The Improv Life: It All Starts with Having Good Taste
In an earlier blog post I stated that Norm Macdonald was my first comedy teacher because I just mimicked a bunch of stuff he did.
I knew Norm was funny on an instinctual level; I just couldn’t explain why.
What that means is that I had good taste. I knew what I liked, and I knew what I liked was funny.
So much of being a comedian begins with being a fan.
I loved comedy as a kid. Everything I watched growing up was comedy. The Simpsons, Married with Children, SNL reruns on Comedy Central, Wayne’s World, anything Jim Carrey did, Heavyweights, Clueless, Dirty Work, Mr. Show, Rocko’s Modern Life, random standup; you know just like anything and everything comedy (I was lucky to have cable as a kid).
I would ingest so much comedy and just repeat catch phrases and random snippets non-stop.
The point is I had good taste, and that is what eventually led me to wanting to be a comedian
And this is what “This American Life” host Ira Glass says in his famous “The Gap” speech: “All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste.”
The rest of the speech goes onto state that it will take a long time to become a good artist, the kind that creates quality stuff you’re proud of. Basically, you’re going to suck for a long time before you get good, but don’t quit, keep creating, and keep setting big goals that forces your skills to meet them.
It’s really inspiring, especially when it feels like you’re not growing. But it all comes down to having good taste.
When you feel like quitting, remember why you started in the first place – to create comedy on the same level as the comedians who inspired you.
To become the artist you want to be is a worthy goal, and you owe it to yourself to pursue it with everything you have. Don’t give up on yourself, and when you do, go read “The Gap” by Ira Glass.
This blog post will be antithetical to the goal of this larger writing project (30 blog posts about comedy in 30 days).
Basically, you have to rest if you want to be creative.
I know sounds crazy, especially in our work obsessed, production focused, rinse and repeat comedy *entrepreneur culture.
*Like basically you got to be out there hustling, doing as many shows and side projects as possible. That’s why I use this term.
Don’t get me wrong; I encourage everyone to go out there and get it because no one is going to give it to you.
But you also have to rest. Sometimes it feels like if I’m not consuming content, creating it, or thinking about it, I’m not doing anything else, and that’s not healthy.
And here’s why that’s bad: my best ideas come to me when I’m not thinking. My mind is at ease, and I’m open and vulnerable to whatever my subconscious wants to present me.
This is a proven thing (I wish I had some sources right now).
Go wash some dishes and see if you get any cool ideas. Or like go for a walk and relax, and then see what comes up from that.
Or sometime you just need to sleep. Like a lot. Or just need to cruise with some good music on. Whatever rest means for you, do that.
It’s a parodox. If you want to do a lot, do nothing. Bear with me on this one. Your mind needs to process things. To do that, it needs time and space. You give it time and space by not constantly being busy. Being busy clouds your mind, blocking ideas from getting through.
So don’t be busy and your mind will process things. And as rest, ideas, insights, and revelations will arrive. And at that point, it’s up to you what to do with them. But at least you set the stage for them to show themselves.
I just miss having my own adventures with my comedy life; I watch Star Wars heroes try to save the universe and think of my own adventures with my crew of misfits as we try to make my world a better place through comedy bits.
I miss getting in my car and hauling ass to LA, driving with purpose and passion. The drive was ridiculous, but there was something waiting for me at my destination: community
My peers. People like me. Dreamers dedicating their nights to comedy and each other. One shared purpose: making it (whatever that means for each person).
Tomorrow is Sunday. And that day would always be an adventure in LA.
My very last day in LA pre-quarantine saw me taking a class at Groundlings, eating Ramen at my favorite spot, doing an improv practice with random people at my friend’s Renata’s apartment, doing a clown workshop at Catsby, hanging out with my boys Frankie and J-Blaze, watching three hours of amazing comedy, and then, the drive home.
This was such an amazing day, and I was scheduled to have this day every two weeks. I was looking forward to it. But it didn’t happen. It’s almost as if I got one last taste before it all went away.
I miss the drive. I miss the people. I miss the places. I miss the community. Most of all, I miss the purpose and meaning these adventures gave me: I was living my passion and being validated by the universe every step of the way.
Now I got Star Wars. And that’s filling my spiritual void. Star Wars is about family and hope. And they’re giving me hope that one day soon I’ll be reunited with my comedy family. Till then, I’m going to make Twitch Shows work for me.
Trying To Salvage This Blog From My Extreme Neglect
I feel like if you switched out a few words in the title of this post, it would describe my human experience – Trying to Salvage My Life From Extreme Neglect.
In fact, if I ever make it BIG, and I mean so BIG, I don’t have to work a real job ever again, I might call my cash-grab autobiography that.
And believe me, that book will be 100% Fernando A. Funes propaganda on the level of the ridiculous documentary, History of the Eagles Part 1 and 2.
I would be both Glen Frey and Don Henley.
Whoever my David Geffen is, I would have that person in the documentary to just serve as a famous person that helped me out but who I still shit on. I would make broad, indirect swipes at Neil Young, even though I’m nowhere near his level.
This is all just fantasy. I’m just a – and this is a nod to a great but now defunct podcast – Journeyman Improviser.
So I’ve neglected this blog.
There was a time when I would write in it frequently, especially in the heyday of my Orange County Improv Days.
In fact, this blog was created to keep me focused on growing and developing as an improviser because I knew that I would not be as active in Orange County as I had been in San Francisco.
There are a lot of good times recorded in this blog.
It’s a diary of a time when Improv in the OC was golden, and I didn’t need to go to LA because there was enough here to keep me busy, engaged, and growing.
Most of the blogs are sentimental.
How so? Because I was neglected, I’m sentimental. Because I’m sentimental, I’m aware how soon things come and go; how you have to appreciate the present because it’s not going to last.
I don’t like being sentimental – mostly because people who are not sentimental don’t dig that part of me – but fuck it, that’s who I am, and I’m not going to suppress it. This blog has been a great tool in accepting that part of myself.
This blog post, A Poem For Orange County Improv, is proof of my sentimentality – it’s about my love of Orange County Improv and how a bunch of us came of age together in the OC doing improv.
Alas, LA is next door.
I just didn’t feel that I needed to go to LA.
That’s bullshit. The more comedy you do, the deeper you get into, the louder the call of LA becomes.
Half of the people I know in LA – and multiply that half by two – are here because the need to do comedy, as much of it as possible, became so overwhelming that they had to come to LA. Of course, it’s more nuanced than that, but that’s been my general experience.
I’m just very lucky that LA is next door.
Driving down The 5 sucks, but I didn’t need to move here from New Jersey (a lot of people out here seem to be from New Jersey).
So I got sucked in by LA.
And there was a time where I could do comedy both Orange County and LA, but LA’s gravity slowly pulled me closer and closer until one day I woke up and realized that 90% of my comedy life was now in Los Angeles.
The more time I spent in LA, the less time I would spend in Orange County, dwindling down to one improv show a month (the first Friday of the month with Big Selfie) and the less I would write in this blog.
Neglecting This Blog
I feel bad. I worked really hard to build this blog into something, a channel for sharing my love of improv with the world.
And I just neglected it. A common theme in my life.
I’ve neglected a bunch of things, mostly involving my relationships with people.
On the other side of neglect – not the desire to squeeze everything out of every possible moment because you know it will be gone someday – is not understanding how important something is.
You have something, but you don’t realize how precious or delicate it is. And you don’t nurture it, give it the attention it deserves, or stop giving it the attention you once gave it.
Eventually, it withers and dies, and resentment takes it place. And resentment can last a long time.
To all the people I’ve neglected whether knowingly or unknowingly, there is nothing I can ever do to make up for not giving you the proper attention. I apologize for sucking you into my cycle of neglect, and you are under no obligations to forgive me. I just hope I can grow past the cycle of neglect and be a more responsible human being.
So What Am I Going To Do Next?
I’m just going to try to start writing in this blog again.
How do you overcome neglect? Action. Action is the only remedy for neglect.
Not just random action, but calculated efforts to rebuild this blog one post at a time.
To start off, I’m going to read Truth In Comedy and post my sincere opinions about it in here. It’s not much, but it’s a start! This is my comeback angle, baby!
On the real, this blog helped me grow and develop as an improviser and sketch comedian, and just overall comedy artist.
I don’t know if I would be where I am today had it not been for this blog. This blog forced me to think deeply about comedy and share those insights with whoever would have them.
If I can stay true to that promise throughout the life of this blog, then I’ll be okay.