One of my dearest friends, Leslie, has written a very interesting piece about her life and growth and all that. (I would use more specific words, but let’s face it, it’s pretty damn nebulous when you get right down to it.) It’s especially interesting to me as she writes about improv and how it was the planet she orbited for many years. In fact, it’s how we met.
Improv has never been as big in my life, but that doesn’t mean it’s impact is less. I think I still have the chops to be funny without trying too hard, and I do try to for humor that doesn’t rely on proximity to a crotch for laughs. Mostly. But other than my stint with the Oxymoron’Z in 1999-The End, it’s be a peripheral thing. I love it. I love performing it. I love watching it. I love when it fails so bad that the only thing the performers can do is apologize and move offstage in the hopes that someone else can redeem the show. And that’s what I got from improv that makes me a better me.
A bit about me.
I have two driving forces to my personality. First, Get Shit Done, but not just fast, but done right, as fast as possible. In order to accomplish that, I have to know a ton of information, have skills in a myriad of tools, and be mentally swimming with a plethora of normally useless random bits of knowledge. Yes, I love Trivial Pursuit. No, I don’t play it anymore because after realizing I remembered the answers to every question in the game, I figured I was getting less-than-useless information filling up the space in my head.
My other driving force is that I’m Fucking Lazy. This is the equal to my GSD tendencies, which is another reason that useless knowledge can come in handy. I know enough about most things to figure out the new, rethink the old, and call things as I see them. I want a nap, but my GSD won’t let me take a nap unless everything is done or at least at some point in the process that I can comfortably see the end of it.
Both of these personality traits are hardwired into my being. I can’t say where the laziness comes from, but the GSD is from both parents. I suspect the laziness comes from FSM. I have no other clue.
The courage to fail.
Improv gave me a skill that I was lacking. Leslie espoused the skill, and while it was truly a life-changing moment for me, I don’t think she knows this or quite gets how important the moment When We Met truly was for me. Let me tell you the story.
I had joined the Oxy’Z just because in Phoenix I hadn’t been singing, and didn’t have the money to do the whole choir thing, anyway, and I wanted something new. It was cheap, and if I was good I’d get to perform. I was in class for 2 weeks when I was asked if I wanted to perform the next Saturday. I said yes, and proceeded to buy my shirt (which I still own and wear and wow, it’s dying a slow death) and learned a few more of the exercises for the show. We had rehearsal, and then we went for beers. And while I’d been in class with Leslie, I’d done no scene with her, nor had I actually spoken to her. The group was 20-25 strong, and it takes a bit to get a word in edgewise with actors, you know.
So, we’re out for beers, and Leslie stops the conversation with, “So, Kev. How long have you been coming to rehearsals?”
“Two weeks.” I smiled and tried not to be a braggart, but it was tough. Many in the troupe had done 6 months or more before being asked to perform, and I knew this from others.
“And you’re performing on Saturday?” she pursed her lips as I nodded, and then she burst out with, “I hope you fall on your ass!” She was smiling as she said it, and we all laughed and the conversation went on to something else.
But I remember that moment like it was yesterday. It was a piece of the Cosmic Puzzle of Me that I’d been missing. I’d always liked to succeed at whatever I did, and I knew I could do anything. But I didn’t do quite a few things, and it was because I wasn’t able to fail.
I had a great show. Leslie introduced me, broke a few rules in ways that made for better comedy, and I was good enough to continue. Leslie and I have been friends since, and I thank her for giving me the courage to fail. I know that as she goes forward to whatever she chooses she’ll approach with care, understanding, intelligence, wit, resilience, humor and humility. And a sparkle in her eye that will reveal itself in some smart-ass moment you least expect. I can’t wait to see it!