Friday, December 19, 2014

REPOST: Здравствуйте! and Comedians!

From June 1012, my post detailing my most perfect night of comedy watching.

Just saying hello to my Russian bots.  That's got to be a bot, right?  There's nobody in Moscow reading random old postings.  If there is a real person, my apologies!  There are many more interesting things you could be doing.  I mean, you live in motherfreakin' Russia.  You've probably wrestled bears wearing fuzzy hats and grey trenchcoats.  Probably during the process of getting them into or out of their clothes.  Why do you Russians put clothes on bears?

Last Friday, M & I went to the most marvellous comedy show.  The comics were Ryan Kukec (emcee), Sarah Adams, Neil Hamburger, Natasha Leggero, Tim Heidecker and Todd Barry, in that order.  It was at a restaurant downtown, which is why my husband managed to snag the best seats in the house, about 3 feet from centre stage.  I did not expect that.  It was a bit nervy to be that close, and I was on edge about it for the opening acts.  Did I mention that the house lights were also on, and that since the table jutted out (leaving no visible people in our periphery) it felt like we were billionaires putting this entire show on for our own benefit, in our comedy club room in the basement of our ecclectic mansion?  The fact that I wasn't sober magnified this effect greatly.  Rather than continue to shirk in our seats, we went with it.  We WERE billionaires for those few hours.

The edge of our table and the chair onstage - THIS CLOSE!
photo by Michael
I've started to despise critics and have mostly stopped reading reviews.  I've made a decision to never criticize anything creative unless asked to.  To date, nobody has ever asked me to rate their performance, so I'm betting this will be a piece of cake.  I think it's okay to proclaim your admiration, though.  I admired the hell out of everybody that night.

The character Neil Hamburger is portrayed by Gregg Turkington.  I think he is wonderful.  He shines a spotlight of reality that exposes the rot and decay on everything that is middle of the mainstream and lowest common denominator.  His character is outwardly repulsive, but he is also true; the opposite of beautiful falsity.  Not to overanalyze, I found him hilarious and I wanted him to go even further, all the way to hell.  These are dark times, which is why I've been hitting the sauce so much lately. So much = 2 beers. I'm light.

Natasha Leggero was up next.  She also has a bit of a stage character (though she is very genuine), but I was expecting actual rhinestones that looked like diamonds- I loved that her necklace was actually a string of sequins.  It's the little details that get me.  I'm afraid that I can't remember too much, other than that she was sharp, biting, intelligent, sexy and I wished she could have gone on longer.  Some of her material was familiar (due to the many times I've listed to her legally downloaded album Coke Money - but also because of that, I can't remember which of those bits were performed that night), and there was a lot of new stuff, but there was also a notepad of very fresh ideas.  I spent much of her half hour being mesmerized by her act in general and lost my breath every time she looked at me... yes!  We were so close that frequent eye contact with all of the performers was pretty much a given.

Tim Heidecker was magical.  Wow.  I can't imagine somebody more genuine, nice, positive, earnest.  I could have watched him drop the mic for hours.  It's like James Earl Jones reading the phonebook.  I don't know how he does it, other than to actually be whatever he happens to be in the moment.  It was the most amazing thing, and we really felt that we 'got' him in that space... unless we're idiots and there was another underlying message we didn't see and the joke's on us (I don't think so, though).  I don't even know if message is the right word, but for me, he is able to capture that instant of unguarded, vulnerable truth that absolutely everybody is capable of when they're not self consciously thinking everything to death, and stretch it out for half an hour.  We've booked off tonight to watch Tim & Eric's Billion Dollar Movie.

Todd Barry wrapped up the night.  By this point I was sober again (the waitstaff couldn't/wouldn't make the rounds) and his mellow voice was welcome as he smoothly pointed out the bullshit coating on many of the mundane things that you wouldn't think people would even bother bullshitting about.  The things that people don't even realize that they are bullshitting upon.  None of us are special, let's get over ourselves already. But in a funny way. Comedy!

It was the perfect mix of comedians.  It was a perfect night.  Well done Sled Island! Please keep the good comics coming. We'll be there.

I should get a tumblr

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Comedians to Look Up To

By taking a look at what a person likes, you might be able to tell what type of person they are. I think that's a fair thing to say. One o' my improv teachers said that your own specific theory of improv is revealed in what you decide to teach. It's difficult to know what your own style of improv looks like to others unless you watch yourself later on video, and, at least at my level, I don't think many of us have done that. It's probably a good idea to do so, but it's a scary one to me. I also don't think it's fair to for me to ask others about what I am like. I never really did before now, other than bothering my husband about my stage scenes (which I am stopping), though lately I've been a little more selfish in what I ask my teachers. The main question I have inside me is: But what am I like?? Do I deserve to take up brainspace in the people who have come to the show? Do I make sense when I say things? Do people think I'm playing a dumb person when I'm in thin-veil mode? Are my ideas boring and is everybody just ughhh? Is everybody being really nice... ... ...?

Here are some of the people in comedy that I can't get enough of:

1. Tim & Eric: I love their characters. Even when the personalities are outlandish and I-can't-believe-my-eyes-and-ears full, they are played in a way that I don't even notice that I "bought" the portrayal. In Bedtime Stories, they are each of those many characters and somehow always were.

2. Tim Heidecker: When we had the great fortune to see him in person, it was the most perfect night of comedy that I could imagine for myself. I'll drag that post out of my "drafts" folder (inside joke: I hide my past entries every year or so). Everbody was 10000% grande extra double double perfect but even so, he was my favourite. No, Neil Hamburger! No, Natasha Legerro! No, Tim Heidecker! Whoa, hold up, spoilers. Anyhoo, I have ALL of his albums, and I feel each of his songs and I feel him commit. That's the key, Ladies and Gentlemen, is his commitment. His promise to the heart of his character and his fealty to its soul. TH makes me want to do characters all the time and shows me that character is in the details. Earnest. It's important to be it.

I'm really just hung up on Timmy H right now since I have just watched Bedtime Stories, and if I do the same length of explanation for everybody, this is going to be really long, so I'm going to pause now. There is a list though, I'm not any sort of crazed fan, no b'y. They say that in Newfoundland. I was doing an older gent, sort of rural like the old Corner Gas guy or Wingfield Farm.

'Til the next time I pick up this gimmick. >salute<

Thursday, December 11, 2014

move on

Everybody's depressed, so it shouldn't come as a shock that I am. I know that I am. I haven't done all that much about it, other than admit it so that I can put it on the shelf and deal with it later. I know the whys and most of them are completely within my grasp to fix, or at least to attempt to. I could get up off this chair right now, and have the kitchen scrubbed and disinfected by the afternoon. It's silly that I'm not doing this. I have no excuse. But, no. Nah.

Causes of depression aren't cut-and-dried and the real hold-up isn't always one of the big obvious issues. I would think, anyway.  Cars can stop working because of a spark plug (they do, right? I should use metaphors I know about) and most furnace stoppages are caused by that stupid sensor that gets dusty. I think that mine, in a large part, is caused by a tiny switch that converts energy from potential to kinetic. I know what to do to make myself a perfect life, but I don't do it, and the don'ts build up and stop the ignition process. I'm capable of complete rebirth, whenever I want to. The desire is there and the ability is there, I'm just not turning the starter. Maybe I don't particularly feel like going anywhere. If I do, I'll just have to figure out what to do next anyway.

Well, maybe that's my New Year's resolution. I always seem to make them. This time, I feel that all of the usual resolutions, I can handle. Three minutes from now I could start P90X and have a hardbody by early spring, or install a label on every sparkling clean shelf in the house by the weekend. I remember my days of plugging in a podcast and going all day long, and then staying up to midnight. I recall that I thought sleep was a waste of time, and wondered why people would want to sleep in past 9 am. 6 months ago I could go and run a 10K whenever I wanted to, and I wanted to twice a week. Even now I think I'd be fine for at least the first 3K. Why don't I do it? Well, why would I? That's the part to focus on, finding the would again to take care of all these could/shoulds.

Resolution 2015: Reopen these roads that have become overgrown with disuse and move. on. down. the. line. Come on baby, light my fire.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

An embarassing story

People have a thing for embarassing moments. Back when I was still in poofy dresses, my grandma subscribed me to YM. I didn't get it at first. Half of me was excited that there were makeup ads and occasionally the word "sex", but the rest of me was still interested in the imaginary world of Barbie, with me playing every part. Also, I remember being disappointed that it wasn't Seventeen. The one thing that kept me looking forward to each new issue of YM was the Say Anything column. Readers (tween and teenaged girls) would write in with their most embarassing moments. I remember my stomach aching from laughter as I read these. Sometimes I would grab the entire stack and binge read. Each letter was crafted in a similar voice- no doubt the work of the columnist, translating handwritten (no computers) sagas of red-faced woe into the common tongue and boiling the funnysauce down to a reduction. Yes, I just wrote that. I couldn't stop myself. My favourite Say Anything entry was one I now suspect to be an urban legend: the dreamboat guy trying to be "helpful"at the pool by pulling a thread hanging from the girl's swimsuit- only to discover himself holding a tampon. Do they mean he pulled the thick string that couldn't possibly be hanging out far enough to grasp without it being considered sexual assault? Hmm.

What I think is embarassing has changed, but the shame remains the same. It's a feeling I have felt quite a number of times through my life. When I was a junior counselor at a summer camp, the cabins each had a slot to perform in a fun variety show held on the last night. We decided to perform Kris Kross' Jump as an airband. We spent hours on makeup and backwards-facing wardrobe. As the junior counselor I was going to be on stage with them but also keep in the background. It was such a fun and exciting afternoon and everybody was pumped. When it was our turn, however, all of the girls froze and dropped behind me, and some stopped dancing. I felt the pressure to save the girls and continue for them, and it was less excruciating than all of us standing there motionless. I looked around the room at the faces as I airbanded, and saw that some were bored, some were disbelieving, and a few were hostile. Three and a half minutes is a long time. One other girl kept up her invisible bass line and stood beside me, rythmically plucking away. Steadfast, those bass players. Solid.

A more recent episode of humiliation happened when I helped with costumes on a local production of Ben-Hur. I had to make a man's chest. That was the joke: two male actors were shirtless in a sauna scene, so when the female actor entered, she removed her shirt and would reveal a hairy man's chest. It killed. I really wanted to impress the theatre because I admired everybody, and also it was one of my first times costuming for them. I wanted it to be good. I went to the fabric store and got the same special skin-toned fleshy spandex used in figure skating costumes. I found thin foam to sandwich between layers to sculpt and quilt muscles. I bought realistic black curly doll-hair that I used a needle to embroider on. I brought out my paint set to add shading between the muscles. I added nipples.

Basically, I was an insane person, and perhaps the making of the chest is an appie leading up to the main course. It looked great lying flat on my dining table, a dismembered torso. I kept going back to look at it and was confident that it would go over really well. Since my house was on the way to rehearsal, one of the cast members was going to pick it up and bring it in. There was still twenty minutes, so I decided to try it on. I made it on a dressmaker dummy but I wanted to see it properly.

I'm not saying that I'm a special effects master, but the chest was realistic enough to enter uncanny valley and make me scream. I realized that a woman in a bare man chest is just as startling as seeing her real naked breasts, unless it is done in a cartoonish way to get a laugh. This was not funny, and the hair was also very realistic. I didn't have any time left to fix it. The actor was very polite when he picked it up, but I heard that the reaction at rehearsal was just as... horrified.

(the continuation of the story is that I spread around the hair and took off the nips to make it less realistic and it eventually worked. But still. It was a big hairy deal)

I don't know if either of these things would embarass me today. I've failed in a few more shows since my debut at Camp Pineridge, but that kind of failure is necessary to get any better at this showbiz stuff. It's too bad that audiences have to suffer for it, but it really does help the performer. The man chest? I did a good job. I can fix it. And if not, you know what? I'm a goddamn volunteer.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

I'm definitely getting over my recent, one-yearish long improv slump.

This is tricky to explain: I didn't feel self-conscious about an audience any more, but instead felt nervous about not giving my scene partners a good time, which in my opinion made me heady and suck a little bit. I think this past show week I was able to be a little easier on myself which in turn made me more confident that what I was giving was "good enough", which THEN possibly allowed my scene partners to trust me a bit more, and relax and yes and. I still feel anxiety at my scene partners not liking what I am giving them, but I think I'm finally chipping it away. The next layer down will be accepting MYSELF and trusting that I won't let me down. That one is going to be the hardest, I am not looking forward to it.

The special guests were a duo from Winnipeg, Bucko. Lauren Cochrane and Aaron Merke are masters of character. I wish their act had done another night, as it was just one 20 minute slot. I took the workshop they gave and I'm really glad that I did. Their style is elegant, though I don't mean that they play lofty characters all the time. They boil a character down to the simple truth and then show that in a genuine way, rather than "well, I'm playing an old person so I'll make my voice raspy *check*, my back stooped *check*, I'm holding an invisible cane *check*, I'll talk about prunes *check*...." I hope that whenever they return, there is more. They do shows in other cities, and Fringes, I think, so remember the name and go if you see it.

It's good to have all the loves for improv again. Passion reignited and flames growing. It was never gone, it was just dampened by life and circumstance. Next Show Week will be a new year.

Sunday, November 30, 2014