The Narrator

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Hey fags.

I directed a show at The Magnet Theater.

It’s part of the Director’s Series. Once a month they ask a seasoned comic to direct a show on Thursday nights. December is going to be my month. Shows will be tonight, the 13th and the 27th. Tickets are 7 dollars.

Here’s some pretentious shit I pulled out of my ass for the Magnet blog:

“Rather than doing an improvised musical, we’re doing a musical that is improvised. This means that we’re going for compelling stories with high stakes emotional conflicts to underwrite our funny moments. Audiences should expect a wild ride. Certainly there will be laughter. Possibly there will be tears, and definitely one actor will be in the driver’s seat calling the shots for a completely realized musical narrative.”

What an asshole, right? At least the cast is good. Not only are they hilarious (duh, I taught them) but they’re all damn good actors. Come check it out. I’m proud of the work we did. Jerks.

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Showtime

Her: But he always does that. Haven’t you noticed?

Me: Does what?

Her: Won’t say yes to your idea. His is always better. You haven’t noticed that? He has NO RESPECT for the work.  We’re trying to improvise a show here! Doesn’t he? I mean… Fucker. I know he hates me.

Me: Of course he hates you.

(long pause)

Her: What?

(long pause)

Me: Nothing.

(long pause)

Her: What’s that supposed to mean?

Me: Nothing.  He’s Kyle’s best friend. He thinks you’re the devil. You can see that, right?

(pause)

Me: Let’s just get ready for this show. Huh? He’s funny. You’re funny. No bigs, right? Let’s change the subject.

Her: Let’s go into this grocery store.

Me: Why? Do you need something?

Her: I’m a little hungry. We’ve got 20 minutes to kill before we warm up. Come on.

(we enter the store)

Her: Ooh! Look at this. Marshmallows! Yummy right? Pretty. Don’t you want to eat them?

Me: I’m full, but you should get some if you’re hungry.

Her: No. They’re made of cow hooves. I just remembered. Don’t you think he’s a little bit of a steamroller? I mean, he just powers through scenes. There’s no subtlety.

Me: He’s a big player. He plays big. What do you want? He’s fucking hilarious.

Her: See. That’s what bugs me. He gets rewarded for doing bad improv. He doesn’t support. Oooh! Look at this melon.

Me: It’s a watermelon.

Her: But doesn’t it look great? He’s a dick.

Me: He’s not a dick. You can’t buy a whole watermelon right before we do a show.

Her: Why not?

Me: You won’t be able to cut it open. He’s just super aggressive with his moves and so are you. It can cause friction.

Her: I’m not aggressive!

Me: You are. It’s a good thing, remember?

Her: I’m not aggressive like he is.

Me: I mean…

Her: I’m not! Am I?

Me: Yes. You’re aggressive. We all have our shows where we’re barreling through. I have to remind myself to slow down. What about a granola bar?

Her: I don’t want a granola bar – ooooh, look at these pickles! They look so good!

Me: When did pickles become 11 dollars?

Her: They’re artesianal.

Me: They’re cucumbers.  Are you hungry or what?

Her: Whydoyouask?

Me: Jeez. I dunno, Ellen. I guess because every time you’re stressed out over a show you take me to a grocery store and look at food items you don’t purchase.

Her: Is that weird?

Me: A little. I mean, especially knowing you had an issue with anorexia.

Her: I usually eat some bread and cheese in the morning to make sure I have some protein inside me.

Me: That’s not reassuring. I’m sorry to tell you this, but yes, we’re all aggressive sometimes. And yes, Carl hates you. You broke his best friend’s heart. You had an affair with one actor in the show, and then you had an affair with another, and you expect everyone to just get along, when both men loved you.

Her: I LOVED THEM TOO. I’m not a monster in all this!

Me: I’m not saying you’re a monster. I’m saying, people can’t always put their feelings aside and do the show.

Her: I can.

Me: Can you?

Her: YES. I’m a professional. He’s not. I’m only aggressive in scenes with him!

Me: That’s not true, but even if it was – how is that you putting your feelings aside?!

Her: He hates women! He doesn’t do that with you, does he? He can’t stand an assertive woman improviser, that’s what it is.

Me: That might be part of it. You’re aggressive onstage.

Her: Assertive.

Me: AGGRESSIVE. And yes. Comedy is full of immature boys that condescend to women. Please don’t start crying. We have to do a show in ten minutes. Come on. Let’s go.

Her: (still crying) Why does everyone hate me?

Me: They don’t… because they’re jealous of you. You have a big talent and it’s intimidating to them. They probably don’t even know they’re jealous of you. You’re a force to be reckoned with. Look, we all love each other, even when we get jealous. We all love being here, and respect each other.

Her: How do I know you’re not just saying that because we’re going onstage right now?

Me: You don’t. You just – we have to trust each other. I’m on your side. Okay?

Her: I guess.

Me: I’m sorry I brought this up at the wrong time. I was a jerk for doing that. Will you eat something?

Her: No.

Me: Okay. Let’s go. It’s showtime.

A Special Man

erwin caluya

Her: Hey. I read that.

Me: What?

Her: That book. Are you reading Bossypants?

Me: Oh! Yes. I love it. I think Tina Fey is inspiring.

Her: Yes. It certainly seems like she’s carved out her own path. So what are you doing here, at a bar, in the middle of the afternoon?

Me: Ha. Good question. I was just thinking the same thing…

Her: Ah. But that’s not an answer.

Me: I’m waiting for a date.

Her: Oh. Very nice.

Me: That remains to be seen.

Her: Oh? First date?

Me: Yeah. First date. I’ve never met him.

Her: Is it a blind date?

Me: Sort of? I don’t think people do that anymore. I met him online.

Her: That sounds so exciting. The prospect of meeting a stranger online in real life. That’s not something someone from my generation does very easily. It seems scary.

Me: It’s not. You chat with the guys for a while before you meet up. Just to be sure they’re not a crystal meth addict or anything.

(pause)

Her: What do you do for a living? I’m sorry. That’s a cliche question. I’m not from New York, and when I come here I often wonder how people survive.

Me: Uh… I teach improv classes mostly, and do comedy gigs.

Her: Oh! I love improv! I just LOVE it. It’s magical.

Me: Really? Most people just tolerate it.

Her: No, it’s truly a wonderful thing. So glorious to see people working together, and agreeing. The spontaneity. There’s a real connection between the audience and the actors.

Me: That’s true.

Her: I really love it. I was very fond of a man who did improv – a long time ago…

Me: Did he? Was he good?

(pause)

Her: He was great. I like to think I’m kind of responsible. I took him to his first ever show at the Groundlings. He jumped up on stage with them and started playing.

Me: Wow. Really? Were they weirded out?

Her: No. You’d think they would be, but they weren’t. He was so good at it, even before he took any classes. He was such a natural.

(long pause)

Her: I was married to Phil Hartman.

(long pause)

Her: I was his first wife. He married a few times.

Me: Oh. Okay. Sorry. I thought…

Her: You thought I was the woman who shot him.

Me: For a second, yeah.

Her: No. I’m not. But I know her.

Me: I… That must be horrible. She must be very disturbed.

Her: She was very disturbed, and I can’t say that I’ll ever forgive her. But I’ve gotten to the point where I feel sorry for her. She was a very self-absorbed, very selfish woman. She was like poison for him, but he was so drawn to her.

Me: It can be hard being with funny people. Being their partners.

Her: I’ve heard that, but that was never the case with Phil. He was so loving, and such a wonderful man. He loved making people laugh. It was his reason for living.

Me: I get that.  I do get that for sure.

Her: I know you do. I love improv. I love people that can just do that. It’s a gift. You have a gift.

Me: I’m trying to think of something self-deprecating to say, but who am I to argue with Phil Hartman’s wife?

Her: Exactly. Except I’m someone else’s wife now.

Me: That’s good. So you’re happy?

Her: I am.

Me: Good. Hey –

Her: What?

Me: Did it hit you hard? When he was killed?

Her: Yes. Yes it did. He was my best friend, for a long time. Even after our divorce he and I were very close.

Me: I’m so sorry. He’s one of my idols. He was a great man.

Her: That’s a good way to put it. Can I tell you a secret?

Me: Okay.

Her: The night that he died, I had a dream. I hadn’t thought about him for such a long time. But in my dream I was getting ready to go somewhere, and I was late. And I was annoyed. And my husband was nowhere to be found. And suddenly Phil appeared in my bathroom, where I was putting on my makeup. And I was shocked. And flustered. And he was the last person I wanted to see. But then he put his hand on my shoulder, and all I felt was calm, and warm. I felt loved. And he said, “So many people love you. I love you. And this is all gonna be okay.”

Me: Wow.

Her: I had this dream almost exactly the time he was shot. Very near to that time.

Me: Wow.

Her: I feel like it was him visiting me, one last time. I feel like he wanted me to know that he loved me. And I do. I know he loved me.

Me: That’s amazing.

Her: I feel like a shot. Should we get a shot? What do you drink?

Me: Bourbon. But I don’t –

Her: Can we have two bourbons? I have to leave to make dinner with my husband, but can we?

Me: Yeah. We can.

(pause)

Me: Hey. Thanks.

Her: What?

Me: Thanks for being open. That felt really good. Thank you.

Her: Thank you.

Me: For what?

Her: For being funny. Thank you.

Me: I wasn’t being funny.

Her: I know. But thanks for being a funny person.

Me: You haven’t seen me perform. What if I’m not funny?

Her: I know – but what if you are?

Me: That’s even more scary.

Her: Exactly. That’s even more scary. But that’s a whole other conversation.

Question

So I’m reading your blog entry on what homos dwell in what hood and I think you’re partially right.  I’m a middle management gay in Hells Kitchen, but I’m only mildly cunty and only at work or when dealing with someone in the real estate business.  Also, I believe Mr. Sondheim lives in Midtown East (like Turtle Bay-ish) which is technically above Grammercy.  I only know this because I used to live in that neighborhood and I’m pretty sure he and I were the only two homos there.  Except for when he had one locked in his dungeon.  I think he was next-door neighbors w/ Katherine Hepburn.  If we meet, remind me to do my impression of Katherine Hepburn starting a car.

 

Anyways, I gather from some of your blog posts that you are an improver of some sort?  And perhaps you teach as well?  I just started level III and it’s kicking my ass.  I feel remarkably exhausted and unfunny at the end of each class (I’ve only had 2 so far).  This is a change from the previous classes I took where I always left feeling some sort of “performance high”.  Ugh…it’s just not as fun.  And it’s not the teacher’s fault.  I like him and everything he says makes sense.  He’s supportive and everything.  While I understand that no two classes are alike, I’m wondering if this is  common.  I’m not sure that you can speak to it, but I don’t have any friends that have done this kind of stuff.

 And if you know nothing of improv and I’m confusing you w/ another blog, please feel free to direct some Hells Kitchen-esque cuntiness at me. 

 Thanks,

 Timmy

Hey Timmy,

First things first.  Thanks so much for writing in.  I love getting letters from fans, frienemies, and ass wipes.  You seem like a nice guy.  Sweet and genuine.

Okay, on to your letter:

I’m a middle management gay in Hells Kitchen, but I’m only mildly cunty and only at work or when dealing with someone in the real estate business.

Ha.  Right.  And I’m getting pregnant this year, after I learn to levitate.  I don’t believe you.  Gays are cunty with each other in crowds.  Fact.  It’s very rare that I go to a Gay bar that has zero snark.  The Metropolitan can be cunt free, but usually that’s in the day times, during the BBQ parties, before everyone gets wasted.  Cunty is a language we speak to each other.  Generally it works like this: two or three gays group together and then snark all over pop culture, politics, or other gays across the room.  Are you sure you haven’t participated in this phenomenon?

Also, I believe Mr. Sondheim lives in Midtown East (like Turtle Bay-ish) which is technically above Grammercy.

Thanks for fixing the set up of my joke.  Jerk. 🙂

If we meet, remind me to do my impression of Katherine Hepburn starting a car.

Or playing checkers, or threading a needle while chatting with someone – this could be an entire web series.  Funny idea.  I wonder if you can change it to M. J. Fox?  Everyone has a Kate Hepburn impression, is my only concern.  Not that that should stop you.

I just started level III and it’s kicking my ass.  I feel remarkably exhausted and unfunny at the end of each class…  I’m wondering if this is  common. 

Yes, darling.  This is as common as say, Old Navy, or HPV.  Extremely common.

Level three is a crucial point in the development of an improviser.  Most of the schools take level three (of five, usually) as an opportunity to challenge the students to see improv as more than ‘fun.’  They’re most likely starting to try to get you to train your brain to recognize games or patterns that emerge in scenes.  When I teach I challenge my students to step outside the scene for a brief brief moment when the scene gets its first big laugh.  I want the kids to say to themselves, hey, what happened that got that big hearty laugh?  How can I heighten that?  How can I repeat the pattern?  How can I make the funny ‘problem’ worse instead of fixing it and breaking the pattern?

Level three is frequently amazing and fun, but it certainly puts students in their heads.  Don’t worry about that exhausted feeling.  It’s just you training your brain to exploit spontaneous funny patterns or ‘games.’  And it’s work.  And you can do it.  Trust this:  eventually your brain ‘gets it’ on a reflexive, instinctive level, and you find the joy again.  You just have to push through it and get there.  Sometimes students can stay in their heads for years, but most people have an uncomfortable six months or so.

I encourage you to start thinking of class work as just that.  Work.  If you’re to be an  improviser (don’t say improver, we don’t do that in New York) you should be a great one.  I say that selfishly – I want there to be more gays out there elevating the art form.

I’ll also take the opportunity here to encourage you to join a practice group, or form one with people you like and respect from your classes.  It’s an opportunity to get shows and rehearsals in there that you’re just doing for fun.  That way you won’t feel shortchanged when you’re exhausted from class.   Also, you develop relationships with like minded, bright, funny, talented people.

 I hope I run into you somewhere down the line.  I love seeing brave homos entering the straight white male driven comedy industry.  Please consider me open and available if you have any more questions.

And hey.  Consider taking my musical improv class.

Jerk.