Tonight is closing night of the second of my two SNL-themed shows. The first, "Hang In There, Carol!" served as my writing packet, a Best of John Loos if you will. The second, "John Loos' SNL Showcase," has served as my performance showcase. Two sides of the same coin-dream.
It's been an overwhelmingly amazing experience doing these shows, after 10 years embedded in this absurd and wonderful and frustrating and lovely sketch and improv comedy world. And most of those years, feeling like a perpetual outsider, an anomaly, an uncastable, umarketable sideshow freak who doesn't fit any pre-existing "type" that has already been successful.
The Carol cast was top-notch, brilliant and game for all of my scenes about desperate older women and/or dead babies. My director for my SNL Showcase, Anneliese Toft, and my musical director, Seth Kannof, have been fearless and kind and generous and incredible beyond reason. Anneliese, also kept my June Squibb references mercifully in check, which is no small feat.
And the crowds. Carol's four shows were packed. My SNL Showcase has sold out most shows. Somehow, in the genesis of these two shows, I never once considered that people would actually want to see them, outside my boyfriend and few close friends. Having complete strangers compliment me is actually incredibly rare in this world. Usually, it's friends or family or other improvisers you sort of know who come to your shows. When Muggles come, it's a big deal. HUGE deal. (exits huffily with all my Pretty Woman shopping bags)
But why these shows? And why now? What's my end goal? And why the fixation with SNL?
Because I know I'm never going to be on SNL. It's okay, calm down, I've known it for a long time. Once you see the entirety of this Chicago comedy system and how it works, once you see how the sausage is made, you know pretty quickly if you have the right ingredients. I'm either too gay, too athletic, or too obsessed with playing older lady characters. At least, that's the stupid shit I tell myself to make myself feel better. I'm also not social enough. Or maybe I'm not ass-kissy enough. Or shrewd enough. Or self-promotional enough. Or, you know, maybe I don't have the talent level for what the job requires. It's quite honestly most likely the last one, but that's fine. I've know it for a long time.
I did these shows because I spent 10 years doing everything right and I finally wanted to do something wrong. To say fuck the system. To stop giving any and all fucks.
I spent those 10 years taking the right classes, doing the right shows, working with the right people, working with the right directors, doing the solo show, writing the original Annoyance extravaganza, performing on a Friday night iO team, performing at festivals, performing at theaters around the country, in the middle of the ocean, teaching, playing the game, keeping my receipts, waiting, wishing, hoping, silently in the corner like a good boy. And, to be honest, I've had more success than I probably deserve. Yet, interestingly, I've always felt like I was slowly and hilariously failing. Probably because we're trained, from very early on, to only want we have not got (10 points for the Sinead O'Connor reference BOIIIII!)
See, despite the fact I get to DO THIS FOR A LIVING, I never got cast in the big marquee shows at the big theaters and thus I feel like failure. Because that logic makes sense and is completely healthy. In my selfish improviser brain, I followed the rainbow map to a T, but there was never a pot of gold for me. I never landed the big agent. Or got the bigshot manager. Or had meetings with important people to discuss my promising future. Or gotten the coveted SNL showcase slot. In fact, I've rarely gotten cast for anything that doesn't involve me taking off my clothes. That's fine. I'm not that castable. No biggie. I've known for a long time.
The issue, I eventually realized, is that in Chicago, success is so incredibly narrowly defined. It's basically a pinhead. It's either a Harold team, or mainstage at Second City, or you're a failure. Or not good enough. Or just background noise. Everything young, upstart improvisers are told funnels them toward those goals, as if they are the only metrics of success. After all, that's how you get your SNL audition, which is how you get SNL, which is how you get your picture on the wall.
And SNL, that wonderful, ugly, perpetually "rebuilding" beast, has always been this end-all-be-all metric for Chicago comedy success. But really, isn't it just another stage none of us are getting cast on?
"This show will get me this opportunity."
It's the mindset we all have to adopt if we want to climb the ladder. And we're lucky enough to get that opportunity, we immediately resent it, complain about it and want the next thing, oblivious to the fact there are literally thousands of hungry improvisers swarming around the city who would clean the Playground toilets for a year just to have HALF the success we have.
"If I take this opportunity, it will get me this better opportunity."
And so on, and so forth until we're all miserable, disillusioned and on the verge of moving to North Dakota and sobbing in an abandoned barn the rest of our lives. To be successful in the world of comedy is to be constantly feeling like you're not good enough. That's what keeps you producing.
But I'm babbling. The short answer is, I did these SNL shows because I wanted to let go. I've known for a long time I don't fit what the system wants, and I've finally decided that's the greatest thing I have going for me. When I was in the closet for all those years, I felt constantly like I was an anomaly, that I was incorrect, that I wasn't what the system wanted. So it was a bit ironic when I began to feel the exact same feelings after being in the comedy community for years; that I wasn't "correct" or that I was a
I did these SNL shows because fuck that feeling. I'm over feeling that. It's dummz to the maxxx. Enough. (starring Jennifer Lopez).
I decided to go rogue, like X-Men Rogue, and I couldn't be happier. Because her hair is amazing.
No, Lorne Michaels never came. No SNL scouts. No Chicago talent agents came. And honestly, I never expected them to. I've booked zero meetings from these shows, have zero Comedy Central shows in the works, zero Sonic commercials, zero development deals to produce web content for Tru TV, and I still haven't met Mary Steenburgen. But that's okay. Don't cry for me Uruguay. I got to create two shows that are entirely my voice. I got to put them up in two great theaters and make people laugh and work with astonishingly awesome peeps. And that sort of freedom is the best kind of success you can ask for.