Ohhh oh ohh ohh oh, ohhh oh oh OH! THE RIGHT STUFFFF!
I just passed my nine-year anniversary of my first improv class. Nine years! That's like a lazy decade! If I had adopted a great dane puppy that first day of class, it'd be dead as hell by now.
I signed up for my first class in person, because in-person sign-ups for classes was still how most people did it. That, or call in. There wasn't fancy schmancy online registration, not in my day! And I walked 12 miles to class, uphill, downhill, in the snow with my balls out!
Well, not really. But I did drive an hour an half on the 405 freeway in LA to get to class, which was it's own sort of hell.
My point is, it's hard not to feel like I'm entering my old fart stage now, by basic and brutal and entirely unfair improv scene standards. I'm still aggressively young and vibrant and "still got it goin' on, hunty," don't get me wrong, but I've been around long enough now to feel like a super senior and begin to question if I've overstayed my welcome. And to realize that the dreams I had when I was 22 and easily enchanted by famous people on walls are probably dead as hell, like the great dane I didn't buy. Or, at least, these dreams need significant modifying, refitting, like an age-appropriate wardrobe.
Out with the Forever 21 mini-skirt, in with the smartly tailored pantsuit from Kohl's.
It happened slowly. I was the youngest person in my first improv class. Precocious! Fresh-faced! The Jennifer Lawrence of Level 1! Three years later, I was the oldest in the cast of a Writing 6 show I did at Second City. Grizzled! Mature! The June Squibb of the Skybox!
At 26, I had my first taste of Being The Old Fuck. Three years! That's all it took for me to go from being Lorde to being Liza. Like I said, improv is a brutal world in that regard; it's basically an unending deluge of giddy college grads with a hard-on for Will Ferrell.
At some point, I went from the young, wildly dressed, sassy-haired New Kid on the Block to the mature, cares-about-his-IRA, Netflix-on-a-Saturday-night NKTB that only unhappily married women in their 40s care about. When, exactly, this shift occured eludes me. But there have been signposts.
- Now, the majority of SNL players are younger than me. They went from looking like the popular seniors at this big, sprawling comedy high school to looking like the freshman. The same way college students looked so old as fuck in high school, but in your 30s they look like tadpoles.
- I teach now, which is what you do when you've been doing this long enough and have accumulated enough knowledge to pass along. I love teaching. It's been the best part about still being here nine years later.
- My forehead is 50 percent larger than it was at 22.
- I'm tired all the time. Doing shows now is like drinking heavily; the exhaustion/hangover is about ten times worse than it was in my early 20s. Still, the buzz is just as fucking great.
I still love being in the improv and sketch comedy world, don't get me wrong. I do it mostly for the love of it anymore, and to collaborate with amazing people and support their fabulous ideas and projects. And, sure, a foolish part of me still thinks something great could happen if I keep trying. But, it's hard to not to watch the clock and see your comedy ovaries shrink and your chances of conceiving the next Chapelle's Show or Last Week Tonight With John Oliver quietly get slimmer. Not that that's all that matters, but come on, no one temps for six years or waits tables for six years solely so they can pay to do improv shows at 10:30pm on a Tuesday night for four people because that's what they want to do forever. It's fun for now, but we all have our higher aspirations. We all have dreams, public and secret.
I know, I know. I'm young! I'm YOUNG! You can tell me as many times as you want (please, tell me as many times as you want). But, the fact is, improv comedy is a young (white) (straight) (floppy haired) (dumpy-cute) (plaid-shirt-wearing) (ugly-shoe-wearing) (male) man's game. And I'm not 22 anymore.
But I have this FABULOUS WEB SITE NOW SO YAY PROGRESS!
Nine years! That's like 400 college degrees. I could be operating on pediatric brains by now, but instead I chose to make countless Saved By the Bell references on stage and fake-masturbate to invisible victrolas while my scene partners ride invisible donkeys. Because the world needs that too.