"I would like you to pay attention to what happens on August 16-17... As I mentioned just now, various parts of your life are likely on fire. If your birthday falls on June 15 (mine is the 16th), you are feeling massive change." - Astrology Zone Gemini Forecast for August 2011
For giggles, I sometimes check out my astrology forecast. You know. Just so I have something to blame when all heck breaks loose and I need a good excuse. Everything is in the shitter? Darn you, Mercury in Retrograde! Saturn is crossing paths with Uranus AGAIN? (*note: I have no idea if that is a real thing)
But, there have been some huge changes this month, each deserving of their own blogpost. The culmination of all these changes has been a general push towards, "Get off your arse and do something. Anything. Anything at all! Time is ticking!"
(*Please note the August 16th date. There will be a quiz at the end of this blog post.)
One such wake up call was actually in the form of a phone call last week. I started training last year at The Groundlings. I got through their Beginners and Intermediate and, after nine months off, got the call that I'm getting close to the top of the list for the writers lab.
For those of you outside of the Wonderful World of Sketch & Improv, this is probably the most panic inducing call you can get out here. Your brain becomes aswirl with thoughts of, "Crap! What have I been doing with my nine months!" It's like your SAT test. You knew since you were a freshman you should be boning up, but unless you had a tiger mother dragging you away from Night Court reruns every afternoon, The Day of the SATs probably left you thinking maybe you should have spent a few more evenings cramming and a few less nights trying to figure out if McGuyver REALLY could have freed himself from that underground vault with a stick of bubble gum and a shoelace.
But this was just the "Pre-Panic" call. I would have plenty of time to panic later. Unless... *as the thought formed itself*... unless one could proactively invest one's self in one's own future and CHANGE TEH COURSE OF CAREER SELF DESTRUCTION.
The Groundlings, for you folks who worry about things like building rocket ships and saving cancer babies instead of fretting over being able to make up songs about proctologists* on the spot (*for the love of god, if you ever go to an improv show, do not shout out "proctologist"), is a theater here in Los Angeles. It is the Yale School of Drama to the sketch and improv world. Phil Hartman? Groundling. Pee-wee Herman? Groundling. Will Ferrell? Groundling. Kathy Griffin? Jon Lovitz? Lisa Kudrow? 90% of the cast of Saturday Night Live*? Groundlings. (*not sure if that is a real statistic. But it FEELS like a real statistic)
But more importantly, they don't just have this reputation because of a reputation. They are achingly funny. Their shows will hurt your face. Their brains will make you feel like the village idiot. You will DIE* from laughing so hard. (*you will not actually die)
But because of their Reputation Of Where All Things Funny Come From (please see: "People Ignoring That The Main Company Is Actually Insanely Talented And Not Just Automatically Famous), everyone and their sister tries to get into their classes. And you get one shot. That's it. One shot and then you are cut and you are NOT ALLOWED back into the Clubhouse to try again. EVER. Because there are 12.2 million kids in the queue. So you had better be ready.
So... I decided yesterday it was time to get ready. Not that I'm fooling myself into thinking I'm good enough to ever be a part of them, but because I started the classes last year because I really and truly wanted to know what they know. My entire sketch/improv journey these past four years at the Acme and UCB and The Groundlings and Theater Asylum and Impro has been because of a quest for the answer to, "How?" Once I get into the lab, if I fail, I can't go and take their special workshops on writing and singing and characters. The opportunity to learn "How do they do that?" will be over.
So, I decided to dip my toes back in with going to a show - their Lottery show. As a graduate of Intermediate, I was eligible to put my name in a bucket and, if chosen, get up on stage and improvise with their main company* (*See: The Chosen Ones of Comedy. Gladiators of The Gauntlet of Funny. Honored War Survivors.)
I arrived and sat down in their gorgeous theater. It was completely sold out. I struck up conversations with the folks around me. They were just people there to see a show. They weren't students... they didn't know anyone in the cast... they were actual... audience members... just coming... to see... a... show... *brain malfunction*
The lights dimmed.
The director, Mitch Silpa, comes out with the buckets. Puts his hand in.
And pulls out my name.
I ran down the aisle like I just got called on the Price is Right.
Because I kind if did.
Last night, for a blessed forty five minutes, I got to improv with the insanely talented Edi Patterson, Jeremy Rowley, Christen Sussin, and Taran Killam. I was directed by Mitch Silpa. I've been watching these guys for years. And I was on stage. WITH. THEM. *cue Elvis fangirl swoondom*
I can't even describe what it was like sharing a stage with them and watching them work. The ease. Their ability to delve into details. To sit there and trove the moment for truth and nuance. And I gotta say, I held my own in our Neighbors Feuding Over The Merits of X-Men 2 vs. X-Men 3 scene.
I've been replaying the night with "should have/could have/would have"s, but not in the beat-yourself-up way. In the, "OH! This is how you can make it better!" sort of way. Answers! I got ANSWERS! I walked out feeling so inspired and in awe and honored... and hungry.
The whole night feels like a dream - but it was one of those things where no matter what happens in my life from here on out - once, just once, I got to be on The Groundlings stage. And I got to play with The Groundlings.
*cue quiet moment of reflection as we sit, staring at the sun rising over the Hollywood sign on August 17th*