Last night we added the boys from LA and I couldn’t compete. I was floored. I thought I could hold my own…finally yelling at the sound board op (whose female) to come down and save me. Backstage, I watched the drunken debauchery in an ice cold green room, (I forgot how much guys like to hump random stuff as a joke) and tried to stay out of the way. Jeff said, “We spared you years of playing the wife, girlfriend, and mother of a million different sketches.” He’s right, but it still would have been fun–although I think the penis jokes would have worn on me after while.
This is also another case where I was confronted with the dilemma of drinking and performing. Many comediennes swear by it. They absolutely must be juiced on alcohol or some other foreign substance in order to feel free enough to let go. I have to admit, one of my more memorable performances was when I accidentally drank a little too much at dinner and then went to perform in a dance/performance/art piece (this was 8 years ago btw, not last week). My inhibitions were largely gone but I felt like I was risking it, (it probably helped that this show was pretty loose and easy going and not totally scripted). What’s the harm? When drinking around performers we usually just start waving our hands around more, talking louder, and occasionally stopping to embrace in an “I love you, man” kind of way. But you take this to the stage and suddenly you’re also drunk off the crowd in addition to your own intoxication. This can be amazing–or terrifying, as you stumble around your script, story, narrative trying to find the beats. At any rate, I accepted the pre-show drink with the rest of the crew and felt fine (although I did start slurping on it pretty loudly during Dave’s monologue). Intermission shows up and suddenly Luke is giving me his top shelf mixed drink and opting for the Rainier Beer in the green room fridge. So, I’m like, well my piece is done, why not drink during the second act? It was fun, but then karma hit me and I had to run off stage and go the bathroom…I slowed down after that.
The audience was loud, huge, hecklers sprinkled throughout, giving the cast a run for their money. This is where I think being a girl saved me a little, and they largely spared me. Together we held the audience in our palm, operating them like puppets, getting them riled up and on our side. The howl of the crowd in unison, the ability to riff because the audience wants more, and the empathy that they could quickly turn on you at any second. I think this is probably what stand-up comedy is like…and I don’t know if I could really compete. Sure, I wasn’t hassled (one girl kept yelling “PENIS!” during Mark’s story) but it only takes one audience member to call you out. Again, this is the side of comedy that I’ve been spared, resigning in the polite world of theatrical houses and long form improv crowds. It’s true this type of audience drinks more, hence the laughs are louder and more rewarding, but man, you have to be READY.
While driving to a Travel Store in Wallingford I listened to an NPR special on autism. Felt scared…worried I might have a son and if I do he has a 1 in 70 chance of having autism. Decide I won’t have sons; instead I resign to having hysterical girls I can dress up in cute clothes. Then I feel shallow, so I decide that if I DO have a kid with autism, my teaching experience with children who have had autism will lend itself to the situation. Then I look up to see if a thunderbolt from God will come crashing down on me for having such negative thoughts.
I arrive at the over priced Travel store and buy a money belt–what the hell right? It’s made out of silk. I buy the floor sample so they give me 10% off. Bought a travel pillow that deflates for easy storage. I opt for the larger travel pillow–the one with a picture of a man on the front instead of a woman–with the thought that I should ‘go for it.’ I meander around the store looking at ridiculously commercialized travel products: like a Rick Steve’s hand towel and an overpriced 2 ounce bottle of Travel Hand Sanitizer for 4.99 (I bought the same thing at Rite Aid for 1.50). I start getting nervous so I leave the travel store.
Then I look for shoes in the U District…sneakers, or something that I can walk for hours in, stare at paintings at the Louvre, and wear while hiking to the Eiffel tower. In my mind, I’m looking for green fashion sneakers…preferably New Balance and women’s sized instead of men’s. I find nothing like this. I do find an incredibly cheap pair of Tsubo mary janes that I would normally be all over but they’re not supportive enough for the trip. I’m trying to be really good and not blow tons of money on pre-trip supplies–opting to blow tons of money in euros in Paris instead. I decide against these hideous green and mustard yellow sneakers that are so ugly they’re almost cool. I entertain the idea of black sneakers, but can’t let go of my hope for green ones. I browse through a sporting goods store at regular sneakers that I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing with jeans. The Birkenstock Store has perfect shoes–40% off too–but nothing close to my size. I’m heart broken and exhausted.
I take a break from shoe shopping and go into the U Book store where I buy the paperback “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan” by Lisa See. This is the book my new book group has chosen and I decide it will be perfect reading for the plane. I also buy a cheap knock off moleskin journal for all my private thoughts. The journal is bright red and about half the cost of the moleskin brand. I decide I can skimp on the journal-I’m only going for 8 days. (I visualize my first journal entry: At the airport waiting for the plane, how am I going to sit still for 9 hours? )
Then I meet up with A at her adorable Eastlake apartment and we spend three hours choreographing for “Lady” by Styx. It’s a revolutionary time as we roll (literally) all over her hardwood floor. We take a break from dancing and she buys me a soda at the corner store and then we pick up her dry cleaning at the place next door. I tell her everything and she shares in return. I like having a new lady friend. It distracts me from my impending trip, my soon-to-be bravery, flying to a country all alone without the cush of my husband as a travel partner.
When I get home I dump all my travel purchases out onto the kitchen table for Josh to look at. He thinks the money belt is cute–even though it’s the same size and shape as a sanitary napkin. We go on a walk in our neighborhood at dusk–exercise to make up for the ballet class I skipped out on. Despite the crisp clear sunshine during the day the sun is down by the time we walk and the air is frigid. My husband and I make obscene jokes–well, actually it’s all me–and I quiz him on what BBC really stands for. I tease him about his upcoming 8 days of bachelorhood–although secretly I’m worried about what he’s going to eat. Visions of him eating nothing but cold cereal dances in my head. I can see him eating three squares a day: Cheerios for breakfast, Wheat Flakes for Lunch, and Peanut Butter Puffins for dinner.
We get home and our cat, as if on cue, starts wildly dancing in the kitchen. It’s after dark and she knows the rule: wet cat food only at night. She prances all over the place, screaming at the top of her lungs, until finally Josh slathers some wet food on a plate. I make him dust it with this special anti-plaque stuff I bought for her teeth–it supposedly tastes like cheese and cats love it. My cat hates the dust, but puts up it with merely for the pleasure of wet cat food.
We watch Oprah at 9pm while eating a Trader Joe’s pizza. I’m highly disturbed by the fact that Billy Joel is 56 and his new wife is 23. I’m REALLY disturbed, actually, and can’t shut up about it. I feel intense cynicism about their marriage’s longevity. My husband leaves to go play Xbox and I start watching a paparazzi style show. The edits are so fast I feel my brain zinging all over trying to catch up. I decide that this isn’t good ‘before bedtime’ tv material. I go to bed and curl up with my new favorite book: “The Year of Living Biblically” (which I HIGHLY recommend). I fall asleep with Hobbes slowly kneading my kneecaps–her desire for more wet cat food subtly being communicated through my covers.
As we prepare for an upcoming show, Legends, I find myself in a strange dejavu situation. Ten years ago I was sitting around with the same group of guys, hashing out ideas, coming up with funny bits, and generally laughing my ass off. At the time I was still coming into my own as the resident ‘funny lady’ who performed monologues, choreographed bits, and played all the resident female characters. I was 20, in college, wearing wing tips, dancing 5 days a week, eating bologna sandwiches daily, drinking amaretto sours nightly, having my long hair cut at Super Cuts, and selfish. I was horribly miserable in my personal life but a shining star in my rising performance career. I easily fell into being ‘one of the guys,’ and while I didn’t smoke copious amount of motivational weed, was kinda naive, and wasn’t as witty as everyone else, I still managed to hang in there and hold my own.
Flash forward 10 years later and here I am at 30: Living in the hood, drinking wine nightly, a salon cuts my hair, I am married, healthier, wiser, older…old. As I pleasantly look around the comedic round table (we’re rehearsing every night this week) I notice there is a different tension in the room; when we were young the air was filled with possibility: maybe we would be big, maybe the audience would give us the love we needed, maybe we would all hook up…Cut to us ten years later and we’re more seasoned: We all hold day jobs, own plain wardrobes, and skilfully balance various romantic entanglements–oh, and my marriage is always hovering around.
Unlike when I was 20, I’ve now spent years living in the company of a man. The male mystery of bodily functions, 45 minute bathroom sessions, and bizarre eating habits has long been revealed. Spending time with Josh’s friends from elementary school has also wizened me up in the ways of male banter. I’m perfectly capable of holding my own when the conversation steers itself into the toilet. Why, just the other night I learned about the bowel movements of two of my cast mates (every other day for one and every 3 days for the other–like clockwork). I also heard myself say, “You know, Dave, with the reference to the class of ‘96 in your monologue you’ve left yourself wide open for a 69 joke.”
However, the old gang is still just as motivated as always to crank out the funniest product they can. I’m amazed at how good these guys have gotten, turning comedy into a science–from every beat to making sure the lines are perfectly delivered–my cast mates have it DOWN. While the vibe is not as loose and relaxed as the last Legends show, there is nothing but positive, successful, feedback. These guys mean business, and now that we’re more secure in our lives, we have the focus to do it.
Typically, when you sit around with other actors you eventually have a little stage show where everyone tries to impress one another. With comics specifically it becomes a game to see who can out-humor the other–this is especially apparent in my recent meetings with the improv company I’m now a member of. Everyone (all the guys) compete to see who can be the funniest, the one with the most riffs on one topic, the one with the biggest belly laughs from their constitutes. I find myself chuckling along but inwardly rolling my eyes as I watch yet another game of machismo unfurls before my eyes.
This is also coming off a six week run where the entire cast of improvisers were women. I found there to be little to no showboating during the rehearsal process or the performances. We simply related differently. Instead of launching into a big masquerade ball we would eagerly ask each other how our week went, if coughing matched recent flu symptoms, and the state of the weather. I’m not saying we didn’t compete at all, the cast was full of its own quirks (i.e. she’s bringing in negative energy, we have no sound operator tonight and that means the theater doesn’t love us, etc.) However, the tone was definitely mellower.
I used to feel the need to be just as witty, funny, and competitive as the next performer but now I feel it’s fine to opt out. I’m more secure with myself, not feeling the need to constantly prove something to everyone: I’m funny! I really am! Well, that’s a lie, I certainly do still worry about being I’m funny–hence I’m committed to nothing but comedic performances in the future. I also think that there is validity in being firm and not allowing oneself to be pushed around. It took years of being in the service industry for me to recognize my voice and my ability to stand up for myself (the customer is NOT always right). As improvisers you need to have the confidence to take the stage, end someone else’s scene (editing), and not feel like you’re constantly being stepped on–or over. I think my early years in an all male comedy troupe really helped me learn this.
As I look around the table, I can appreciate the process more, plus my personal life no longer distracts me. Being a performer is exhausting work, and while my marriage wouldn’t be considered ‘exciting’, I prefer it that way. At 30, It’s a lot easier knowing whose waiting for me at the end of day then at 20 when I was just hoping someone would walk me home.
You knew it wouldn’t be long before I would find my way back into yet another Soft Rock Explosion (May 3rd at Chop Suey). Sunday was spent traipsing around town for a big promo photo shoot: SO MUCH FUN. Here I am ‘on location’ crimping my hair:
Yesterday, I read a book about a rooster named Bob. Not only is the idea of a rooster with this name a pretty funny concept, but the kids and I enjoyed this one part: “Who? Who? Who?” Someone hooted from the trees.
Bob, not wanting to be rude, called back, “Bob! Bob! Bob!”
And so this went all night: the owl hooting and the rooster answering.
Stumbling around still, trying to piece together a career in teaching. Trying to keep my head above water, not being to bitchy in the morning because I don’t have anywhere to go and feel useless. Updating facebook constantly, and glancing at myspace occasionally, wanting to feel connected.
Accepted an offer to become a company member, a real live paid company member at a local theater that I’m proud of, nervous of, not sure if I can keep up but part of me says, “whatever, you can totally hold your own.”
Left ear is acting up, angry because I think flushing my nose with saline like a professional opera singer to get rid of mucous pushed my cold into my ear…now I’m in trouble. Luckily, I secured a coveted appt. with my former surgeon on Friday–how lucky!–so he can poke around and give me a hearing test. (You all know that I have a new eardrum made out of my own cartilage, right?) This hearing test will make or break me (either it will confirm I’ve lost hearing or that I’m still on the up and up).
In the meantime I’m trying to sell myself at every possible turn, without sacrificing too much driving–cuz gas is gonna be $4 a gallon and how many trips can I really make on that tank? Every week I’m all over the map in an exhausting way, to Burien and Mercer Island and up to the U District twice. I’ve been spending time with a friend who has a new baby and is need of adult contact so I race up to see her because I’m eager for someone whose life is vastly different then my own. ..
I’m gonna design costumes for an upcoming show, come up with another story for Legends at the Rendezvous in two weeks, perform at Chop Suey (a big deal) with Mark in May, and, And, AND go to France at the end of the month. Whose been to France? Anyone want to give me advice? Going with the parents, because if I don’t go now I’ll never go…I’ll be old and gray. I’m flying alone there and back–which is the scariest part of the whole trip.
With the new time, I’m writing, I’m gonna be a writer somehow, some day, even read Ariel Gore’s wonderful book: Become a Famous Writer Before Your Dead. I secretly finished another act in my play, sent it off to Kimberly who I love and trust and reads plays all the time.
My computer has been wiped clean, everything saved to a disk and now slowly uploaded one by one. No word, no excel, and I feel naked.
I’m making soup, making things to eat, folding laundry, floundering. My cat sleeps on my robe.
You are currently browsing the Mumbling Madly weblog archives
for March, 2008.