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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!

First Day In Comedy School

4 Sep

For those paying attention, today was my first day of improv class at UCB (I go there now, I can shorten it) *dusts off letterman jacket.*

In true Aviva first-day fashion, I went to the wrong address first. I went to 590 8th avenue instead of 520. 590 8th avenue is a Chase Bank. For about 40 seconds I stood there and seriously considered the fact that maybe the school was IN the bank? Like, in the basement. Should I go in and ask? Maybe it’s a joke? Maybe I’m an idiot.

Maybe I should check the email again. No, it’s 520. I ran.

I don’t know what I was expecting but UCB is nice. Like a fancy dentist office/spa nice and clean. There’s big white desks and white walls along with a pretty and unfriendly receptionist. There’s a lot of bare rooms for classes. I got to 909 to see 15 people sitting quietly in two rows, checking their phones or staring off into space. Classic first day.

 Our teacher walked in a few min later, an exuberant comedian who explained the class rules to us. One of which was “don’t be a dick.” That wasn’t even his commentary. It was written on the syllabus.

  One of the requirements for the class is to see two UCB shows during our 8-week session. “I know it might be hard,” he said. “I mean you guys are here at 9 a.m. on a Wednesday so you clearly don’t have traditional 9-5 jobs. maybe you work at night or are just one of those people who don’t have to work, Swiss maybe.”

 We played some name games and some “get up and get used to being on front of people” stuff. I was a lot more nervous than I thought I’d be. Hands shaking, voice quavering nervousness, wondering if it was bad form to pass out in the middle of a made-up-on- the-spot monologue about Matt Lauer.

Luckily, it seems that the rest of the class is really encouraging and so far, nice. There’s a lot of run of the mill handsome leading role white guys with big smiles, a girl who looks like Riki Lindhome, a British dude who kept his giant headphones around his neck for most of the time and a dead-pan and stoic boy who I assume is from Japan since his name is Tokyo.

  During the break Tokyo asked if I was an actress. I laughed and shook my head. He said he was an actor. And that he was focused on serious roles…and that he didn’t like comedy.

That makes sense I thought.

“I just want people to love me…” he added almost sadly. I couldn’t tell if he was being serious or maybe his comedy was just super complex.

Or maybe he was just fucking with me.

 As the class went on we learned more basics, not just ‘yes and’. UCB teaches long form improv which means it’s not short party games like on Whose Line is it Anyways but completely made up scenes based on audience suggestions. It’s not just being creative off the tip of your head but understanding how to craft an entire character and scene out of mainly your dialogue. Slowly, I felt more comfortable. A little bit. Like, not seeing floating specks in front of your eyes anymore progress.

“Even if you don’t go into comedy,” said our instructor. “If anything, you’ll develop the skills to bullshit your way out of any situation.”

  Which is good because I am a terrible liar. I mean, I’m a great liar! i really WAS sick and couldn’t go to your birthday party in Brooklyn last week, I promise.

Bye Hannukah!

5 Dec

Happy 8th night of Hannukah! Or if you’re not Jewish, happy Wednesday!

 

Go on, say it. You've deserved it.

Go on, say it. You’ve deserved it.

 

I’m pretty sad to see the holiday go this year. Not just because I got some sweet Hannukah swag (a hat, a scarf, a robe, a winter headband, pajama pants  – for some reason everyone thought I needed to be warmer than I currently was this year. Which is nice. Penguin-printed pajama pants are always appreciated)

I also wanted to say that the outreach from people about my last post was really astounding. I’m really glad that a lot of people could relate (well not glad that other people have anxiety, but glad that I felt less alone and that my words helped).

For weeks before Hannukah, I kept thinking “Just make it to Hannukah, just make it to Hannukah.”

Why? I have no idea. I mean, I’ve always liked Hannukah but for some reason this year I just really needed to focus on miracles. Focus on the fact that God can change anything at the drop of a dreidle. And now that it’s over, I feel like some lights have gone out within me as well. But I have one more thought about the holiday before we say goodbye.

There’s a scene in the movie Whip It where Ellen Page decides that she wants to join a roller derby league to escape her boring tiny Texas town. When she first learns of the sport, she goes up to one of the team members, Kristen Wiig and says “I just want you to know that you’re all my hero.” Kristin Wiig says, “Well put some skates on. Be your own hero.”

I was thinking that last night when I was crying over something depression/anxiety/OCD induced. I thought of my own heros, my friend Mel who went through several brain surgeries and remains the most positive person I know. My mom, who dealt with her own devils and came out stronger. And thought if I can go through this and make the best of this, then I can be my own hero. And then I stopped trying to feel positive not for other people, or because I felt I had to but because I wanted to be a hero. I wanted to be my own hero.

 

Well, maybe not this superhero.

Well, maybe not this hero.

 

There are a couple of things I like about Hannukah. One is that the lack of something can make us tougher. Like blind people using echolocation to “see,” when one of our strengths are taken away that doesn’t make us weaker. It can make us stronger. If we choose it. When we don’t have our “lights,” we find that we have things inside us that we wouldn’t have known otherwise. When our Temple was destroyed, yes our light was taken away. But at that moment what did we find we had that we might not have found otherwise?

Determination

Strength

Faith

The ability to take on the mighty Greek army. The devotion to believe in miracles again. The fortitude to start again.

Hannukah is all about being your own hero. Think about Yehudit, (my fave lady and whom I share a name with #Yehuditpower). She was like “You guys aren’t DOING THIS REBELLION GOOD ENOUGH! Do I have to do everything around here? BRB I’ll just go chop this Greek general’s head off.”

And then she fed him cheese and wine until he got drunk and she chopped off his head and came back to the Jews like “Lol we have to do something about this sh*t now BECAUSE THE GREEKS ARE PROBABLY GOING TO BE PISSED – so let’s do this rebellion thing right!” (I wasn’t there, but I think those are the words she used)

 

Here she is, casually severing some dude's head while her friend looks on like "OMG can't we do something NORMAL on Saturday nights anymore?"

Here she is, casually severing some dude’s head while her friend looks on like “OMG can’t we do something NORMAL on Saturday nights anymore?”

 

Something I’m going to take me this Hannukah, especially in light of whatever my brain decides to do this week is that sometimes you can’t wait for a miracle. Sometimes you need to be your own hero and believe the miracles will come later. For the good of yourself. For the good of your family. For the Jewish people. It’s hard. It’s SUPER hard.

But another thing Hannukah leaves me with is that nothing is impossible.

I recently asked my friend Mel how she stays so positive and upbeat despite all the terrible things she’s been through:

“Keep your eye on the light at the end of the tunnel and it will help you right through. Like going through an MRI. I have to look through to the light otherwise I feel like I’m trapped in a coffin. Just like in life. Don’t dwell on the negative.”

I asked if she ever got depressed or angry.

“Yes. Those are important emotions to feel but terrible emotions to live by.”

But sometimes the simplest solution is the one that works best. Apparently. It works for Mel, let’s see if it works for me.

Thus concludes Hannukah for this year. But the good thing about the Jewish calendar is that another holiday is right around the corner. Anyone have any good Purim costume ideas?

 

"Ugh! I do! Call on me!"

“Ugh! I do! Call on me!”

Thoughts From a Broken Brain

24 Nov

Hello there!

It’s kind of snowing outside. I mean, I haven’t actually seen this for myself but there’s about 6 posts on Facebook proclaiming this. And I verified with Weather.com so I feel confident in making this announcement.

I hope your Saturday has been sufficiently productive and/or relaxing.

I mentioned last week that I’ve been having some brain problems. Or what my psychiatrist called a “mental break.” Which seems to be a conglomeration of depression, anxiety and OCD. For weeks after this “break,” last month, I would just cry. For not really any reason at all – or for crazy reasons that I didn’t know why I was thinking them.

I read online that thinking about a giant stop sign helps when you’re obsessing over something. So I would Google image stop signs when my brain was spinning downhill too fast for me to keep up – it’s very hard to think about anything when you’re just staring at hundreds of STOPs.

Which inevitably led to me crying at work…staring at stop signs for 20 minutes. Until my coworkers were like “Are you OK…?”

The first time I told my therapist this, I added “So am I crazy?”

“No, you’re not crazy…” he answered soothingly (seriously though the UMD Health Center therapist they assigned me has the most soothing voice. I want to record it and play it when I fall asleep. Is that crazy?)

“Can you write that down?”

“You want me to write that down in my notes?”

“Yes.”

“Um…sure. Not….crazy….” he wrote.

That helped.

Another thing that’s been helpful with stress has been praying again. Since this “break”, I’ve felt weirdly nostalgic for seminary (my gap year which I spent learning in Israel at an all girls seminary). I told you last week that my life was going on some weird journey – and so far it’s included me connecting back to my Judaism. Praying every morning, being more careful with Shabbat and Kosher.

It started with me finding a book in the UMD Hillel that said COURAGE! on it (I liked the exclamation point, like it was an exciting play). I read it on the train to work just to distract myself from obsessing. But it was all about letting go of anxiety and trusting God. About how all crises help us become better people. It all sounds so Delilah on the radio to me when I say it out loud. Two of my favorite parts said:

“Who asked us to move mountains? Who told us to make long-term plans? No one, if not our imaginations which trouble us with its false problems”

“Only in the middle of a struggle our hidden capacities can appear and grow. The important thing is not to let ourselves be discouraged, but to take heart, no matter what happens during the crises. Then, if we hold firm, we will succeed in transforming all our past falls into instruments for true progress.”

Which, to me said “Who told you to worry about this thing that might not happen? Who told you to freak out about events you have no control over? No one.”

Well, I mean I guess did. Or my brain did. But as a friend who’s suffered from depression and anxiety for a while told me:

“Sometimes our brains are dicks, that doesn’t mean they’re right. You are what you choose to be and do.”

The medication that I’ve been on has helped this problem that has obviously been medical (I’m not suggesting all people with depression just read COURAGE! and be cured. Even my broken brain knows that) But there’s a bunch that I’ve done that has helped the anxiety that wasn’t medical. And I hope it helps you too:

1. The stop sign thing really did help me. Something about seeing tons and tons of those bright red octagons really makes it hard to think of anything else. And then when you’re done looking at them and your coworkers are like “Why are these stop signs making you so sad you weirdo?” you can go back to work. And flip back and forth between the web tabs as needed.

2. My friend advised me to keep a gratitude journal. And write down five things that made me happy/thankful that day. Sometimes it’s hard and my list is like “I didn’t get hit by a meteorite” and “My shoes were comfortable all day” and sometimes it’s like, “My article got a lot of positive reviews” and “I got a 96 on my media law exam.” Either way, taking time to think about the good totally repaints the day. Sometimes when you have an anxiety attack it feels like it dominates and ruins your whole day but when you really think about it, there’s so much else to be grateful for. And there’s some good in every day.

3. Talk to people. I said in my short story that when you show people your scars, they love to show you theirs. I’ve found the same with emotional scars. When I opened up about my anxiety to people, so many started telling me about their struggles and how they coped. People I had no idea suffered from any problems like that. Knowing you’re not alone takes away some of the power of your fears. If others have beaten it then maybe it’s not the worst thing ever.

4. Do something for someone else. Bring in cupcakes for your coworkers. Give a dollar to a homeless man. Hold the door open for a bunch of people. Call a friend for her birthday. Pray for other people. When you stop focusing on yourself and your problems – they fade for a little bit. Plus, being a nicer person makes you feel better regardless. And baking cupcakes will make your boss totally like you more than your coworkers.

5. Ice cream. A lot of f*cking ice cream. (Did you know I had four milkshakes this week?! IS THAT NOT A WORLD RECORD? Call me, Guinness. We’ll set up a photo-shoot)

So we continue on this weird road. There’s been some interesting twists. I don’t exactly know where I’m going.

But I hope this helped someone today.

 

Tisha B’av – As Told By Someone Who Only Understands Pop Culture

15 Jul

Tuesday is Tisha Ba’v. For those of you who aren’t familiar, Tisha Ba’v is the 9th day of the month of Av in the Jewish calendar. It commemorates the day when the first and second temple were destroyed. On that day, practicing Jews refrain from eating and drinking, bathing, listening to music and sitting comfortably. Jews in summer camps burn words made out of sticks, watch Schindler’s List and play cards.

 

"Oh no my stick collection!"

“Oh no my stick collection!”

 

A couple of years ago, I wrote about why I liked the holiday of Tisha Ba’v – because it forces us to confront the worst aspects of our history as well as ourselves. It’s uncomfortable to sit on the floor of your temple and hear accounts of the bloody and awful destruction, it’s awkward to be forced to watch movies about the Holocaust. Three-hundred-and-sixty-four days of the year, we cheer each other up with jokes, we drown our sorrows with Ben & Jerry’s, we play the same Adele song over and over again. But not on Tisha B’av.

For those not familiar with the story of why the Jews were expelled from the second temple, it almost reads like the plot of Mean Girls.

Imagine you go to Israelite High school (class of ’70 CE! whoo- hoo!) It’s a pretty good school, you guys get good grades and you’re always winning sports things (nationals? Are sports not the same as the glee club?) and whenever nearby schools play any pranks you guys totally get them back. Sure there are cliques, every school has ‘em. There are the athletes, the kids in College Bowl, the really rich girls, the boys who spend 7th period hanging out setting things on fire in the chemistry lab, that girl who looks way too old to be in high school and is always asking you questions about what normal teens do.

 

 

"Mmm...blending in."

“Mmm…blending in.”

 

 

You guys used to be tight in elementary school but something’s changed. The lines between the groups are hardly crossed anymore. It’s gotten to the point where people have started being cruel. Everyone talks shit about each other. Your friends are ragging on a boy you know for a fact they’ve never talked to. Different groups accuse the other of not caring about the school or your teams, the worst offense. You can’t sit with us!

Then finally, at the end of the year there’s a huge party at this popular girl Kaitlyn’s house. And Kaitlyn fucked up the email addresses of the people she wanted to come and accidentally invited this girl who she hated. And when this girl showed up with some Smirnoff and was like “Hey girl, I’m glad we can put this whole dumb fight behind us.” Kaitlyn was like “GTFO and don’t come back.” You thought it was stupid drama but everyone couldn’t stop talking about it. (This isn’t even a fake anecdote to add to the high school theme – this crazy party ordeal actually happened)

Finally, your principal gets mad. Really mad. He’s like “Fine, you don’t want to be a unified school anymore? You’re all expelled!” and then to make sure no one can come back he burns the school down and immediately retires. (Well, more like Mr. Feeny retires, in the sense that you won’t find him at school every day but he’ll pop up sometimes when you go to college, or at your wedding or when you realize that you signed up for gibberish college classes and fly to Wyoming.)

 

 

I get it C, i had gibberish college classes to. They were called math.

I get it Cory, I had gibberish college classes too. They were called math.

 

 

Now you all have to go to different schools – rival schools. Roman High. And all those kids are jerks. They don’t know your football cheers, or have Pajama Day or remember the time Brian Masters got his head stuck in the volleyball net. They suck. You miss Israelite High.

Now replace high school with nation and that’s pretty much why the Jews were exiled – baseless hatred. Being judgmental assholes. And it’s not surprise we haven’t learned our lessons yet.

We are a society that loves to hate.

We hate Justin Bieber. We hate Kim Kardashaian. We hate the barista that fucked up our drink order even though it was so simple. We hate that girl from high school who keeps sending us dumb game requests on Facebook. We hate our ex-boyfriends. We hate Taylor Swfit’s ex-boyfriends. We hate Taylor Swift. We hate Obama. We hate Romney. We hate that guy who traps you in a conversation about how stressed he is and how much he hates his professor. God, we hate that guy. Because guess what? Hating feels awesome. Hating feels powerful. Hating means that you are better than something and someone. That you have the ability to say you have other options. You’re different. And it’s tearing us apart.

 

 

How could you hate a face like that?

“Why did you call me a cry baby??”

 

 

Confession: When I was 15-years-old I went on a travel trip with a bunch of other teens, mostly from the New York area. And it was awful. I cried all the time. I was shy and awkward and couldn’t make friends very easily. One day I was sitting in a hotel room with a bunch of obnoxious girls talking about other kids on the program.

One girl stops brushing her hair to say, “I hate X.” And another girl asks why. The first girl shrugged her shoulders, “I don’t know. I just do.”

I was speechless. I couldn’t even get someone to be nice to me. I didn’t have the luxury to decide that I hated someone.

Then in high school, for a short time, I was ran with a crowd of girls who loved talking shit about other people. It felt good to be on the other side. I had the ability to say I don’t need you. You mean nothing to me and therefore I can say whatever I want about you. But after a while, I felt sick. I had too much empathy for the people they were picking on. And after I decided I didn’t want to partake in their little games, I realized I didn’t really have that much in common with them. And I was much happier with the new friends I eventually made when I realized that there’s more to friendships than gossip; like talking about TV shows.

 

 

And by "other friends" I mean these guys. And by "TV shows" I mean, these were my friends.

And by “other friends” I mean these guys. And by “TV show” I mean, these were my  only friends.

 

As hard as it is to believe, Judaism is all about teamwork. God hates when we talk shit about each other and hate each other for no reason. There’s something that used to be a thing back in the day of the temple but not anymore. When someone committed Lashon Harah, or “evil talk”/gossip, they would contract an awful skin disease. God was literally saying “You wanna be ugly on the inside? Cool, now you’re ugly on the outside.” And then the gossiper had to live in a house on the outskirts of town until they could be given the cure.

Can you imagine? Imagine if every time you wanted to say something awful about someone you had to live in a house with other gossipy bitches. Do you know what house that is? It’s the America’s Next Top Model house. It’s the Kardashian household. It’s the Jersey Shore. I’m not asking you to stop talking about other people, that’s unrealistic and irresponsible to ask but JUST imagine that before you spoke about someone think Is this worth not seeing any of my friends again? Is it worth it? Today we might not have physical walls keeping people who judge unfavorably apart but speech builds its own walls. Hate keeps people out.

Recently, on a website I found on how to live minimalistic, I read a post about decluttering the negative thoughts from your life. It said Take responsibility for your mind. Realize that your thoughts and speech have a profound effect on the universe. We don’t have the temple because we’re still having petty thoughts and arguments. Take responsibility for your role in uniting the Jewish people. If Tisha B’av teaches us anything is that we have to stop being assholes to each other. There’s nothing you have to wake up early to do, nothing you have to spend extra money on, nothing you have to announce to your family at your next holiday….you don’t even have to start being nice. Just stop adding hate.

 

 

"Mom, Dad...I'm converting to...niceness."

“Mom, Dad…I’m converting to…niceness.”

 

I hope one day to be in a setting where someone makes an offhand comment about how much she likes someone. And when another person asks why, she’ll shrug and say “I don’t know, I just do.”

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