Monday, July 18, 2011


So I've never mentioned I'm taking an improv class! At my work, once you've been there a year, they'll pay for 75% of any classes taken that are relevant to your profession. Since presentations and thinking on your feet are huge in copywriting, improv is a legitimate class to take. So as soon as I'd been at my agency for a year I signed up!

Here's the problem: I had a Mr. Tanner experience last week.

And sadly, not this Mr. Tanner.

And yes, that is the second time in nearly as many posts that I've mentioned Bob Saget and DO YOU WANT TO FIGHT ABOUT IT.

No, not the Great Danny Tanner. I'm talking Mr. Martin Tanner, baritone, from Dayton Ohio. He's a man in a song by Harry Chapin, who wrote Cats In The Cradle. This song was about a man who is a really good singer and all his friends tell him he should perform in public. When he does, he gets a really crappy review and goes back to just singing to himself again. Take away from it what you will. Harry Chapin was a deep man. He also wrote a song called "Thirty Thousand Pounds of Bananas."

What I love about my own family and friends is that they seem to be convinced that I could be famous. I'm not exactly sure for what, and neither are they. But apparently according to them, if I walked around L.A. long enough, someone would find me in a grocery store, grab me by both shoulders and say, "Young lady, the joke you just made about shampoo is a riot--A RIOT, I SAY! Now take your weak chin and weaker hips and follow me to the land of The Famous!" In all honesty, it makes me feel like I'm on top of a mountain to hear people tell me they believe in me. And I was starting to become convinced that maybe one day I really would make it.

And then I did my first improv scene last week. YOWZA.

In our actual class, we haven't done a real improv scene yet, mostly games and other things to make us comfortable with the ideas and basics behind improv. But then AFTER class, there's a for-students-only thing where we watch a couple scenes done by legit people who have been through the program, and then they take volunteers and do scenes with them.

Everyone was really gung-ho about me getting up there, even though I wanted to just watch and learn. But eventually their egging paired with me watching someone who I KNOW I would have been better than wore me down. So I finally raised my hand. The dude in front of me thought they had picked him even though he hadn't raised his hand (*eye roll, eye roll*), and he jumped up, too. So there were four people in the scene.

They decided to do "Sit Stand Lay" (in which you do a scene as usual but at all times, someone has to sit, someone has to stand, and someone has to lay down.) But because of the extra knucklehead who stood up, we had to change it to "Sit Stand Lay Lean." And in my head I'm going "Sit Stand Lay Lean Sit Stand Lay Lean Sit Stand Lay Lean..." while the other people in the scene were beginning to perform.

We were supposed to be on a beach.
Sit Stand Lay Lean.
We were teenagers. I made a terrible joke about how I was excited that my boobs had finally come in. BLUGH.
Sit Stand Lay Lean.
Suddenly we were people that came back to the same beach house every year.
Sit Stand Lay Lean.
Someone wanted to kill someone else.
Sit Stand Lay Lean.
Sit Stand Lay Lean.
They were pointing at me. Someone announced that I was going to jump the guy they wanted to kill. Oh God, what is happening?! I didn't even know if they meant jump like "fight"? Or jump like "sexually advance upon"? I had no idea. I couldn't jump in because I had no idea what anyone was talking about. The three other people up there had moved so far past the original beach scene while I was busy trying to either sit, stand, lay or lean, that the scene had completely gotten away from me. Suddenly the guy laying down got up, and I lay in his place. I did the sexiest pose I could (read: writhed awkwardly) and said the only thing I could think of, "Wait...which kind of 'jump' did you mean?" People laughed! It worked! But the scene was moving on, and I lost it again. At some point I was put out of my misery by the lights briefly going down to signify the end. I grimaced as I went back to my seat. People high fived me and I felt like a sham high fiving them back. Two lines. I said two lines, and one was a cheap shot about boobs?! Aaaarrrrrrgguuuuuggghhhhhhh.

I know, I know. It was my first time. And I learned an important lesson: don't worry about the rules of the game, focus on the scene. But I was so overwhelmed, so caught off guard by how much harder it was on stage than from the audience (even though of course I knew it would be, it's something you only truly know when it's happening to you.)

But that night, I lay motionless in bed thinking about it. Boobs. One half of the things I said was a cheap boob joke. And 100% of the things I said were Stupid Sexy Flanders--I MEAN Stupid Sexy Girl character jokes. BAH. And who stays silent on stage for that long? I must have looked like a doofus! Just some person from the audience who accidentally walked on stage but still expected to watch the show from within it. I'll never be a comedy writer! I'll never be a Tina Fey prodigy! I'll never be....whatever the hell it is I want to do because GOD EVEN KNOWS ANYMORE.

This was how I spent the night. And the next day. And despite others' reassurances that I had done fine, that my one joke had gotten the most laughs, and that it's hard for everyone the first time, I was still disappointed. My ego had been inflated too much by my friends and family telling me that I could be a rock star. I was Ms. Tanner, reading her bad review and moping back home to perform sketch comedy for her mustachioed cat, who would meow back out of disdain and/or hunger.

I'm glad it happened, though. And unlike Mr. Tanner, I refuse to let my first go defeat me. Sure, my presentation may not have been up to contemporary professional standards, but the class is fun and I think I'm generally doing pretty well. And anyway, if I ever have any hope of being Amy Poehler, I'm going to need to start somewhere.


keithp said...

I laughed *so* loudly when I read, "Stupid Sexy Flanders."

Joe Campos said...

As I recall you were usually pretty entertaining when it came to performing in front of the class. It seems like you have already been told this, but you were probably just rusty. I know I get like sometimes after extended periods of not doing zany stuff in front of people. Confidence ma'am, confidence. :)