Tag Archives: improv

If Acting Doesn’t Work Out, At Least There’s Always Panning for Gold in Dahlonega, GA

Dahlonega, GA

Dahlonega, GA

All the time in the world + a car + nothing else to do = a trip to a town that has fallen off the face of history. You know the kinds of towns I’m talking about, the ones that have preserved their old town squares and turned them into tourist traps full of ice cream parlors and fudge shoppes and handmade candle stores. Once the living, beating heart of a real city, the downtown is now the equivalent of a decorative chamber pot at grandma’s house.

Dahlonega, GA is one of those towns. You can find it by driving northeast from Atlanta until you strike gold, literally. According to Wikipedia, this was the site of the nation’s first gold rush in 1828. Even the famous saying “There’s gold in them thar hills” came from here, though apparently it was misquoted from some dude who actually said “There’s millions in it…” which makes him sound less like a two-toothed idiot and more like the civil servant he actually was.

At any rate, there’s still gold in them thar hills and considering I’m fresh out of a job, I thought I’d try to win it all back by doing a little panning myself at the Crisson Gold Mine. Crisson is an Appalachian (read: unsexy) version of Las Vegas for grade schoolers and retirees, which were the only other people there. For only $10, you get the chance to strike it rich. What a deal!

After about 10 minutes of gold panning, my back hurt and I wanted to stop but I didn’t. I’d caught mild gold fever and the chance of winning big kept me dunking my pan into the water and sifting away. 10 minutes after that, I was done with that crap and had painstakingly gathered enough gold flakes to do absolutely nothing. The flakes were probably worth no more than ten cents but at least the experience had made me sweat. I hadn’t struck it rich this time, but that’s the risk you take when you roll the dice in Appalachian Las Vegas.

We stopped in downtown to get some bad fried seafood from a charming beach-themed restaurant. Two retiree couples (the only other people there) gave me the stink eye for wearing skinny jeans that showed part of my ankle, but I stunk it right back to them with my able body and sharp eyesight. 20/20, gramps!

On the way back to Marietta, GA, we saw a hawk and a gigantic inflatable eagle advertising a car dealership with the slogan “Red, white and you!” Georgia FTW.

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10 Valuable Lessons I Learned Today that I’ll Probably Relearn Tomorrow

coffee spilling

                                                                    the worst thing in the world

They say you learn something new every day, and that’s partially true. What’s more true is that as you learn something new every day, you also re-experience the agony of about 10 lessons you already knew that haven’t sunk in yet. Here are just a few of the ones I went through again today.

1. Leave more room than you think you’ll need in your coffee cup. Otherwise, it will overflow when you add milk like it did yesterday and the 363 days before that.

2. When in doubt while hiking in the Kennesaw Mountain Battlefield Park near Marietta, GA, bear left on all the trail forks. That way you won’t end up having to trespass on a country-dweller’s land just to get back to the road where you’ll end up walking an extra 2 miles on a sidewalk-less highway in the sun with a dog with a death wish.

3. Don’t bring a house dog to do a woman’s hike. Some labradoodles aren’t meant to do more than 15 minutes of light jogging in the shade and will try to throw themselves under cars if made to walk more than 30 minutes.

4. If it takes more than one minute to open up the hot fudge jar, it means you’re not meant to have any. Don’t treat it like a physical challenge and then decide after finally opening the jar that it’s not good enough. Especially don’t spend another minute opening up a different jar of a different brand of hot fudge.

5. Don’t decide to write a one act, four part radio play about the Civil War to act out by yourself in the basement. You’ll just end up overwhelming yourself and then taking a nap.

6. Don’t try to impress your friends by using sophisticated terms to critique the improv show you saw together since you’ve taken some improv classes and know a thing or two. No one cares about whether or not the “players” made “strong choices” with “solid edits” or had “authentic relationships.” They just want to talk about what made them laugh.

7. The next time your suggestion is chosen at an improv show and the douchebag in front of you tries to give a different one, avoid yelling “SHUT IT” in his face. It’s not very endearing, and you don’t need to stoop to his level.

8. Gloating is never a good look, and doing fist pumps after the restaurant manager says he’ll give you half off is tacky. Wait until after you’ve left the restaurant to celebrate.

9. Don’t get yourself into a one-upping texting situation without an exit strategy. Say hahaha and leave it at that.

10. Don’t honk back at someone who honks at you because you made a driving error and it’s clearly your fault. Do something else, like swear in your car.

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I quit my job to take my hobbies full time. Here’s what happens now.

Future daytime improv star

Future daytime improv star

On June 27th, 2014 I quit a (relatively) cushy corporate job to pursue my hobbies as a career, these hobbies being writing, improv, comedy, acting and amateur clowning. Many people congratulated me on this decision and told me I was brave (read: foolish). Maybe they’re right because the truth is I don’t really know how make this happen. I just needed to do something.

Two days later, I left the Bay Area bubble for a 7 week journey that will take me across the Eastern third of the United States, starting in Chicago and continuing through Nashville, Atlanta, North Carolina (Asheville area), Washington DC, Boston, NY and then Oklahoma City (Edmond area) on a miniature “Wassup USA” tour. I fully expect to get scurvy and lose a couple of teeth on this journey which can only be described as low-budget.

I’m doing this, the quitting and the traveling and the clowning, to test the hypothesis that there are no rules in life and no limit to what I can dream up and do, that nothing is in my way except for my own fear, and it is a formidable opponent that has some great arguments for why my dreams are a bunch of hogwash.

“Why should you be so lucky that you get the chance to quit a pretty good job and pursue comedy for a career? Not everyone has the chance to go after jobs they find meaningful – why should you? You shouldn’t look for meaning in your work, so why don’t you just do something that will get you a good income so you can be secure and figure out a way to work in your passions at nights and on weekends? Improv, really? Can’t you be passionate about something else? What if you fail?”

There’s some truth in these doubts, but at the end of the day they are just fear disguised as practicality, and I can’t convince myself to listen to them anymore. Not yet. But they are interesting questions.

In the next phase of my life and as I’m doing my hobbies full-time-ish, I want to explore these questions of meaning and career, who gets to follow their dreams and why, and who cares about this and does it even matter.

And for the next 50 days, I want to see what’s up with the USA. I want to do an Alexis de Toqueville “Democracy in America” except more along the lines of “Drevets in America.” It’ll just be me, in America, with my vision and dreams along with everyone else’s. Nothing much has changed except my morning commute and my inbox count.

So….what’s up USA?

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Improv Is Not What You Think It Is [Guest Post]

I have a secret to share with you. It’s been hidden for long enough but now it’s time for it to burst into the spotlight, in full view of the entire world, President Obama, and any non-earth intelligent life: I am an improviser, as in, I do improv.

Yes, this is where I stand on a stage with some other brave souls and create something out of what appears to be nothing. It’s not as hard as it looks. In fact, it’s much harder, and the trick is that you can’t think about what you’re doing. Not even a little bit.

The thing is, improv is not what you think it is. Whatever you think you know about improv is probably wrong. That’s how it was for me, at least. But since my days of improv ignorance, I’ve come into the light – my improv troupe True Medusa has helped with that enlightenment process. They are pretty amazing.

Are you intrigued? Do you want to know more? Do you want to know how wrong you are about improv? I dare you to read my blog post on the brand-new True Medusa blog, lovingly titled “Improv is Not What You Think It Is.” 

Take a read, take a look, and let me know what you think. Read now.

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What Improv Taught Me About Life

Life lessons from improvSo I started taking improv classes. I just did it for fun, and to meet other people and find out if my humor could translate to the stage. Three months later, I’ve accomplished almost all of my improvising goals, including being told by the teacher to try “less yelling.”

Unexpectedly, I also learned things that are useful for life, lessons I believe are helping me become better at sucking out the marrow of life’s ribs.

Other people have also found improv valuable. Heck, this guy even wrote a blog with the same title as mine.  It’s valuable for writers who want to write better, for actors who want to act better, and for humans who want to human better. The really incredible thing is that I have different points to make than these other chucklenuts. Let’s get going.

1. Live in the moment

It’s impossible to improv effectively if you’re inside your head, thinking about how the act is going, what you should do next, or what you could have done better. Every moment spent inside your skull monologue-ing to yourself, is  moment your body is occupying space onstage and going nowhere. Be present. Don’t over-think it. Silence the inner critic.

The same thing applies to living. How can you live effectively if you’re always thinking of what you could do better, judging yourself, or comparing yourself to other people. Life is going on outside your skull, and it’s meant to be lived, not tiptoed around.

2. You have a body

All day long, we use this body of ours to do things like type on computers, sit in chairs, stare at powerpoint presentations, make coffee, see patients, put on clothing, digest food, pick other people’s noses, etc. But how often are we conscious of it, of the weight we support on our frame, of the way our ankle feels when the other one is resting on it, the rhythm of our own heartbeat, the blood in our veins and the juices in our stomach.

Taking a moment to consider the universe of our own being is somehow relaxing. It helps define a space for me, reaffirms my existence, and helps me connect to the essence of what I am, namely, a being made of animated atoms. Wild, isn’t it?

3. There’s no right answer

Improv is not about being funny. It doesn’t matter if you say “thumb-flavored jello snacks” instead of “a pink ruler,” so long as you say something. The reality is that everything is right and good. My partner throws out something about being in a kitchen. Awesome. Yes. Or maybe she throws out something about me as her daughter that’s recently been having trouble wetting the bed. Awesome. Yes.

In life, I get so caught up with trying to find the ‘right’ idea or the ‘best’ idea that I don’t end up trying anything at all. I’m paralyzed by indecision, and the end result is much worse than if I’d run with something and improved it along the way.

4. Nothing’s funnier than the truth

Yes, space aliens that sprout wings anytime someone says the word “kerfuffle” are interesting, but so are work crushes, parents, grandparents, sisters and brothers, churches, bars, hair salons, the whole mix and everything. Our everyday life and relationships are incredibly rich, laden with beauty, pain, and humor.

What makes improv really great, and all humor really great, is its ability to relate to the truth in a unique way or portray it in a new light. That’s the gotcha moment, when all of the sudden you’re on the floor crying from laughter because of a scene about someone eating a donut. That’s where the real magic is, it’s in the everyday, the mundane, and the banal. That’s also the title of my next improv show. I hope you come.

P.S. I’ve been taking improv with Leela and am really enjoying the classes. If you’re in the Bay Area, you should definitely check them out.

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