The Funk.

Growing up, one of my go-to chores was unloading the dishwasher. I hadn’t thought about that in a long time, but tonight, as I was putting away a handful of silverware in my now dishwasher-less kitchen, I had this vivid moment of de ja vu. (Or, if you trust the first impulse of my autocorrect, “de ja Vulcan.”)

There’s something so comforting about such simple tasks, in those rare moments when we slow down enough to recognize them. Like a scene straight out of Our Town, I started to feel nostalgic and thoughtful over the peaceful, predictable order of the dish drawer. No matter what, the spoons go here and forks can go there, and for 25 seconds or so, the world makes sense.

Life in general has felt not-that-simple of late. Just been in a funk. Not feeling creative. Feeling overwhelmed. Worried about the future. Painfully aware of being the only adult at the Kids Table on Thanksgiving (metaphorically. My family mixes it up at mealtime. But still). Just an overarching square-peg-in-round-hole feeling that I haven’t been able to shake. The feeling gets worse when I feel like I can’t write — then my go-to form of self-therapy is gone. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a Funk.

So tonight was The Skinny Improv Christmas Party, and I almost didn’t go. Simply because of The Funk, and the digging-in-of-the-heels that takes place on the Sunday night at the end of a long weekend. But thankfully, I forced myself into the shower and into my holiday sweater and drag-queen-worthy red high heels, and I followed the truest rule of de-funkification I know: Go to the party.

The sneaky sinisterness of depressed moods is their tendency toward isolation. Staying home when you’re bummed feels so right. Yesterday’s sweatpants and tomorrow’s worries feel like the perfect excuse to snuggle in and wallow. But wallowing’s no good. You have to go to the party.

Because that’s where the people are. People who, truth be told, are just as screwed up and weird as you are, in their own ways. But everybody’s figuring it out. This group especially. Just a bunch of big ol’ dorks we are. Improv draws an eclectic mix of performers and poets and introverts and extroverts and red fish and blue fish. (A pleasant side-effect: Our White Elephant exchanges are never boring.)

So I put an end to this Thanksgiving weekend, still overwhelmed and worried, but a little less so. Thanks to the dish drawer. And the party. And the healing powers of tacky Christmas sweaters. Blessed are they.

photo-9

Advertisements

Rainbows & Ends

This is a post about happy accidents. Changed plans. Taking a risk on something new. Knowing when you’ve reached the end.

So, then, where to begin… I’ve been mulling over this post for a full month now (anecdote #1 took place on April 22, a month ago exactly), but I haven’t been able to let myself sit down and write it until today. I was waiting on the right timing. And here it is.

On April 22, Matt and I were on our way home from a wedding in Memphis. I was driving. Matt’s iPhone GPS app was navigating. And, as I will go to my grave insisting, I was following every instruction from the automaton voice perfectly…right up until it told me to turn around. Because one of us (Me? Matt? Effing Siri & her big mouth?) had led us 30 minutes off course, on what was already a tired and rainy 5-hour drive.

I broke down (me, not the car), at some rest stop between here and Tennessee, half sad because I was sure it wasn’t my fault (it wasn’t! Effing Siri…), and half sad because, as I whimpered to Matt, “Now I have to go back to real life…” after a perfectly wonderful weekend. But I pulled it together and back on the road we went, tears dried and GPS audio muted.

On our way toward the right direction, Matt looked to our right and noticed a rainbow. Two rainbows, actually. One of them the brightest I’ve ever seen. (No hyperbole for the sake of the story, here. It was incredible. It looked fake. It was glowing.) I slowed down so he could snap iPhone pictures out the car window, and I had to roll my eyes at the happy ending moral that was writing itself for me:
Sometimes you have to drive off the path to discover where the treasure is.

///

That got me thinking: if it weren’t for a series of at-first-unfortunate events, I might never have been driving back from this wedding at all…

Jennie & I were freshman year roomies at Drury — but we weren’t originally supposed to be. Mid-summer before college began, I’d been assigned to a different hall, and Jennie had been assigned a swimmer student-athlete as a roommate. Through some unplanned switch-a-roo-ing on both our parts, we ended up with a new roommate assignment after registration day: each other. I remember the phone call from my admission rep telling me the new situation, and how I was a little bit apprehensive to hear she was from Memphis. (What if this stranger — from a Big City — didn’t like me? She wouldn’t know anyone else at first…and what if she thought I was a nerd? [She would. I am.] What if she liked bad music? Or was mean or messy or loud? 18-year-old me had some strict priorities…)

But I remember another phone call, the first time I talked to Jennie. Something about the smile in her voice (and the simple relief in discovering we both dislike scary movies…) put me at ease. And on a rainy day in August 2002, I met the bestest of friends. It’s funny to think that one random change of plans has ended up shaping so much of my life and led to so many good times and adventures — including her wedding in Memphis one month ago.

///

So that brings us to today, as I’m thinking about the decision I made last week to quit The Skinny Improv. There are no hard feelings, there is no Big Reason, just the simple fact that after 5 years of performing, it’s time for a break. My time at The Skinny was a happy accident in its own way. I’d taken a couple of classes and done a few small shows, but in fall 2007, after almost two years, I was starting to feel a little disenchanted. Like maybe this dream just wasn’t for me. I almost didn’t even go to the workshop where I found out about performance intern auditions — which were happening the following day. Fast forward a few months later, and I was on mainstage full time (thanks to some well-timed exits of other well-loved performers), and I was happier than I’d ever been in maybe my whole life.

But now I’m ready to say goodbye.

Last weekend I told people that it felt a little like graduation day… I’m reluctant to leave but eager to see what’s next; nostalgic and warm-fuzzy over the faces and spaces I’m about to leave behind.

Kristen Wiig’s final night on SNL was Saturday as well. It ended in a little graduation sketch with Arcade Fire singing “She’s a Rainbow” with Mick Jagger just offstage. Again, no hyperbole for the sake of the story… but when I watch the goodbye clip below, I get a little emotional. For two reasons:
1) I worship her & this show. Plus I’m a total schmaltz, and I just love a well-played poignant moment. It’s perfect.
2) I’m not Kristen Wiig (yet, you guys. Yet.) but I am grateful to know what it’s like to perform (and work. and fight. and make up. and laugh. and laugh and laugh.) alongside your (got-your-back) friends.

This happy ending moral is harder to accept: you can love something but still have to let it go. If you never step off your path or change your plans, you may never find new dreams. Or old friends. Or rainbows.

D is for David Wain

Well, so C got real for a minute there, huh?

After two amazing shows at The Skinny last night (seriously, they were good. Where were you?), I realized that I could have picked C is for Comedy, and then I could’ve written all day. So to keep with that theme, and to keep today from somehow becoming D is for Debbie Downer, I’m picking one of my favorite D-name persons in all the land:

D is for David Wain

You might know him for his movie Role Models.
You could know him for Wet Hot American Summer or STELLA.
You should know him for The Ten or Childrens Hospital or Wainy Days

(If you don’t, go ahead and google all these things and school yourself. We’ll still be here when you get back.)

Soon you will know him for Wanderlust, opening in February, his latest film (writer/director) starring Jennifer Anniston and Paul Rudd.

mmm...90s Paul Rudd

(*Sigh* Let’s pause for a quick diversion to reminisce about those two and their 1998 collaboration, The Object of My Affection. My cousin Jennifer and I watched that movie over and over when we were in middle school. And I can only giggle about it now. I mean, let’s have a moment of silence for the fact that one of my favorite chick flicks during my formative years has the following as its imdb description: A pregnant New York social worker begins to develop romantic feelings for her gay best friend, and decides she’d rather raise her child with him, much to the dismay of her overbearing boyfriend. As George & Nina’s dance instructor would say, “Head up, young person!”)

Meanwhile, here’s Wanderlust:

D is for delightful.

I watched Wet Hot American Summer for the first time in 2006, with a group of RA friends while working at a summer camp for gifted high school kids. (I know. It doesn’t get better.) In the years since, I have fallen absolutely, purely and completely in love with David Wain. Sure he’s older, and married, and in many ways not at all my type… (Turns out there’s a lot a girl will overlook for the perfect sense of humor.) And David Wain’s humor is perfect to me—even when it’s imperfect…say, The Ten—it’s perfectly absurd and subversive and broad and subtle at the same time…

The State

Plus I envy the fact that a core group of comedians that he works with have been together since their days at NYU (followed closely by the MTV sketch series The State, which I’m too young to remember but have since discovered on Netflix.) Just look at the roster—it’s a lot people you’d recognize from movies and TV, looking unbelievably young and adorably 90s.

As a girl who gets to spend many a weekend making up funny things with her friends, I am envious beyond words when I see groups of funny people who get to do that for real. There’s a lot of cross-pollination in the funny-people world. In fact, I just remembered this infographic from the last comedy issue of GQ (it had Mila Kunis on the front, sexily sipping some Starbucks, so I felt awkward keeping the issue on my nightstand. Did it anyway.):

D is also for dreams…one of many of which is to someday meet and work with David Wain, or at least find my way into collaborative funny work with friends of my own.
We could do it, kids. I can almost see the flow-chart now…