Tag Archives: dreams!

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!

Why Journalists Would Make Great Improv Actors

5 Oct

I haven’t written about my improv class at UCB in a while. Mostly because I haven’t had any insights other than “Geez Louise this is mighty hard,” and “People in this class look like ageless beautiful gazelles who should be playing teenagers on Glee right now.”

Not that I think Glee is the highest shelf an aspiring actor can reach but because I’ve noticed that Glee likes to stock their fictional high school with upper 20-somethings who have the youthful exuberance and skin of a highschooler. Or at least they did when I watched it – and then abruptly stopped at the end of season three when Rachel was like “Yay we’re getting MARRIED!” and the Glee club was like “No you’re not! We’re kidnapping you and sticking you on this train to NY with NO books or magazines to read and we don’t care what you say – BYE BITCH.” Also Mike Chang graduated and life was just not worth living after he left.

 

Mikechang

The face of America’s Next Doctor/Dancer

 

Back to improv. I would say that I am not a patient person. I don’t have time for my microwave to count all the way down to zero, if something takes longer than 6 seconds to load I’m onto something else, and I refuse to wait for society to hurry up and just be accepting of all different lifestyles and equalities. That being said, I really want to be good at improv and this whole practicing and learning from my mistakes and slowly getting better every day has been a real issue for me. Every gentle (and hilarious) constructive piece of criticism my teacher tosses at me sounds like, YOU’RE AWFUL WHAT ARE YOU EVEN DOING HERE YOU TALENTLESS LOAF OF BREAD? I have to actively tell myself to calm the fuck down because achieving your dreams isn’t going to take 3/4 of a 101 UCB class before you become successful.

Conversely, when I *do* do something mildly right I’m like psh, BYE ya’ll, I’m off to hang out with Amy, Mindy and Tina, my REAL friends. So, the struggle is real.

 

FACE RESERVED FOR FUTURE BEST FRIEND

FACE SPOT RESERVED FOR FUTURE BEST FRIEND AVIVA

 

But as I continue down the rabbit-hole that is learning the art of improvisation – I’ve noticed that a couple skills that I’ve learned from journalism school (PHILIP MERRILL – HEARD OF IT? No? OK) have come into play a bit. And the more I thought about it, the more I realize that journalists should be amazing improvisers and not just because journalists literally have a million things on their back-up job lists just in case this whole newspapers-are-not-a-thing-anymore trend decides to blow over.

Here’s why:

1. Journalists love to procrastinate

According to this scientific BuzzFeed article about journalism, all reporters thrive under the pressure of a deadline – and if you can’t hack making changes to your work up until the very last second it’s due without having a heart attack, you’re golden. In my own experience, one day to complete a 4 source article is basically a lifetime. We love/hate the rush of banging out a story at the last min.

In improv, you have less than that – maybe 5-10 seconds to figure out the 3/5 PRECIOUS Ws: Who What Where. The why and the when can go suck it cuz improv has no time for that. If you like feeling the heat to create not only a cohesive scene but also one that’s true and funny – get on that.

2. Journalists have to play at the top of their intelligence 

Something I’ve noticed during my time as a reporter is that sometimes I am called upon to write about shit I don’t know. Cover the Obama healthcare when I barely know what a copay is? To Google! Writing a story on the newest jobs report by the Labor Dept? Sure, just let me ask my dad first! To be able to report means to either to know a little bit about everything or to at least pretend you know what you’re talking about. Using the knowledge that’s already in your head plus confidence goes a long way to convince people you have one iota of an idea of what you’re talking about. Playing a doctor in a scene – just throw out buzzwords you heard on House (Ugh, I miss House you guys) – “Sarcoma!” “Lupis!” “Hodgkins Lymphoma!” “Turn your head and cough!” See, easy.

3. Journalists know how to prompt people

If your story has an angle, which it obviously does, you’re gonna need the people you interview to say what you want them to. You’re gonna need to finesse an answer out without telling them explicitly what to say. It has to be smooth. Having experience leading subjects on is a good way to also communicate to your scene partner where you want your game to go.

4. Journalists are good listeners

I have learned the hard way that if you’re not paying attention to what the person you’re interviewing is saying because you’re focusing on what you’re gonna ask next or worrying if your skin looks dry – you’re gonna look like a fool LIKE A FOOL. Or if you’re not prepared to deal with what people are saying and just have a nervous breakdown. Just ask these guys, Listening is important in improv because if your scene buddy is like “Well Joseph, we finally made contact with the aliens,” and you were thinking “Did I feed my pit bull today?” You’re gonna have the added bonus of looking foolish WHILST having people look at you disappointingly and/or sneering at you…especially all those bullies from 4th grade who are probably in the audience just to watch you fail.

5. Journalists are basically delusional 

Sure kid, be a journalist. You’ll *definitely* make it. If you don’t, you can always just drop out and try playing make-believe as a living instead.

 

stock-photo-little-girl-in-reporter-costume-holding-antique-camera-65019499

You can always just play one on TV

 

So good news for the people (me) who are journalists and are dabbling in improv (me) because someone (me) says it’s a good idea.

Always take advice from yourself and always be your own role model. Go team! (me)

 

 

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.

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