Tuesday, August 24, 2010
The Top 10 Reasons to Visit Hollywood Blvd at Night
10. You can buy your Mom that "Best Mom in the Whole Wide World Oscar statuette she's always been dreaming of.
9. See what its like to be stuck in traffic at 3am.
8. Fanny packs make spotting and robbing tourist a breeze.
7. After 7pm, parking meters dispense breath mints and condoms.
6. At night, the homeless transform into Andy Dick's entourage.
5. Pot luck hookers.
4. You can get a tattoo with 100% guarantee of hepatitis.
3. The streets are covered in fresh urine, not day old.
2. It's the only place you can see a tranny get in a fight with SpongeBob.
1. Scientology never sleeps.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
These new US quarters have just been approved by the U.S. Mint.
Each quarter will have a new State image and Slogan:
(Rey Gonzalez's suggestions)
Pennsylvania - Lots of Quakers all over the back. "Not a lot of oatmeal, surprisingly."
California - Red Hot Chili Peppers on the back. "Don't forget this state exists. Ever."
Illinois - Blagojevich smiling on the back. "Our business is politics. Business is good."
Iowa - "Idaho"
West Virginia - John Denver on the back.
Indiana - Lots of white people. The coin weighs 350 pounds.
Mississippi - Dixie Flag on the back. "State name with most efficient use of four letters."
(Nicholas Dossman's suggestions)
Image: A guy shrugging
Text saying: North of South Dakota?
Image: Guy eats a peach.
Text saying: Tastes just like my sister.
Image: Disgruntled women sharing coffee.
Text: The farthest most bestest place to send your ex-girlfriends.
Monday, August 9, 2010
Friday 11am - 2:30pm
Here is a piece I wrote in class today. It was a monologue for the game-show, "This is Your Life." Today's contestant is Tyler Kennedy - and the Mystery Guest is his 'escaped pet bird', speaking from behind a screen, revealing only a silhouette of the bird in his cage.
Chirp chirp chirp, tweet tweet. Those were the only 2 English words I knew. Until one fateful day - July 29th 1939. The War was raging in Europe. America was still waiting. Just like I was peacefully waiting in my cage. Hanging upside-down like David Carradine, when suddenly I saw Tyler Kennedy walk through "Peter's Pretty Pet Shop". He wanted a friend, he wanted a canary; he wanted me. And for only seventeen cents, he took me and my home into HIS home; OUR home. Tyler used to love it when I would perch on his round and stubby finger. I was so happy perching that I would burst into song, (tweet tweet tweet!) We shared a lovely life together for eleven years, six months and fifteen days. Then one day, Tyler came home with a small grey kitten. I took one look into the kitten's lightening-green eyes and knew that if I was to stay, surely this creature would be my demise. Heart-broken but fearing for my life, I packed what I could fit of my things in to my little red suitcase and flew away to Mexico that night. I never forgot Tyler and always hoped that the kitten would leave so I could return...
I'm sorry, I am just so overwhelmed by emotions right now...
He taught me how to talk - he taught me to love and for that I will always be grateful.
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
41% of adults reported seeing a UFO last year, 69% of adults reported fucking with their neighbors at night.
16% of the US population identified their racial heritage as "other" on the Census form. We now know the aliens have arrived.
6% of the population likes Cheetos.
15% of people are unemployed. 90% of the unemployed blame Obama. The other 10% also blame Obama.
Two out of three ain't bad.
.1% of men who enter a gentleman's club are gentlemen.
70% of people live in houses. 26% of people live in apartments. 100% of people whose favorite movie is Avatar, live in a home.
87% of angry voice mails in America are left by Mel Gibson and Alec Baldwin.
CBS is 92% CSI
Nobody eats at Quizno's anymore.
Top 10 Reasons for the Gulf Oil Spill
10. Bubba Gump hates competition
9. The pelicans did it.
8. The man drilling watches too much Jersey Shore and wanted to be the next "Situation".
7. Needed to get rid of those pesky mermaids once and for all.
6. Children in the gulf coast love deformities.
5. Seals botched a fur dying attempt.
4. The US was jealous of the Nigerian oil spill disaster that has been raging for what...20 years?
3. God thought it would be a good opening for the end of days.
2. Obama doesn't care about whitefish.
And the number one reason for the Gulf Oil Spill...
1. BP = Bad planning
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
I had an interesting experience involving gender roles and customer service yesterday. I’m not sure how I feel about it.
My friend Katie and I were traveling on American Airlines from Charleston, South Carolina to Los Angeles and we almost missed our connecting flight in Miami. Our flight from Charleston was late by 30 minutes – which was American’s fault. Once we got off the bus that carried us from the open tarmac to the terminal, we Jackie Joyner-Kersey-ed it from our tiny American Eagle flight allllll the way the hell to the other end of the terminal. Five other people ran behind us from the same flight. When we got to the LAX-bound flight, the gate was totally empty. We could clearly see the plane outside and luggage was in the process of being loaded, the cement blocks were still in place and the jetway was still attached to the plane. But no one was around. So I tripped the alarm by pushing a door marked “Employees Only” to get some service, and three minutes later, the gate attendant showed up. (Nice to know American’s response time is so quick should there ever be a real emergency. HaHa.)
The American employee was completely frazzled. We told her we wanted on the flight and she said, “Absolutely not.” Then, and here’s the interesting part: the two older white men who were part of our group from Charleston trying to make that flight started yelling at her. The yelling made her quickly change her answer to: I have to check with my supervisor. When the supervisor got to the scene, she also said, “Absolutely not!” about our question of getting on the plane. The two older white men started in on her, and lo’ and behold, after a few minutes of berating her, we were allowed on the plane.
I sure am happy we made the flight! We should have, after all. The plane didn’t leave for another several minutes after we boarded, so it would have been asinine if we weren’t allowed on and then just watched it sit there. However, the whole experience made me realize that if it had just been Katie and I – two women in our early 30s - yelling at those female gate attendants, we would not have been allowed on. Period. Those women responded to those older white men yelling at them. They bent their dumb rules because older men were yelling at them.
Again, I’m so glad those men yelled because as a result, we got on that plane and made it home before midnight. But the experience definitely gave me pause for thought. Should I be happy that female customer service employees will bend for men and not for other women? What does that say about our society? What if I told you the female flight attendants were Hispanic? They were. Does that make a difference in this story? I’m not sure.
What do you think??
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
It's fun to put people in odd situations and see how they react.
I've always felt this way; I guess it's connected to the part of me that is drawn to performance.
But ideally, for me, it's about not just any reaction.
It's about getting the laugh.
In first grade, I sliced a little lunchroom milk container in half and set these two eraser-top monsters inside. The milk carton was now their spaceship. They flew from desk to desk and talked to the other students until I was told that I was weird and it was time to go away.
Not the reaction I wanted.
In high school some friends and I dressed up in costumes (you know, like a princess, a star trek officer, and a dark child of the underworld) and walked around the mall. We didn't act crazy or anything. That would have ruined it. We just walked around like this was completely normal and watched how people reacted. It was hilarious to us, of course, but just weirded out the shoppers.
Lately I've been walking around with a new prank. One that's right on my face. 24/7.
I'm missing half of my left eyebrow.
That's right. Half of my left eyebrow is totally F'n gone. It's been like that for over six months, and how it even happened is unclear. I first noticed it about two weeks after a haircut. It looked like a chunk of my eyebrow had been accidentally shaved off when being "trimmed."
Then the hair under that fell out.
I've been keeping a tally: who says stuff about it and when.
Most people say nothing. They are too polite, and probably think something serious is wrong with me. For all they know I'll break down in tears…
"This is the first stage of alopeica! My eyelashes are next! Help me!!!"
Heck, for all I know this IS the first stage of alopecia. What the hell am I doing writing this blog? I should get to a doctor.
My oldest friend Steve noticed in two seconds: "Dude, what happened to your eyebrow?"
My friend and frequent writing partner Andy was suddenly shocked to discover it mid-writing session: "Hey, did you shave your eyebrow or something?"
While visiting Chicago last week, my friend Denise held it in for a few hours before it finally exploded: "What the fuck happened to your eyebrow?"
When I told her I wasn't really sure…
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
"The most important things are the hardest things to say. They are the things you get ashamed of, because words diminish them - words shrink things that seemed limitless when they were in your head to no more than living size when they're brought out. But it's more than that, isn't it? The most important things lie too close to wherever your secret heart is buried, like landmarks to a treasure your enemies would love to steal away. And you may make revelations that cost you dearly only to have people look at you in a funny way, not understanding what you've said at all, or why you thought it was so important that you almost cried while you were saying it. That's the worst, I think. When the secret stays locked within not for want of a teller, but for want of an understanding ear."
- Stephen King - Different Seasons, The Body
This is one of the most beautiful quotes that I have ever read. The fact it came from a man who also gave us killer automobiles and blood soaked Prom Queens, shows that those who create darkness must also know beauty.
I posted this quote here because I believe it should resonate with artist in a deep and profound way. Anyone that creates should feel a special pull when they hear this quote. I believe that to truly create something special, you must reveal a part of yourself. Those who see, hear and/or feel your creation should also know the creator.
Over the years, I have immersed myself in a number of art forms. I've been lucky enough to do improvisation, traditional theatre, stand-up and short films. If you look at any of my work in these areas you will see a very definite set of “landmarks” that lead directly to who I am at the core. Currently I spend most of my time writing and directing short films. None of them are even close to being “autobiographical”; I am not a Day Laborer, a woman, a homeless man, a CEO, a Ninja or a super hero. Each short does reveal who I am and a little piece of that part I try to hide from the world, where my secret heart is buried.
While some of the films have received positive reactions, others have not. That is the cost of creation. To risk showing strangers, friends and family something that, inside feels so important and so revealing, only to have them shrug their shoulders and say, “It’s OK.” But that is their genuine reaction and the one offering his/her work can’t judge the honest response of the receiver. You have to accept the bitter with the sweet.
I said earlier that this is an important quote to any artist. This blog is mainly read by people at The Second City and I want to apply it directly to anyone that improvises or creates sketch comedy.
How different would a performance be if, in addition to playing “hilarious” characters on stage, we revealed ourselves as well? Instead of trying to be “clever” we chose to be honest. Instead of trying to get a laugh, we listened and reacted from a place of honesty. That is not to say that we can’t play characters or try on the skin of someone different than ourselves. (I encourage you to play a 90-year-old grandmother or a two-year-old boy and everything in-between.) But instead of playing your “idea” of them, what if you allowed them to share the same fears and hopes that you carry with you every day? What if these characters took a risk and shared their “secret treasures”? What would happen next?
That doesn’t mean that every scene would be a sad exploration of fear and loss, although I would take that over another scene where a bunch of people stand around talking about what they could do later that day. I generally find that I laugh a lot more in “real” life than I do sitting in a theatre or in front of the TV. Life is funny. Pain can be funny. Honesty is almost always funny, it is definitely more interesting. The shows that really make me laugh are the ones that capture what is real for me. (Extra's, The Inbetweeners, Modern Family and The Original Office are just a few examples.)
This goes for anyone working on sketches too. As an exercise try asking yourself, “What is a revelation that would cost me dearly if I revealed it?” That is what your next sketch should be about. You can exaggerate it or "heighten it" for comedic affect, but in its core it should be something that truly matters to you.
It’s funny to me that millions of people watch the same TV show, eat at the same fast food restaurants and wear the same type of clothing. But we think we are all alone in the world when it comes to feelings and secrets. You are not alone. People laugh because you said something that they have felt and perhaps, never shared. To quote Homer Simpson, “It’s funny because it’s true!”
That’s my blog for this week. I must admit that I feel self-conscious about writing something that could be called “sappy” or “self-indulgent”. But it is a revelation that I wanted to share and I truly hope it means something to you as well. Thanks for indulging me. Next week I shall return to tales of jet packs, over weight zombies and the dangers of dating 80’s rock bands!
Thursday, April 15, 2010
WHERE IS MY JET PACK?!?!
You heard me. It is 2010 and if I want to transport myself from one location to another, my options are limited to earthbound devices. Why am I not pushing a small, red, hand held plunger that ignites the pack on my back to lift me (gently) into the air where I have the option of hovering or propelling myself headlong through the sky? What's the hold up?
Here are some of the things invented in the past 60 years; the remote control ('55), the birth control pill ('57), jet airliners ('58), Music synthesizers ('64), high yield rice ('66), smoke detectors ('69), Automated Teller Machines ('69)Cell Phones ('73), GPS ('78) and Prozac ('87).
The TV remote was invented in 1955! Do you know when the first TV show aired? Me either. I tried to google it but all I could find were a bunch of websites that talked about the first episode of Friends and how long it took Rachel & Ross to hook up. So let's just say TV started in the 30's. It took less than 30 years for scientist to say, "I am sick and tired of walking six feet to my television set in order to change the channel. To the lab!" And how many channels were even available in 1955? Two? Three? Again, I don't know. I'm not very good at utilizing the google search. But if you type in "Chuck Norris" and hit "I'm Feeling Lucky" that is some pretty funny stuff. Anyway, these guys were sitting there, six feet from the TV and they are so desperate to see what is on one of the other two channels that they invented a device to switch the station. It was no easy task. Nearly 400 men were killed in the building of the first remote control. The locals referred to it as "The Widow Maker". It was only spoken of in hushed tones and whispers.
Then we jump up to 1958 and look what we have here...The Jet Airliner. They are now so close they can taste it. Massive jets are breaking free of the Earth like Daedalus. (The much less famous father of Icarus. Why memorialize the one that ignored sound advice and plummeted to his death? His Dad was the one with a sound plan to escape King Minos' punishment for them both. But nobody remembers old Daedalus. You know what Icarus could of used? A jet pack.) But I digress. Hey brainiacs, how about taking the technology you invented in '58 and just making it smaller. Throw a couple of those jet rockets in the back of a knapsack, put on a football helmet and let's get this thing done!
In 1957 you created a digestible pill that would literally prevent the creation of human life. Since the dawn of time women have involuntarily released an egg. You made something that says, "Um, nope. No more of that, thank you." 53 years ago you had the technology to alter the very fabric of nature. Yet, I am still putting one foot in front of the other, like some kind of jerk, whenever I want to go someplace.
Don't even get me started on your high yield rice and your fancy Green Revolution! The same goes for your hoity toity smoke detectors, ATMs, cell phones and Prozacs. All would have been obsolete once the jet pack was invented. Oh my God, my house is on fire! Luckily I can just fly out of that hole in my roof IN MY JET PACK! I could use a little cash this weekend to see a movie....OR...I could just spend the weekend spinning around IN MY JET PACK! Hm, I wonder what my friends are doing at the mall. I could speak to them on a tiny voice box or I could just fly over there and hang out with them IN MY JET PACK! Prozac? Who could get depressed when they have a jet pack? I didn't forget Music synthesizers. You know what's cooler than a guy hovering with a jet pack? A guy hovering with a jet pack while playing the synthesizer. Throw that guy in a leather jump suit and now you have yourself an awesome 80's music video!
We are a divide nation right now. You want to get the Tea Baggers and the Tree Huggers to unite? Give them a jet pack! I long for the day when Sarah Palin says, "What's my International experience? I can see Russia from my jet pack." Every time I get on a plane, get in a car or place one foot in front of the other...the terrorist win.
Now, just give me my jet pack.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
In college I took a psychology class and I remember a study that stated if an individual shares something personal with a stranger, that stranger will be inclined to share something in return. In that spirit, allow me to share something about myself in the hopes of encouraging you to open up as well.
I have a deep and very real fear of zombies. Not zombie movies or scary TV shows that involve zombies. I, Jonathan Browning, am really afraid of zombies. Mentally I know that zombies don’t exist. Emotionally, I am terrified of them. Irrational? Welcome to my wife’s world. Rarely do I open a curtain at night without preparing myself to see a pair of dead eyes looking back at me. Much to my dog’s chagrin, walks are often cut short if a figure is spotted walking alone down the dark streets. It’s absolutely crazy but totally true.
Since I have lived with this fear for several years, I have had an opportunity to really reflect on the zombie lifestyle and my place in it. Here is one conclusion I have come to without a single doubt. If the world is overrun by zombies I will be little or no help whatsoever. Let me be perfectly clear on this point. I am not downplaying my abilities or acting humble in order to score sympathy points. I am just acutely aware that my ability to survive an apocalypse scenario in which the dead rise up to dine on the living is slim to none. Please heed my words, if you find yourself living in a world infested by zombies, do not look for me to be of any support.
Allow me to lay out my case.
I am in no physical condition to out run a zombie. I currently have to take a few minutes to catch my breath between putting on each of my socks. And sometimes there is a short nap before I “tackle those shoes”. That does not bode well for fleeing an army of running screaming zombies. One must be in top physical condition to elude these new “modern” zombies. Chasing down speeding cars, leaping out windows and running through the streets at high speeds is par for the course for these new fangled zombies.
I would barely have time to get out a girly high-pitched scream before they were upon me. And I would not go down with a valiant fight. After my weak slaps were deemed ineffective, I would simply roll up into a ball and soil myself. (This is exactly how most of the fights I have been in end. But unlike the school bully or the bouncer at the Irish Pub in Chicago, zombies wouldn’t find this action “sad” and “pathetic” and then leave me to wallow in my own shame. No, they would not be deterred by this underutilized fighting technique.)
You might be thinking, “OK. I’ll give you the new super fast zombies but what about the old school Night of The Living Dead zombies?” While my chances might look good against these zombies, it is a hollow victory. What these zombies lack in speed they make up for in tenacity. I don’t have the “never give up spirit”. At first I would be able to flee these slow shuffling abominations but for how long? Just ask my old gym teacher and he will tell you that I am a quitter. (He really wanted me to climb that rope but gravity had other plans.) But be careful, he still carries a bat around to do impromptu “cup checks”.
Maybe I am not fast or have a great deal of stamina. Surely when faced with certain annihilation the survival instinct would kick in and I would be a Kick-Ass Zombie Killer, right? And while I like to fantasize that I am the leading man type who would drive around the zombie-ridden landscape on a motorcycle shooting zombies with his sawed off shot-gun; I know that I am more likely going to be the guy whose plan to hide in an abandoned corn silo will go horribly awry. My demise would be a very macabre Three Stooges-like moment where the zombie slowly chases me around and around the base of the silo.
There is no way around it. I will be one of the first transformed into a zombie. But don’t feel bad for me. Becoming a zombie wouldn’t be the worst thing that ever happened to me. Let’s look at the bright side of zombification. I have never seen a selfish zombie. When a zombie spots some terrified survivor running for their life, that zombie doesn’t try and keep it under raps. That zombie lets out a moan to notify the other zombies in the area that food has been discovered. I am more selfish than zombies. In my current human state, I refuse to share the last creamsicle with my wife.
When it comes to frozen treats in my house, it's "Jungle Law"!
Zombies seem to find great pleasure in the small things. Specifically finding and consuming brains. Zombies don’t fret. They are very Zen about life. If zombies could articulate, I believe they would sound like a stoned monk discussing how you don’t “look for brains you find brains”.
I must admit that I do admire the complete lack of body issues that zombies have about themselves. They don’t attempt to cover a missing arm or compulsively pull on their shirts to hide a bulging belly. They are loud, they are proud, get used to it!
So, if you look out your window and see an army of undead marching toward you, there is no need to tell me to get a shotgun or to make a run for it. I am already either one of them or soon shall be. And I’m alright with that. As a zombie, I’ve got a good group of friends around me. I am relaxed, driven and completely free of self-judgment. (It’s a lot like being in a Frat without having to participate in the strangely homoerotic initiations.)
I hope that my opening up about my fear of zombies has inspired you to share your fears as well. FYI… I am also deathly afraid of mice. But that is a story for another time.
Today I wanted to write about discovering new ideas within improv and share my ridiculous, yet fun, strategy to overcoming the norm. But before we get there, allow me to first digress...
I'd say a lot of our inspiration within scenes is a direct result of what we've recently been exposed to, whether from conversations, books we've read, or television. I can't tell you how many scenes I've been in where we started off doing something outdoorsy and all of the sudden we realized that we're survivors of a plane crash, completely Lost on an island, and a black smoke monster comes in and kills all of us. Okay, that's not true...but you should get into Lost. It's a great show!
Through the years, I've seen my fair share of “traditional scenes.” You know, the ones about breakups, proposals, and firings; with the space work being limited to smoking, drinking, and eating. My guess is that this may be the result of all of us watching an exorbitant amount of Desperate Housewives, listening to too much Dr. Laura Schlessinger, and reading far too many US Weekly magazines. And whilst these scenes are entertaining, when done correctly, I'd argue that they can tend to be overdone. As an audience member, the last thing you want to see is a 30 minute show with 5 breakup scenes.
So what's my simple strategy for getting out of this routine and enlarging your scenic horizons?
Simple. Start watching and reading content that's entirely different from what you normally indulge yourself with. Doing so will make you more comfortable with other genres, eras, and styles. Go watch cartoons. Read fantasy books. Play sci-fi video games. It’s goofy, but I really believe this will start expanding your repertoire of characters and, in turn, your scenes will become more diverse. Scenes should still remain grounded and relatable, but every once in a while it's fun to see a scene with a couple of raccoon pirates going on mutiny because they’re forbidden to drink mead with the human pirates.
Why not give it a try? Now go do yourself a favor. Download some Darkwing Duck, purchase the Inheritance Trilogy, and rent Mass Effect 2. It’ll easily become the best day of your life.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
...isn't always a good thing. Riding on the coattails of last week, I decided today's best approach is to forewarn all of you "Yes, and..." Zealots on the dangers of always agreeing and heightening when off the stage. While "Yes, and-ing" is a wonderful addition to your life, there ARE indeed times, albeit rare, when it wouldn't necessarily be beneficial and you should probably just say "NO!"
Take these EVERYDAY occurrences for example:
Your wife asks you if she looks fat in her jeans. SAY NO! However, you agree, which makes her more insecure, and - because you're so generous with your tongue - you remind her that you have been trying for months to get her to sign up for Tae Bo (which we all know is what most UFC fighters train in.) As a result, she's giving you the silent treatment, and you now have to skip out on poker night in order to try to patch up that hole you put in her self esteem.
You're running a little bit late for a meeting, because that fail-safe trick of turning all of your clocks forward 10 minutes still isn't working, so you decide that the posted speed limit sign is just a suggestion. It's not. And now you've gotten pulled over by that "serve and protect" guy. When he asks if you knew you were speeding, JUST SAY NO! I'd say it isn't wise to respond by telling him you did know and that if he thinks that's bad, he should see the hog-tied body you have in your trunk... Probably wasn't a good time to abide by Improv For Dummies (Not a real book. I call dibs on the title.)
You are on a casual stroll in space and some martian bullies come up to you in a black hole and ask if you want to be probed. PLEASE SAY NO! But, once again, you decide to agree and now you're left as a single parent, trying to raise an inter-species baby in a galaxy where you already didn't fit in. Oh, and good luck trying to collect alimony from an alien. They're the worst.
Your friends invite you over to watch The Bachelor. NO!
Anyone want McDonalds for lunch? NO!
TSA asks if you have any firearms on your person. NO!
That's all for now. Just think before you act. Yeah...that's where I was getting at.
Monday, March 15, 2010
Towed. My car was towed. We must be vigilant, people. I parked where I should not have, and I paid a price. A hefty one. Why? Cause I was not paying attention to the signage. Signage is very important when driving and parking in L.A. If your head is in the clouds you might fall victim to the same fate. It all comes down to vigilance. Now, before I start sounding like ole Chuck Heston let me back up a pace. It was my own fault. But the fees incurred by parking and driving infractions are small fortunes. For having my car for less than three hours I was required to pay $246.00 plus a $60.00 ticket. Yep, $306.00. YE-IKES! It's these type of unexpected expenses that really jack up an otherwise very pleasant evening. So take a lesson from me, read the signs! Read em twice! If you have to ask somebody who lives in the building you're parking in front of, ask em. I am writing this as much for myself as for you, dear reader. I cannot let this happen again. Cause it's like throwing money into the wind, and watching it sail away. And I'd rather keep it in my checking account, safe and sound. xo
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
“Yes, and” for you improvisers is probably becoming second nature. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, in short, it means to agree and heighten. For example, if in a scene a teacher tells you they saw you cheating on a test, you agree by affirming what they just stated. “I was cheating.” (YES.) And you can tell good ol’ teach you were cheating “because you’re allergic to integrity.” (AND) Now we have a game established and can move on and continue to heighten with all the other times you were forced to commit heinous crimes because of your illness. P.S. I don’t think that’s a real disease. Check WebMD
The concept of “Yes, and” not only works well in scene work, but can be added as a valuable asset to your lifestyle if you allow it, and it’s a brilliant idea if you ask me. But just like The Force, my young Padawans, you must wield it wisely.
Recently, I caught eye contact with a lady in a parking lot. Being a cordial and friendly American citizen, I make it my goal that when I catch eyes with someone, to give them a warm smile.
TANGENT ALERT: I mean, is it really that difficult to acknowledge another person as a human being and use 12 or so of your 36 facial muscles to do so?! Once you have that down…try moving to a polite “hello” or even a nod. You’ll feel better about yourself. I must warn you though, this will eventually become second nature to you and, if you’re not careful, you may accidentally say hi to statues. There are 3 in my daily life that trick me on a regular basis. True story. END TANGENT.
Anyways…………this kind lady returned the gesture and smiled back. Unbeknownst to me, however, her husband was watching – not that I would have behaved any differently – and he came rushing over to me and firmly asked if I was flirting with his wife. Of course I wasn’t, but this was my big chance to prove my improv chops! To showcase to the world my talent! An opportunity to “yes, and” while also taking a big risk (another great choice in improvisation.) How could I pass up an opportunity this golden? I locked eyes with this rugged and much more powerful looking gent and said, “Of course I was, sir. And if given the chance, I’d do it all over again.”
I admit, I may be too quick-witted for my own good at times, and I never claimed to have common sense.
Rugged Powerful Gent’s frown deepened and his brow darkened. I’m certain rain clouds appeared in the sky and I swear I heard vultures soaring overhead in anticipation for their next meal. It was at this moment that I knew I had made a mistake.
As if in the scene from LOTR: The Two Towers (LOTR…that’s what us cool kids call Lord of the Rings) where Gandalf The White releases King Theoden from the curse bestowed upon him from Grima Wormtongue…
His face made a transformation into a St. Nick type smile and he burst out into hysterical laughter. He grabbed me, gave me a half hug/half noogie, and told me I made his day. He even brought all his friends back to meet me. And as the cliché goes, we all lived happily ever after.
Actually, now that I think of it, I just happened to get really lucky.
Monday, March 8, 2010
I've read some blogs. Hell, I've watched Julie & Julia. Twice. But I have never written one, so its my distinct pleasure to venture into the "blog zone" starting....now! Hello, people. Many of you whom I've met know I moved here in November. I reunited with friends who are transplants from my hometown of Detroit, Michigan, and am making new pals all the time. Moving here wasn't easy. Actually, it was very difficult. I guess the best things in life usually are (awww, look at me waxing philosophical). I am trying to recall meeting anyone who is actually from Los Angeles...still recalling...and, nope. I think its a really cool aspect of L.A. Most people aren't from here. If you happen to be born and bred here, it's no slam against you. I only bring up the diversity of hometowns to illustrate how brave our asses were to do this. I know I've only been here awhile, I'm sure this feeling will wear off. But for now I'm constantly trying new things, going new places, meeting new people. I'm going to attempt to keep the momentum up. So I go to, and/or play, in every show I can. I urge you, gentle reader (bite off of Ann Landers) to do the same! Go to see live theater in any form! Check out the improv jams around town. Why not do stuff like you just got here, too? I'm writing this blog for the next six weeks, and although it may not be in my comfort zone, it's something new and I'm glad to try. See you next week. Jaime xo
Sunday, March 7, 2010
Its been fun writing these blogs this term. Thanks for reading them, and for all of the kind words. I was especially encouraged by the people who claimed to not know about Armenian bashing:
"I knew there were Armenians...but I didn't know anyone disliked them!"
Anyway, I figured since this is a SC Training Center blog, maybe I should try actually writing something useful about the Second City before I wrap this bitch up for the term and hand it over to a new SC blogger (I feel you breathing down my neck, Granny).
Second City auditions have been on the student's minds here in LA. I've had the pleasure of conducting auditions for Second City dozens of times all over the country. Its always a great learning experience, and often a lot of fun. I think that word must get around somehow, because for years now - right before auditions, people usually find me and ask for some advice.
I'm happy to give it, as long as you don't mind me being blunt. And while I don't have any top secret trade secrets to reveal, I hope this helps a bit...
First, realize that an initial audition for Second City most likely an all improv audition.
So, you know, be ready to improvise.
You are probably only gonna get up on stage a couplefew times in the audition. I often hear people complain about this after the auditions. "But, I only got to do three short scenes." Look, bottom line is if you are good enough to get hired by Second City then you are good enough to easily display your skills in three short scenes.
They don't let people do 45 minute lounge acts in the American Idol auditions before Simon can tell if they are ready for the next round, right? They sing a few bars and everybody gets the gist. Same deal here.
So display your improv skill set and - this is important - make a strong, different character choice each time you come out.
Second, you're going to be playing with people you don't know, and sometimes they will be great. And sometimes they will suck. It doesn't matter if they suck.
If you are good enough to get hired by Second City then you are good enough to have a great scene with a bad improviser. TJ Jagadowski - one of the best improvisers in the world - did a scene in the SC ETC where he would pull a random person up on stage every show and improvise with them. And it would kill.
That show off.
Lastly, have fun and get out of your head! Improv is super fun, especially when you are playing with strangers in a weird room in front of a handful of auditors who don't laugh and everyone on stage with you is in competition for the same job.
I'm kidding, of course.
Look, its hard to relax in any almost audition setting. The only thing I can recommended for that is experience. If you want to be hired as one of the few people on earth to do improv for a living, you've got to be experienced enough to hang in any situation.
So keep taking those classes, and improvise outside of class with your classmates. Form troupes. Play anywhere and everywhere you can.
And have a great audition!
Friday, March 5, 2010
My nickname in high school was Granny, and apparently it’s my most fitting nickname because I’m feeling more and more like a grandmother lately.
Especially when I watch videos like this one about a Grandma commenting on Jersey Shore:
I, like the grandmother in this video, am appalled by the human trash on Jersey Shore. In fact, ever since Jersey Shore began airing, I’ve been lamenting the state of America. As a society, we’re at a point where we really can’t fall a single peg lower in human degradation on television. It’s been especially bothersome to me because I’ve been on a roll reading books about pioneer life lately. I know, dork alert! I loved the “Little House” books when I was little, and as an adult, I find that reading books like “Blue Stem” and “Pioneer Woman” has me marveling at how lucky I am to live in a time with indoor plumbing and heating and cooling systems. Not to mention refrigerators. And mattresses!
I read a story about a woman giving birth, totally alone, on the dirt floor of her sod cabin in Kansas. Her husband had gone out to get groceries – which was a two-day affair, walking over 12 miles each way to the one grocery store in Salina. While he was gone, she went into labor. So she delivered by herself, on the floor, cut her own cord, everything. She fainted four times during the process. No one was there to cheer her on, to examine how dilated she was, to give her an epidural! To catch the baby! And yet she persevered.
And then there was the guy who got third-degree burns trying to save his crops during a prairie fire. And the man who went out on an errand without a coat, lost his way and froze to death during a flash blizzard, leaving behind a wife and three young children.
These extraordinary people lived excruciatingly difficult lives to create a better future for their children.
And how do their progeny pay them back? We take steamy, pungent, colossal shits on them. Not a one of them would have come to this country if they knew the path they were on would lead to the human stain that is Jersey Shore.
Snooki, JWoww, The Situation, and all the rest of the cast: you are whores. Pigs. Bum shit on a sidewalk. It's really a shame your ancestors didn't die on the way over.
-- Granny (aka Megan Grano)
Sunday, February 21, 2010
There's a regional airline called "Spirit" that I hope you never have a chance to fly.
Spirit puts the low in low-budget.
The tickets are cheap, and service is lousy. The seats are horribly small and uncomfortable, the planes are overcrowded.
The employees are miserable.
Sort of like the gamblers in Downtown Vegas who are no longer allowed in the nice casinos on the Strip, some ugly shit had to go down in the careers of these flight attendants for them to even be working this evil little airline. They know this. And they are taking it out on you.
One time, years ago, some co-workers and I were booked by our company to fly the red-eye from LAX to Detroit Metro. (Spirit flys this route round-trip, once daily.) When we arrived at the gate, we were told that there was a five hour delay, meaning we'd be sitting in LAX until 5:30am before we even boarded. Upon asking why, the Customer Service Representative simply told us that the Spirit flight was delayed in Detroit because the "plane was broken."
That's what she really said. The plane was broken. But now it's okay or whatever, and they are on their way to pick us up. In that plane. The one that had been, you know, "broken" just a minute ago.
I used to know a guy that owned a comedy club in Michigan. He was a wacky guy, and not the sort that I would trust my wallet with. He claimed to be a part time pilot, but I never believed him.
Until the time I got on a Spirit airlines flight back home for Christmas and that goofy motherfucker was flying the plane.
Catch the Spirit! (That's their exciting slogan.)
People ofter complain about the low-budgetness of Southwest Airlines. But after catching the Spirit just once, anyone who has ever hated on SWA will fall to their knees and be thankful for those non-seat assigning, khaki wearing, comedy flight attendant having, low-budget-Gods-of-the-sky.
Anyway, Spirit was in the news last week because some guy claimed that Spirit threw him and his family - including his pregnant wife - off a flight because they asked for water. Even though that doesn't seem like sufficient reason any airline to eject anyone, the brain-dead media ran with it as if it made sense.
This naturally prompted Spirit to release a response, and explain what really happened. No bits, this is from their real press release:
-Spirit did not deny water to anyone. Beverages were offered for purchase just as we do on all of our flights.And so I say thank you, Dr. Roslin. You and your Spirit ball-kicking kid.
-The real story is that Dr. Roslin was escorted off the flight for violating federal law for interfering with a flight crew.
-He was causing a disturbance and attempted to incite other passengers to the point that another passenger started to cry in fear as a result of his behavior.
-He made verbal references to terrorism.
-His continued disturbance caused further delays to the flight.
-His escalating behavior was a safety risk to the crew and other passengers.
-His son kicked a Spirit employee in the groin.
-He had to be removed from the aircraft by law enforcement.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
In case you don't already know me, this is what I pretty much look like:
That's from my last round of headshots, which are supposed to look natural and be a honest representation of yourself. And yes, I often hang out in front of LA's one newsstand and lean against a parking meter.
Point is, I look like a white guy. Just a normal, regular, midwest white guy.
But I'm not.
I'm an Armenian.
Forreals. See, my Mom is 100% Armenian, which makes me 50% Armenian. But since I've got my Dad's Polish looks and last name, no one ever suspects it. (Although the big-ass nose oughta be a clue.) I am an Undercover Armenian. And growing up in Michigan, it wasn't much of an issue.
No one knows what Armenian is in Michigan, as there are virtually none of us there. If fact, my family used to joke about being "Romanian" since that's what Michiganders always thought we were saying. (This was similar to the old joke we'd have at Second City - Detroit. When we told people our place of employment they'd often say, "Circuit City?" With that kind of market penetration it's a hard to imagine why SC-Detroit closed. Twice.) So it would go like this:
"What nationality are you?"
"What is that?"
I never figured out how to answer the "what is that?" part. What is that? If you happen to be Italian, and someone said to you, "what is that?", how would you answer?
Familiarity with Armenians, however, is the least of my problems in Southwest California. You fuckers out here know exactly what Armenian is...and you hate us. I know this because I am an Undercover Armenian.
You say stuff like, "I just moved into a new building. It looked really nice at first, but as soon as I moved in I found out its full of Armenians."
And the people around you say, "Oh that's sucks, man. Sorry to hear that."
I know that you say these things because I'm standing right next to you. You're saying them to me. And this sort of thing happens often.
And I know, I know, we bring a lot of it upon ourselves. Armenians are an insulated, tribal group that are distrustful of outsiders. We even have a word, Odar, which Armenians will tell you means "non-Armenian." But if we're gonna keep it real, it kinda means "evil outsider."
But look, you can't survive as a people for thousands of years (Armenians are one of the few peoples mentioned in the Old Testament that are still around) in lands that are not your own without a strong tribal instinct. That, plus that little matter of 1.5 million killed in the Armenian genocide add up to some well-earned insulation.
Anyway, its weird to become a minority at 30 years old. Its weird to hear racist comments from people you've known for 15 years. It's weird to be an Undercover Armenian.
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
By: Marc Warzecha
One day I'll be old, and when I'm old, I hope I'm cool.
Last week, Larry King dedicated an entire hour of his show to the new highest grossing movie of all-time, Avatar.
He had on James Cameron and a bunch of the actors, including Steven Lang, who I gather plays the bad-guy-Marine-type-dude (I haven't seen the movie yet, as I have a non-conformist streak and don't really appreciate the way society is shoving this thing down my throat, okay? Plus to sit through any movie for 3-hours requires planning and the right mood. But the Pandora World or whatever it is does look cool, and the woman who played Uhura in Star Trek is hot, even when she's covered in cartoon. All right, I'll see it tonight.)
Anyway, Larry tells us that Steven Lang got to play the Jack Nicholson role in "A Few Good Men" on Broadway.
Then this happens. In fact, here's the transcript from CNN. com:
That's right, old-ass Larry quoted it as "you wouldn't know the truth." Hilarious. He sold the shit out of it, too. He gets better. (Or worse.) Later, they showed a clip of the movie where some of the characters are flying around in a helicopter type vehicle.
KING: Do you remember the movie, "A Few Good Men," where Jack Nicholson played that incredible part?
Well, Stephen Lang did it on Broadway and he was incredible with that -- that great line, right, you wouldn't know the truth?
LANG: You can't handle the truth.
Anyone who's lived on the earth for even just a few years would know that this vehicle doesn't exist in the real world, it is a fantasy movie creation. In fact, here it is:
After seeing this, Larry asked:
KING: What was it like to go flying around like that?
Larry King, you see, thinks they were REALLY FLYING AROUND IN THAT THING! And...that his viewers would like to hear about that experience, so he's asking a good question.
One day I'll be old, and when I'm old, I hope I'm cool.
You know, like Larry King.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
The Second City Training Center in Hollywood is honored to take part in LA improv Relief Week for Haiti - please come down to our theatre this week to support this important cause. The four major improvisation companies in Los Angeles (The Second City Hollywood, The Groundlings, Upright Citizens Brigade and IO West) come together to create a series of performance events called "LA Improv Relief Week for Haiti" to raise funds and support for the situation in Haiti.
Together, these four comedy institutions will collect donations from their patrons from January 24th-31st at performances at their venues. 100% of the donations will be donated to Haiti relief organizations.
LA Improv Relief Week will culminate with several of the theatres hosting their own events where ticket revenue and donations will be added to the cause (check individual theaters and their websites for details and additional information). IO West presents an evening of benefit shows on Thursday January 28. The Groundlings will host a series of special main company and alumni benefit performances on Thursday, January 28. The Second City Hollywood on Saturday January 30 will host an evening of "pay what you can" alumni performances and The Upright Citizens Brigade will offer Mercycat at their venue on Sunday, January 31. Check each venue for performance times, ticket information and donation opportunities.
Through laughter we will help them survive. Through surviving they will learn to laugh again.
Special Alumni Performances on SATURDAY, JANUARY 30TH
At the Second City Studio Theatre on January 30th, special alumni performances will begin as early as 5pm. Confirmed names for these shows include: George Wendt, Bernadette Birkett, Keegan-Michael Key, Larry Joe Campbell, Frances Callier and Angela V. Shelton ("Frangela"), plus many more!
Tickets will be pay what you can at the door with a minimum donation for some shows of $10. These tickets are only available at the door so come early to reserve your seat!!
Donations collected at ALL Performances January 24-31
We will be collecting donation at each and every performance in our theatre this week. Any donation large or small is appreciated. And at the end of the week, Andrew Alexander, owner of The Second City will match 100% the amount donated by our patrons.
Check out our website for show information. We have shows running every single night so whether you come to see Detention Hall, Ditka, CatNip, The Really Awesome Improv Show or any of our other fantastic shows, you can make a donation to the cause and be a part of helping to rebuild Haiti.
Tickets for all regular shows can be purchased online at www.etix.com (this does not include the special alumni shows on Saturday January 30).
Thank you for taking part in this effort to help a nation in need. With your help, the improv community in Los Angeles will make a huge difference in this tragic situation.
The Second City Training Hollywood