everyone prepared something and read it. The first day, my teacher Karen Bergreen said, “I know this might be hard to believe but you all will become really good friends by the end of this class.” And in my head I went, “I hate everyone here with the passion of a billion burning suns.”

But you know what? She was (partially) right. I did bond with (some) people. (Other people can still go die in a million burning suns). We went to open mics as newbies. We exchanged emails about our lives. We got beers at the end of shows. We cheered each other on at our show. It was worth the million dollars we paid and Monday nights spent sitting in a cold studio listening to Book Of Mormon rehearsing next door. We were all in it together. So I guess stop judging everyone you meet is what my lesson is.

THE SHOW:

6:15 p.m.:  My classmate Kim and I got to Gotham an hour early. It was snowing and freezing out, so not such a huge crowd was expected. I had never been to Gotham before and we explored the stage. It was smaller than I expected but surrounded by TVs playing Kat Williams, Louis CK, Wanda Sykes on a loop. Intimidating. We put our stuff down in the back and thought of ways to sneak our material onto the stage in case we blanked – Kim wrote hers on her hand. I wrote mine one a piece of paper and stuffed it in my bra (I guess because pulling it out in the middle of the show would be less surreptitious than reading it off my hand??).

6:22 p.m.:  The man filming our show came over to talk to us, his name was Michael. He was telling us about how he had met everyone back in the day when he was still a comic as well: Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, Ray Romano, Amy Poehler (“Yeah, she’s as nice as everyone says she is.”) I forgot what someone said but Michael goes “That’s a lie. Everyone lies in show business, I could be lying to you right now. You should know that. Everyone lies in show business.” I gestured to Kim and myself and jokingly said that some day we’ll be on Conan and say that at our very first stand-up, our only piece of advice was that everyone lies in comedy.

“No you won’t,” Michael said. At first I was taken aback. I thought he meant that we’ll never be successful enough to be on a late night show. But he followed up with “You won’t remember me. Do you know how many people I’ve met here? You’re gonna meet a lot of people too. You think you’ll remember but you won’t.” So I am making it a point to write about it here to ALWAYS REMEMBER SO I CAN TRACK HIM DOWN IN 10 YEARS AND SHOVE IT IN HIS FACE MICHAEL. Remind to talk about it in 10 years OK?

7:04 p.m.: My parents, their friends, Ari, my brother, our friend Ben, my friend Jessie are all here front row. They are reasonably about 40% of the audience. The show was supposed to start at 7 p.m. and they are still playing Uptown Funk. WHY MUST THEY TOY WITH MY ALREADY RACING HEART?

7:04-8:13 p.m: They have a MC and some pros mixed in with the students. It’s a small crowd and it’s a little rough for even the pros to rouse people, which makes me feel a bit better if not because of a little schadenfreude, “They’ve been doing this for YEARS and it’s still a little hard for them!” It may have also been rough because they decided to riff with my parents’ friends asking them stuff like “So yo man, you even heard of sexting??”

8:15 p.m.: I’m go after Kevin. My heart is beating so fast. I casually hold my drink and napkin (that I’ve written all my jokes on just in case too). All I can think of is West Side Story. Not just because it’s a classic play and movie but because when I was 18 I played A-Rab, a forgettable Jet, in my senior year production of the show (aka 30 white Jewish kids producing the most racist shit you will ever not see). I didn’t have many lines – I was mainly background and singing but there was one scene that was just me and another boy. We were running from the cops and it was just me and him on stage. His line was something like “What do we do now?!” and I forgot what I supposed to say. Like really, I forgot what i supposed to say. So I just pretended to still be out of breath from running. Much longer than was believable. It was just blank blank blankety blank. Until the boy playing Officer Krupke just came on stage and saved my ass.

Why my brain decided to bring up nightmares such as this one right before I went on stage is just another reason that proves your own brain HATES you and sabotages you whenever it can. But soon, as I was ccasssuaalllyyy leaning on the wall waiting, the MC goes “Now, a very funny girl AVIVA WOOLF.”

I wish i could give you more insight about my 4 min on stage but it’s fuzzy. I remember looking at my own hand and going STOP SHAKING YOU IDIOT. I had my material down pat but I hadn’t practiced what to do with my hands while I was rehearsing in the shower or on the subway. I gripped that pole like I had just realized I was allergic to gravity and didn’t want to float away. Unlike my  improv shows, where everything was up in the air and you relied on your teammates to help, I was alone up there. And it was just a totally different experience. Better or worse I haven’t decided yet. Just different. Like going to a restaurant vs cooking at home. I didn’t pay attention to what people were laughing at until I watched the tape they sent me today. I just thought “keep talking keep talking keep talking.”

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I watched it when I got the e-mail and thought “What the fuck is happening with my hair?” and “WHY DID I SAY MARCH INSTEAD OF FEBRUARY?”

But I didn’t think “Well that was a disaster so let’s pack it up and relegate this time of my life to the back of my closet along with those overalls I always think I can pull off and I can’t.”

I thought “I can do better. This is OK and I can do better.” And I will.

After I put my video on Facebook (with the disclaimer that I absolutely didn’t want any criticism, just praise), people were SO sweet. They asked when they can see me perform. I think it won’t be for a while. This is a new craft and it’s going to take a looonngg long long time getting really good at open mics before I’ll be paid to do anything anywhere. Time for me to fade back into the shadows until I can get up in front of an audience without feeling like I wanna throw up.

I was never a public speaker. I was always the kid who muttered observations under her breath, never broadcasting them for the whole class. Time for me to fix that.

And as always, I’ll be here documenting it 🙂

(And here it is FOR YOUR AMUSEMENT)

Tuesday Snoozeday – A Catch Up Post

27 Jan

HELLO FRIENDS!

Happy whatever you’re doing today! Complaining about the snow? Complaining about the lack of snow? Complaining because everyone is annoying you with their posts and opinion about whatever weather they’re experiencing? We’ve got it all!

Sorry I took a little break from blogging. Mostly because my post about my Bubby went a bit viral and everyone was commenting about their bubbies and loss, and it felt less-than-monumental to get back to writing about weird things people tell me when I’m working at the supermarket but enough is enough – time to get back to silly.

To catch you up on my journey on the comedy/writing front: My graduation from my stand-up class is at Gotham this Monday at 7pm, I started Improv 301 at UCB and applied for their internship position, I started a sketch-writing class with Ali Farahnakian at the People’s Improv Theater. Sketch writing is really hard and also really weird. I guess I’m still in college mode because even though Ali isn’t a professor, just some comedy genius sharing his knowledge, it’s weird to have your teacher be like “Hm, what other funny words could we use for vagina? We have va-jay-jay…maybe we’ll go on Urban Dictionary and see if they have any other funny suggestions.”

I actually did an open mic a couple of weeks ago. I had been putting it off for a while since it seemed more insane in my head than it actually was. Doing an open mic has been on my bucket list for a long time (and apparently crossing something off your bucket list does not in fact, make you “one step closer to death” like I thought). It was up there with skydiving and being honest about how ugly people’s babies are. I got to Revision Lounge with a few of my classmates. Revision Lounge is a cool bar downtown where every piece of furniture was originally something else. A table used to be a TV set, a couch was an old bathtub, the stage was literally a converted coffin. **~Trendy!~**

I dropped my name in the vase and noticed a man hanging by the stage who was in a play I reviewed a couple of months ago called Awesome People. I went over to him and re-introduced myself. He didn’t remember me but he remembered being in that production which was a good start. I mentioned to him that it was my first open mic ever. “Don’t even worry,” he said. “Everyone here is terrible.” That actually made me feel better. It wasn’t true of course, some people were great – and some people made jokes about how grapes give them diarrhea so WHAT IS COMEDY EVEN? LET’S DISCUSS.

And it wasn’t the disaster I thought it might be. I was prepared for crickets, for forgetting all my material, for sweating profusely and spouting nonsense – ALL stuff I’ve actually seen people actually do at open mics. I kept thinking “No one is even listening to you anyways. These are all just other comedians trying out stuff. If you’re bad, they’ll be happy they’re better than you and if you’re good they’ll hate you for being good so just GET UP AND TALK AT THESE PEOPLE SOLDIER.”

And it was OK! My friend filmed it on my phone (for posterity). People chuckled which is basically LIQUID GOLD for beginners (or regular gold if that’s the direction you wanna go – or imaginary gold if you wanna be realistic.) I was happy!

Then literally the next day at my standup workshop I was doing some bit about the subway to a bunch of dead-eyed crickets. I was not as happy.

But I read something interesting the other day. BuzzFeed had an article about a dude named Pavel Sokov who quit his job to become an artist and how that eventually lead to a gig painting a cover for Time Magazine. He was writing about how he would get really discouraged in the beginning, painting all these pictures that he didn’t think were good, or not as good as his teachers. Then he said:

“Being upset that your first oil paintings aren’t turning out is almost rude in a way, because it is saying that you don’t think you need to put in the work to get your teacher’s results.”

That really struck me –  since apparently I’m one of those people who are like “Well I tried this and I’m obviously terrible at it – time to give up and do something else with my life.” When I started sketch or improv, or even stand-up I would say or do something that I immediately felt was a stupid idea and say something like “Ah never mind – that was really dumb, sorry. Forget I said anything,” and then shrink into my chair feel bad about myself. Now I try not to berate myself for trying something different or stupid. In the words of my former UCB teacher, “Never apologize in Improv, if you take a shit on stage you say ‘You’re welcome!” Which might be a little extreme but you get the gist, which is ‘If you’re a beginner, BE a beginner! It’s gonna take a while for you to find your groove. Don’t beat yourself up for having super high expectations! Lower your expectations. Now. Do it. You’re welcome.”

Now you’re all caught up! I can get back to writing about what really matters. My cat.

My Bubby the Maccabee – A Eulogy

23 Dec

My Bubby died. Friday afternoon if you want to be technical. She wasn’t in good shape for a while but it was still a shock to the heart, I guess you always expect death to happen in tiny increments like filling up a measuring cup to the line you want – bit by bit by bit by bit until you’re at a whole complete measurement.

But it’s not like that. It’s alive. Then gone. Alive. Gone.

And it’s strange to think that she’s just not here anymore for me to call on Friday afternoons before Shabbat to hear her tell me she loved me. That there will be no more Florida visits every June which I’ve been doing every year for the past five years. She was 90 years old and I seem to keep focusing on what she might never see, as opposed to all the amazing things she had the ability to witness – a gift that was denied to many not just in her generation, but in her own family.

Today was the funeral. The whole day was an exhausting mix of hugging visiting relatives, crying, laughing, eating, hugging, reflecting, more eating, running out to Starbucks after the funeral, more laughing. So many friends and family came, I whispered to my sister that if Bubby were here she’d be demanding to know why all these people came here – how did they get here? Who invited them? And then she’d wave and smile and blow kisses to everyone, adoring the spotlight. I assume she’s bending God’s ear with these interrogating questions and comments now.

I had offered to speak at the funeral. For those of you who asked, I have put it here. For everyone who texted, called and FB messaged me sweet thoughts and condolences I thank you from the bottom of my heart – I am so lucky to have caring and considerate friends and family. I’m sure Bubby would agree (and then tell me that it was time to say goodbye to those friends since my husband was my only friend now).

Here is what I said at the funeral:

“I’ve never given a eulogy before.

But then again, there’s a lot of things I’ve done this year that I’ve never done before. I graduated college, I got married, I got various jobs. And I wouldn’t have been able to do that without my grandmother, my Bubby.

I don’t just meant that in the sense that if she had never been born neither would I but in the sense that Bubby believed that I could do anything. That all her grandchildren could. You could tell her you were going to be a doctor and she’d say “Great! You can operate on me,” or “Bubby I’m going to be an accountant” and she’d reply “Wonderful  – you’ll make a lot of money and send some to me.”

My Bubby was friendly. She had to stop and talk to. every. single. stranger, neighbor and waiter. If only to tell them that her grandchildren were visiting….and maybe did they have a Shidduch in mind for us?

My grandmother was also stubborn. She refused to accept the fact that if you turned on the TV during a thunderstorm you wouldn’t get electrocuted – or that men could competently take care of babies.

I believe that she survived the Holocaust because she was too stubborn to do what Hitler so wished she would do – give up her life and heritage. He only made her dig her heels in harder.

In that way, my Bubby was a maccabee. I truly believe she would have fought right along side Matityahu – as long as it wouldn’t ruin her manicure. Bubby was all about having perfectly painted nails.

It’s almost fitting that she passed on Hanukkah because there is a story she once told me that I have come to associate with the holiday.

When she was a young girl  in Czechoslovakia, she told me, she had found a bag of gold coins and gave them to her parents. Instead of spending it responsibly on food or shoes for their five children, they took them to the circus – a rare and wonderful treat for the poor family. Years later, when the Nazis and fate had taken their shoes, taken their food – she still had those glorious memories of that happy day at the circus – that was something no one could ever take away.

During Hanukkah – when the Jews found the small jug of oil that would only last a day when they needed a week, they could have done the “responsible” thing and just lit a tiny bit each night to make it last but they didn’t. They spent it all and hoped for the best. They decided that the inspiring and wonderful sight of the menorah burning was more important to a tired and torn family – that sometimes people are more important than protocol.

My Bubby was a Macabee but she was also a flame. She warmed others with her food and her home. Her smile lit up when family and friends visited. She kindled Shabbat candles.

She might’ve burned too hot at times or scorched those who didn’t deserve it but Bubby was like that stubborn menorah flame that refused to conform to logic or nature.

In the circumstances surrounding her birth, she should have lasted only one generation but instead lasted many more.

And like the miraculous oil, only once she saw that her family and the Jewish people were going to be okay did she finally fade into a small spark and leave this world.”

My Bubby was a complicated lady who could be difficult and impossible sometimes. But she taught me that it’s good to have convictions, it’s even better to have something to fight for, its important to have family, it’s vital to have confidence in yourself but sometimes all you can do is try, and have faith that everything will work out in the end.

And it’s essential to always have perfectly manicured nails.

 

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More Bubby posts, here.

Happy Holiday! It’s an Olog!

18 Dec

 

 

 

Well, it’s finally come to this. An Olog (the CORRECT term for video log, since a blog is a weBlog a video log should be an videOlog. Shira knows what I’m saying)

 

Happy Holidays you weirdos!

Street Life Part 2

3 Dec

Buckle in for a long blog post sailors because things. are. happening.

Some weird. Some uncomfortable. Some delicious. And it aaallll started way back yesterday.

I had four supermarkets to stand in front of giving out protein bars, mostly in the Upper West Side. It was strangely warm out and people were pretty receptive to someone shoving protein bars in their face. Well most people. One scowling dude stomped down Columbus and when I held out the free sample he grabbed it and threw it on the sidewalk. So rude. But I let it slide because really, I don’t know these street people – as much as they desperately try to tell me their life stories.

A woman passed by and asked if the bars contained peanuts. No, I assured her, just cashews. “Well Im allergic to all nuts!” she yelled. “You should really tell people before you give these out.” To which I kind of nodded to but thought like, I have precisely one second to grab these people’s attentions – I don’t have time to read the label to them – also, if a stranger on the street was giving me food, I might take a second to glance at the ingredients if I was so deathly allergic, just a thought.

Some people act as if I’m their doctor and I’m prescribing them something horrible. An elderly blind woman stopped me to lecture me on the dangers of soy. I nodded for a while until I realized she couldn’t see me and was taking my silence as encouragement to keep telling me about how “Orientals, except the ones on the Western diet will DIE from too much soy! It enriches the blood! It clogs up the arteries!” Which was like, yeah problematic, but even more problematic because we were standing outside an Asian supermarket and I really didn’t want to be associated with the woman yelling about “Orientals.” I thought maybe I could just sneak away and she wouldn’t know. But I stayed and told her I was leaving. And then just waited until she was out of earshot to keep giving them out. Sorry America if I kill all of you with my soy.

Today I just had two supermarkets. I was on the corner of 23rd and it was chilly. But it didn’t stop people from coming over and talking to me. Around 10 a.m. a guy comes up to me and takes a protein bar and one for his wife. And says that she’s 75 cents short for the subway do I have change and I’m like yeah OK and he’s like thanks! I’ll help you with your bars. And then he walks up to some kid at the corner, gets in his face and goes “Hey man! Go take a protein bar from that girl! Now!” And this kid nervously takes one and the guy says “Now say thanks!” And then the man smiles at me and walks away.

At my last corner on 14th, a unkempt looking fellow came over and in a slurred semi-Italian asked me for directions. I tried to mime them out for him. He started speaking about a fire and showed me some bad burns on his arm. Not *quite* something I had asked for. I nodded while he said some more things. Then he leaned in (“Well this isn’t a red flag” I thought) “Can I kiss you?” he mumbled. “Uhh…no.” He leaned in and I hurriedly took a step back. He laughed and started walking away. “Be careful!” He yelled incomprehensibly. “It’s scary out here!”

(When I retold this story to my friend she replied “Didn’t he see the ring?!” Like, seriously, right? If I wasn’t married I would be macking all the dirty strange people who cross my path – curse the bonds of marriage!)

However, for all the weirdos I meet, there are a lot of very nice and pleasant New Yorkers I meet. Like the very sweet teenager who offered me gummy bears. Or the woman from Florida who was concerned about wether I was freezing my ass off. I wait for the day when HONY inquires about my insights into the NY psyche.

Yesterday was also the first of my stand-up class. It was at the Manhattan Comedy School. It was highly recommended by a comedian friend of mine who started out there. It was …interesting. It’s more of a workshop and then we have a graduation show at Gotham.

Stand-up is so different than improv – it’s so intense and personal. My class is about 12 dudes and 2 other girls besides me. At the beginning of class our teacher assured us that “by the end of 6 weeks we were all going to be very close friends.” I have to say that I doubt that. I really do.

Because not to be a cynical asshole I kind of hate many people in my class already.

There’s one kid who’ve I’ve met a million times. Maybe not *this* specific dude but you’ve met him too. He cant stand silence. He makes really loud jokes and then looks around to see if anyone laughed. He is always looking for approval and has the loudest laugh. There’s another guy who thinks THAT guy is amazing and will respond to every rhetorical question he asks.

Everyone else is kind of meh too. I may be judging them too early. Next week there is a “mandatory” bar outing hosted by the director of the school. I’ve never been to a mandatory bar event but maybe some alcohol is what I need for this class. No wonder comics are always drinking on stage – it’s part of the learning process.

I hadn’t had too much prepared for my two min at the mike. I had wanted to tell a story since a lot of my humor is anecdotal. I talked about my broken arm and some jokes about my job and Fox. I was shaky and faaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrr from amazing but some people laughed.

Mostly though, it was very different from a LOT of the stories other people told. A lot of older guys (30-40) spoke about how they live at home, hate their lives, don’t have girlfriends, are unemployed. It felt….sad. They’re self deprecation was a little too bitter. I totally believe that comedy can be found in pain and I really do hope this class is therapeutic for them but in my unprofessional experience it’s going to be painful watching them turning these heartbreaking stories into worthy material. One guy actually talked about how his dad yells at him, “You’re a fucking worthless piece of shit and I wish I never had you!” Hilarious?

Some guys told awkward sex offender jokes or groaned when the instructor “banned” rape jokes (“at least for beginners”). It’s a good thing I’m not this teacher – God bless her – because either she really believes everyone has potential to be successful or is a really good liar.

But back to me. This was the first time I ever did any sort of material in front of strangers. I would say it went better than I thought it would in my head. It wasn’t an open mic or a venue in ANY means but it’s been a bucket-list since I was 16 and would illegally download all the Comedy Central specials on my iPod and parrot them back to my friends.

It feels cool to kind of get it out of the way and hopefully onto bigger and better.

Tomorrow I’ll be at West Side Market on 76th and CP Yang on Columbus and 73rd. Come say hi! (And maybe save me from another conversation about GMO’s)

 

 

 

 

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