Thursday, January 31, 2008

Someone recently posted an entry about Whirled News Tonight on Wikipedia, a communal on-line encyclopedia. Basic stuff, who's in it, how long it's been running, a little about the 'Kyle's in a Coma' pilot for NBC's Dot Comedy that we shot in 2006.

Apparently it's been earmarked for possible deletion. "This article may not meet the general notability guideline."

I use Wikipedia a little for research at work (although not too much because there's a lot of misinformation on the site), but I've never really mucked around in the inner-workings of the Wiki-community. I don't peek behind the curtain.

But as I understand it the wiki-question is... is Whirled News notable, or "worthy of notice"? Kind of a heavy existential question.

I'm curious to find out the answer.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Evan, a software engineer at Jellyvison, had a CD release party at Schubas, for his self-released album, 'One Pair of Shoes.' He had a steady stream of guest performers join him on stage. His brothers, his neighbor, Thea, who used to work at Jellyvision (and plays with the band Let's Get Out of This Terrible Sandwich shop).

The album itself is good. He's been described as "a cross between Leonard Cohen and 'Weird Al' Yankovich" by the Onion and his ex-girlfriend's mother. That's a pretty apt description.

My favorite song on the album is 'Breaking Up,' a sort of cell phone break up song.

Evan: That's everybody's favorite. It's because my brother's girlfriend sings with me on it. She has a great voice.

She does. But I also really love the lyrics.

"We used to get along
Our signal once was strong
When I had four bars, you had four bars too
But now there's only static
Your voice comes through erratic
And I think I'm losing you
I'm losing you"

In improv we sometimes call that "mapping," taking the language of one thing and applying it to a different situation. It's really just another way of saying "extended metaphor." They're my favorite kind of scenes to do, because they involve word play but also open the door to talking about relationships.

That's why I love that song. It's funny to realize that the language of a cell phone connection "breaking up" can be related to a failing relationship. But it's also just the right kind of heartbreaking to hear a beautiful voice croon, "I'm losing you," and to know how that feels.

It works better as a song. Listen to it here.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Steve and Jordan (right) shot some video for a (so far nameless) project we're working on. They haven't been able to upload the footage to a computer, though. Steve took the camera to Best Buy to make sure they were using the right cord.

Steve: Literally everyone is working on internet content right now. The customer service girl at Best Buy had iMovie open on her Mac Book. She said, "Sorry about that. I'm editing my movie right now." I expected her to say she has a series deal with Super Deluxe.

Monday, January 28, 2008

I've been rewatching old episodes of 'Mystery Science Theater 3000' that I've borrowed from Shane's extensive collection. Terrible B-movies watched by a guy and two robot puppets who make wisecracks throughout.

I remember being in high school and loving the show, my mind boggling at the fact that that was someone's job. Just coming up with those jokes. I remember having similar feelings about the computer trivia game You Don't Know Jack. Someone gets paid to write these questions and these jokes.

MST3K doesn't exist anymore. But You Don't Know Jack does. In fact, that's my job now, writing those questions and those jokes for the on-line game.

One of the question types that I write is called a Dis or Dat. A list of things flash by and you have to guess if it's, say, a Muppet, a character from the musical 'Grease' or both (Zoot, Frenchy, Rizzo).

Today I tried to write a Dis or Dat inspired by my recent MST3K viewing. Riffing off a news story that 'Cloverfield' is making movie-goers vomit, I pitched "anti nausea drug or Godzilla-like movie monster." Dramamine, Barugon, Reglan, Rodan, Cannabis...

Couldn't quite get it to work. But that's what I do all day.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Diplomat Motel rehearsal at Sheil Park. We're experimenting with a new rehearsal schedule to accommodate the growing demands of everyone's, well... lives.

Before rehearsal we were joking around about finding running orders for sketch shows posted back stage at the theaters. No matter how good a sketch show is, the running order always makes it sound stupid.

Cesar (pictured) told a story about overhearing a tech rehearsal for a sketch show where the performers had put all the sound effects for the show on one track of a CD.

Cesar: The tech guy was like, "Why didn't you just make every effect its own separate track?" And they were like, "Don't worry about it, it's timed out perfectly. There's the car noise, and then the exact amount of silence until we need the next sound."
Martin: Oh no.
Me: Oh man. That's a recipe for disaster.
Cesar: They were saying things like, "There will be a big laugh here and then the explosion sound will happen."
Trupe: "Oh no. They stopped laughing! You're supposed to laugh for another twenty seconds!"
Me: Or they could laugh too long.
Timmy: "Stop laughing! We have a sound!"
Me: "Well, it's my own fault for being slightly funnier than I was supposed to be."

Saturday, January 26, 2008

A baby shower for Shane and Clair.

It seems like an unusually high number of improvisers are having babies these days.

There were several shower-games. One involved cutting a length of ribbon to see who can come closest to Clair's exact pregnant circumference. I'm not much of a guesstimator, so I puffed out my own stomach as far as I could, wrapped the ribbon around my own waist and cut it off to match my own measurements.

I came very close to winning. In fact, the ribbon fit around Clair with about five or six inches to spare.

Me: This idea really backfired on me.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Meador is now in his second week of nursing school. He's started a blog about it.

As he wrote in an early entry, "In the lab, we use manikins (yes, it is spelled correctly) to practice skills. Today we gave a bedbath, changed linens, used bedpans, practiced getting patients out of bed, and learned how to use various restraints. I saw a lot of plastic perineums."

The manikins seem pretty high tech, simulating heartbeats and various other body noises. Here I imagine Meador is thinking, "Sounds like... incomtrol?"

Meador: [via e-mail] My blog needs a name and I hope you guys could help me with it. All I can think of is 'Bedpans and Broomsticks.'
Young: I would call it 'Straight to the Heart.' Then tomorrow at school, open up somebody's chest cavity.
Me: 'For Better or For Nurse.'
Hansen: I'd call it 'GAY! The story of a gay student nurse who is gay.'

Meador went with 'Bedpans and Broomsticks.' You can check it out here.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

I'm trying to think if I've ever enjoyed an e-mail with a subject that began, "Fwd: Fw: FW:" Probably not.

I don't get that many mass-forwarded e-mails anymore, thankfully. Maybe there aren't as many of them out there these days, more likely I just don't get them. The ones I do get are usually religious (Mom sent me a chain-letter that, if I was reading it correctly, was started by the Virgin Mary), patriotic, or religious and patriotic.

I recently received one entitled, "The Atheist and the Marine." It's about an ex-Marine taking a college class and the professor proclaims there is no God and if there is a God he should knock him off his pedestal in the next fifteen minutes. This is the kind of zero gain proclamation that is only made by characters in stories that are being set up for some kind of obvious comeuppance.

Anyway, let's skip to the end. With only a couple minutes left, the professor yells, "Time's almost up, God," and the Marine gets up and cold-cocks him. When the prof regains consciousness, the Marine explains, (punchline) "God was too busy today protecting America's soldiers. So, He sent me."

Assault, basically, right? You'd think any reasonable religious patriot would not want to forward this story along, since it paints those values in such a grotesque light.

Oh well. Here's what I thought was funny about it. The subtitle. I suspect the author meant to say something along the lines of, "stories don't get any better than this," but what they did write, "this doesn't get any better," is probably a more accurate warning.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Dad recently had his 500th win at the university where he coaches basketball in Hometown, Ohio. The school surprised him with a bobble head doll in his likeness.

Mom: [via e-mail] He thought it was funny yet nice.

They've started selling them at the games for $12.

Mom: Lots of relatives at dad's games and many bobble heads bought!?!?! Aunt Janice bought 5 and Aunt Mary bought 4 and I don't know how many Aunt Judy bought!?!

Mom sent me one in the mail. I have it on my desk at work. The back of the box has a long list of his achievements. GLIAC Coach of the Year. NABC Great Lakes Region Coach of the Year. Ohio College Basketball Coach of the Year.

When people find out that my dad is a basketball coach, they always ask how he feels about the fact that I write and do comedy and that I'm completely unathletic. As far as I can tell he's fine with it. He's always been supportive and lets me know that he's proud of me.

I wonder if he knows how proud I am of him.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Sarah and I went to see the movie 'Cloverfield' last night. A monster attacks New York City, and the whole thing is shot from the point of view of a party-goer with a digital video camera. A pretty fun movie if you can get past the questionable choices the main characters make.

Sarah: I just had a hard time believing they would all start heading towards where the monster is to save a girl they don't even know is alive.

One of the movie's stars, the party-goer with the camera in fact, is a Chicago improviser (although really more of a local stand-up), Miller. Last year Miller was performing in Chicago improv theaters and comedy clubs, this year he's on a (bad) television series and in a (good) movie.

I didn't really know Miller, never talked to him. He seems to have alienated a lot of Chicago people with his constant aggressive self-promotion (and there are lots of stories about him getting drunk and yelling to a bar full of people, "None of you are going anywhere!"), but his work has paid off, and a lot of people respect that too. I get the sense that he deserves what he's gotten. The (good) movie, the (bad) TV show. As for 'Cloverfield', I thought he was easily the most likable character.

Sarah: If I was stuck in an apartment in midtown Manhattan during a monster attack, would you come and save me?
Me: Uh... yeah. I would. Within reason.
Sarah: What do you mean by "within reason?"

Monday, January 21, 2008

During the baby shower yesterday, Meador tried reading a Disney Princesses storybook to Nick's daughter, Jane. It was one of those books with buttons on one side that you push to make sounds and phrases come out of a tiny speaker.

Meador: I can't figure out what she's saying when I push this one button. [holding speaker up to ear] It sounds like... "incomtrol"?
Me: Income troll?
Wonak: Maybe they're teaching the importance of proper financing.
Meador: It sounds like incomtrol. [handing book to me] Here, you listen to it.
Me: [holding speaker to ear] Uh... I'm pretty sure she's saying, "Dreams come true."
Meador: What? [listens again himself]
Jane: That's what I tried to tell him!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

A baby shower for Trupe and Wonak.

It seems like an unusually high number of improvisers are having babies these days.

These things come in waves. One year everyone's getting married. Another year everyone's having kids. Improvisers, as a group, tend to make poor life decisions and delay adult responsibility as much as possible. So when you hit that wave of improv friends having babies, you know you're pretty far out to sea. (Speaking of being out to sea, I think I've followed this metaphor so far out I can't see the shore anymore.)

The shower was mostly Backrow cast members. The Backrow has a high baby to person ratio. There were four kids running around, being cute.

Wonak: Our baby better be this amusing.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Backstage before the Whirled News show, Chin, our director, was talking about being a kid and how he rented all three original Star Wars movies and, using two VCRs, made a tape of just the lightsaber battles.

Chin: I cut out everything else. And then I recorded the whole thing again right after that, so I wouldn't have to rewind.

He labeled that tape, "Lightsaber Fights! (Don't Erase)"

Chin: I wish I still had it.

To warm up for the show we did Three Things, with a slight variation where, after the designated person lists off their three things, everyone in the circle quickly adds something of their own to the list.

Glynn: Arnie... three other tape loops Chin recorded as a child.
Me: Okay... uh... The "previously on" segment from every episode of 'Scarecrow and Mrs. King."
Everyone: One!
Me: A tape of those old commercials for the mail-order Stephen King library.
Everyone: Two!
Me: Just a loop of "Sit Ubu, sit. Good dog."
Everyone: Three!
Young: My turn? Uh... 22 episodes of Voltron unedited in the original Japanese.
Glynn: Eight hours of the Emmy winning 'Family Ties' episode 'My Name is Alex.'
Eddie: A tape he made of himself with his junk stuffed back between his legs.
Padraic: Every sequence beginning with "Captain's log, stardate..."
Shane: All scenes of Kirk fighting Kirk.

Friday, January 18, 2008

When the temperature dips to five degrees (with cutting winds making it even colder) not a lot of people come out to see improv. There were maybe seven people in the audience tonight, with a few more at the bar.

They were an appreciative crowd, though, maybe just happy to be alive, laughing a lot and generally digging the shows. I don't really use this term, but if you wanted, you could call them a "hot crowd" and enjoy the ironic wordplay.

There was one guy, though, front and center in the audience, that did not seem happy. His date laughed and clapped, but he sat there scowling with his arms crossed. He looked like he wanted to fight improv. Every once in a while a joke would sneak past his defenses making him smile despite himself. Each time he would immediately look down, hiding the smile away, and then vigorously rub his face with his hands, as if to wipe the joy away.

I wouldn't notice him in a bigger audience. He wasn't aggressive about it, just vigilantly self-protecting, as if finding something funny was a vulnerability he couldn't afford.

And for a second I thought, he's my opposite. But that's not true. We all have our defense mechanisms. It's just that my shield is funny.

Funny enough, anyway.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

I was supposed to participate in a 'Halo 3' grudge match on XBox Live between Chicago improvisers and New York improvisers. Unfortunately, Young's XBox 360 started flashing the red ring of death, so I had to drop out. It's okay. I'm terrible at 'Halo.'

Still, while the XBox is off getting repaired, I'm not going to be able to play the stack of games I've been meaning to finish/start (that stack is on top of the stack of books I've been meaning to start/start). For the next few months, no more exploring the watery objectivist city of Rapture, no more rocking out with my Rock Band band, Secret Boyfriend, and I can't even begin to figure out why "the cake is a lie."

This might be a good time to work on my numerous neglected creative projects. I haven't updated my sketch comedy podcast, Premisey, in months. I have a series of six videos about the end of the world that I shot four years ago and I only ever edited half of them. Then there are various screenplay ideas, and the cooking show I always half-jokingly say I want to do.

Or... I could play some Wii games instead. 'Super Mario Galaxy' here I come!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Over the years I've mostly heard the same thing from people after their Second City audition. "Eh. It wasn't great." No one ever seems to be happy with how they did. Sometimes you hear great stories of things going disastrously wrong, but usually its just a resigned sense of mediocrity.

I wish I had a different story about my audition, but I don't. I would classify my few improvised scenes as "competent but uninspired." I think my biggest flaw as a performer (and maybe as a person) is that I'm just not aggressive enough. Even as my audition group ran through some warm-up exercises outside the ETC theater, I started thinking, "Uh oh. You're not getting out there enough. Get out there. Do more scenes. Why are you hesitating during the warm-up?"

I also don't really do a lot of characters, which may have hurt me in the "we're looking for a wide range of characters" exercise that made up the bulk of the audition. I played a Frankenstein monster who talked exactly like me, a woman (that may have only been distinguishable as a woman because my voice was slightly more lilting and I was pretending to hold a cake), and a guy who talked slightly louder than I normally talk. I finally got myself to trot out an attempt at a cockney accent that went pretty well, but in retrospect, I think the scene right before had someone else doing a vaguely similar accent.

None of this was bad exactly, just, you know, competent but uninspired. I don't expect to get a call-back.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A few improvisers got together over dinner to discuss a possible project. We met at Alex and Megan's new(ish) condo. It's an amazing place, big and clean and very adult.

Me: You two look nice. Very put together.
Megan: This is how we do dinner every night.
Me: You look like a commercial. Like a commercial for dinner.
Alex: "Dinner. Put Some Effort Into It."
Me: "Hey Amercia, Get Yourself Together! Have Some Self-Respect When You're Eating a Meal!"

I pulled out my camera.

Jordan: Is this for the blog?
Me: Yeah. You're about three feet away from being in the blog. How do you feel about that?
Jordan: Oh man. How about I get my hand in there? Just my hand in the picture. Come on!

Monday, January 14, 2008

My boss, Amanda, reads this blog, as do several people at work..

Amanda: I don't a care what the new blog is about as long as I'm a major character.

When I first started working at Jellyvision, Amanda came to see Whirled News Tonight. Afterward she said, "You're funnier at work."

Today, while I was taking Amanda's picture, Harry walked in. Harry is Amanda's boss and the founder of the company.

Harry: Amanda, stop trying to get on Arnie's blog! Shameful.
Me: Should I take a picture of the two of you together?
Harry: Oo, yeah. Here, let's make it look like her head is resting on my hand. A perspective shot.
Me: Sure... uh... it might look better if you're holding her head from above...
Harry: [climbing onto a desk] Yeah... if I'm up here...
Me: I don't think you need to climb up... well, okay...

Then we all had a confidential conversation about various work projects.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

My Second City audition is later this week. I'm supposed to wear "Second City attire" and bring a headshot.

I don't have headshots. I don't audition for commercials. I don't audition for anything. I don't have headshots.

I'm not too worried about it. I thought maybe I'd just use this stupid photoshopped picture of myself(/myselves) that I once gave to Young as a gag gift.

Young: Don't.
Sarah: Don't.
Me: Why not?
Young: It's unprofessional. You'll come off as some random person from, like, Toledo who doesn't have headshots.
Me: That's not so far from the truth.
Sarah: They'll think you're trying to be funny.

They have a point. There are few things worse in comedy than trying too hard to be funny. It's more forgivable to simply not be funny than to try too hard. Still, for lack of anything else, I may use it anyway.

Me: It's headshot shaped.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The new iO schedule just came out. New schedules come out every two months, and that's how teams find out when their shows will be and, to put it bluntly, if they still exist at the theater.

Here's, (hopefully) quickly, how iO works. There's a training center. Students take classes. After a year of study some students are pulled from the training center and put on teams (it used to be that nearly everyone made it on a team eventually, but with the glut of students there are less and less spots for new teams and new performers). The theater decides who will be on what teams (and by "the theater" I mean some combination of Charna, the training center teachers and a commission of veteran improvisers... not, you know, a magical sorting hat). Over time teams get better (or worse) performance slots and have members added (or taken away). This can go on anywhere from two schedules to, say, six years, before a team is inevitably cut. A few rare teams decide to retire, but most teams just get cut.

This is how the theater juggles the massive number of paying students wanting to perform, the sizable number of long-term performers, and quality control. It's an imperfect juggling act, some performers end up feeling alienated, and sometimes some shows are terrible. But some performers flourish and some shows are amazing. Most of us are in the middle.

This old paper schedule from 1995 is taped up in the downstairs light booth (or at least it was until the recent repainting). There are 19 teams listed (there are, I think, 28 these days). My non-expert eyes recognize about 20 names, two of them pretty famous, maybe six of them still performing in Chicago, and two or three of them still improvise at iO sporadically.

Diplomat Motel has some really good slots on the new schedule.

Friday, January 11, 2008

For anyone interested in my recent 'Chicago Tonight' TV appearance, Glynn ripped the show to audio. You can hear it (all 14 minutes of it) here:

"Chicago Tonight"

You're not missing much visually, except maybe when the host explains that Whirled News Tonight is spelled "W-H-I-R-L-E-D," I nod with a weird smarmy ironic smile as if to say, "Yes, it's true, that's how it's spelled."

It's hard seeing yourself on TV. I felt like I looked greasy, but Young assured me that's just how I always look. Glynn was self-conscious at what he described as his, "nervous tics [being] off the Tourette's hook" (something I didn't notice until after he pointed it out and even then it wasn't that bad).

Me: [via e-mail] Is that why you just ripped an audio version and not video?
Glynn: My awkward angle and constant fidgeting did have me in a crippling panic that night to the point where I was pretty much ready to quit performing (if not public life altogether) ... but really it was just easier to capture and share the audio.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

I've been playing Scrabulous (Scrabble on Facebook) with my friend Natasha, a writer in Los Angeles who is married to my friend Brett.

Me: [via the little message-sender within the game] Due to the writer strike are you even allowed to be playing this game?
Natasha: I'm a scab scrabulous player.
Natasha: Brett said to say I'm a scrab. HE'S NOT HELPING ME.

I asked Natasha if there was anything she's written that I should mention by name. She wrote, "Just say I've written a bunch of tv movies. Brett wants me to be credited as Natasha ('My Sexiest Mistake'), but I hate the names of all my credited work. My proudest moment is writing dialogue for Woody Allen in a short film he was in for Brandeis University. Oh, my play was called 'How I Ruined Everything'. Be sure to mention I will be kicking your ass in the next game despite your head games."

I am currently winning the next game.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

I referred to Nate as Jellyvision's intern in my last blog (A Year of Working) and that's not entirely true. He started as an intern, but now is an official employee. He even does some writing for the You Don't Know Jack' game and occasional voice work as one of the game's characters (The character? "Nate the intern").

Before Jellyvision Nate worked as an intern at iO. Students can do various tasks around the theater, liking taking tickets, to get free or discounted improv classes.

Nate: I actually interned during Whirled News. So I saw lots of your shows.
Me: I didn't know that.
Nate: Basically I've been working for you for the last three years.

A big chunk of Nate's current job is customer service. Answering e-mails and letters, filling orders from our on-line store. He personalizes a lot of the correspondence, sending jokes from "Nate the intern." Still, customer service largely involves dealing with idiots.

Nate: I've lost all faith in humanity.

He recently got a hand-written letter on patriotic stationary, asking for the price of nearly all our products.

Nate: So... this person had to go on our website and look up the exact names of every product and write them out. But the prices are right there on the site next to the names! It's crazy.

There was a lot of discussion about how he should respond. I suggested he should try to drag the correspondence out as long as possible. Maybe respond with, "Just double checking to see if these are the products you want the prices for," followed by the same list with no prices.

Nate wrote and printed out a long response that he has sitting on his desk. He hasn't decided whether to send it or not.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

I was going to write about how, back in college, I saw a hand dryer with the words, "push button, receive bacon" graffiti-ed onto it and how it's stuck with me over the years as one of my favorite jokes.

But a quick google search shows that the joke is all over the internet (and scribbled in truck stops all over the nation) already. You can get an animated avatar of it for your message board profile and there are several t-shirts for sale on Cafe Press.

Google's predictive text figured out what I was going to type before I got past, "push button r..."

push button radio
push button release
push button receive bacon
push button recliners

It was as if I said, "Stop me if you've heard this one..." and Google replied, "Oh yeah, stop, I've heard that one. Wanna buy a t-shirt?"

Monday, January 7, 2008

After several weeks as a substitute, Charlie is now the official coach of Diplomat Motel. This is good because Charlie is a good coach and also because it's unwise to go coachless for too long (for several reasons, not least of which is that without an advocate during the transition time between coaches, a team is much more likely to get cut from the schedule).

Charlie brings a book to each rehearsal, whatever he's currently reading, and randomly picks words from the book when suggestions are needed for scenes or exercises. One week it was 'Dune.' Another week 'The Sound and the Fury.' Tonight it was 'The Onion Girl.'

We worked on Openings. An organic opening to a long form improv show is... well... hard to explain. All you really need to know is that it's how a show begins and in theory it can be anything. It serves a lot of purposes (building energy, connecting the performers) but one of the main tasks is to the take the suggestion from the audience and expand on it, free-associate on it, so that there are more ideas and details to pull from throughout the show than just a one word suggestion like, say, "dildo." Basically, it's brainstorming.

The main exercise for tonight's rehearsal was each of us doing a one-person opening. Instead of brainstorming as a group, we brainstormed alone, while the rest of us watched.

Trupe went first. His suggestion from 'The Onion Girl' was "chest." He did a silent opening, pantomiming, among other things, someone dramatically undressing and someone watching through binoculars.

Tristan (pictured) was second. Her suggestion was "stroke," and she gave a true personal monologue about a family member who'd recently had two strokes and the family keeping track of who had and who hadn't sent 'Get Well Soon' cards.

Timmy's suggestion was "Thailand." He started off describing an imaginary map on the back wall, turning this into a narrative story involving the mafia, a giant sword and a hero traveling back and forth between different islands (Timmy running to different imaginary maps on different walls).

Cesar's suggestion was "motel parking lot." He did what is generally called "scene painting," walking around the stage describing objects in a location. "We see an ashtray in an old car. In the car's rear view mirror is the reflection of a glowing motel sign."

Meador's suggestion was "deep in the woods." He spoke in an over-the-top narrator voice and said quasi-philosophical things. "Where do men go when they have places to go? What do men eat when they have things to eat? Questions. Questions all."

My suggestion was "daddy's home." I decided to try doing a normal group opening as if surrounded by invisible teammates, parodying some of the pitfalls of group openings. Kind of a cop out, but I tried to be honest about my own worst habits when an opening gets directionless and muddled. "Pssst... what are we doing? Are we swaying?"

Young's suggestion was "tattoos and leather straps." He did a character monologue as a reckless motorcycle stuntman. "I'm going to go into my trailer now and get chlamydia."

Laura's suggestion was "fatalistic indifference" and she did a two person scene. She was in a morgue, pulling out dead bodies and describing how they died to an unseen assistant. "I don't know how this one died. Looks like natural causes. I might not do an autopsy on this one. And this... this is where I sleep."

Due to conflicts and illness Martin, Stegmeyer and Eckart weren't at rehearsal.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Sarah bought me season four of my favorite show, 'The Wire', on DVD for my birthday. It didn't arrive in time, so she drew this (only slightly spoiler-ish) picture and wrapped it in an Amazon box.

I've been geeking out on 'The Wire' lately, rewatching all the seasons with Young in preparation for the fifth and final season. I love that the show is almost impossibly dense. I've heard it referred to as "Dickensian" and I like things that are Dickensian even if I don't like Dickens so much (re: 'Hard Times' (or rather, I never did re: 'Hard Time'). It wasn't a conscious thing, but looking back, these blogs of mine take on a similar structure to seasons of the Wire with their ever-changing focus (and all this time I thought I was ripping off 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer').

The show is angry and sad, but it's also incredibly funny, and I don't hear people talk about that as much. I saw an interview with one of the show's creators, David Simon, where he said, "People are surprised that the writing I'm most proud of are the small throw away gags."

I guess I like my comedy with a little despair mixed in. And the other way too.

As a joke, Sarah also got me 'Harold and Maude' on DVD. And another cake.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

The Backrow show at SketchFest.

I met Nick years ago in my first improv class at iO. He asked if I was interested in being in a sketch show he was putting together with some friends from college. I signed on and the Backrow put up its first show at the first SketchFest. The Backrow still performs at SketchFest every year (supposedly one of maybe five groups that's done that), but with careers and marriages and kids that's pretty much the only show they do anymore. One show a year, at SketchFest.

I was too busy to rehearse, so I bowed out of this year's show. I was able to watch it, though. I got a ride to the theater with married cast members Trupe and Wonak (third from left).

Me: I wonder if it's going to be weird to watch. What if I freak out and rush on stage?
Trupe: Do it.
Wonak: Nick scripted a part where you're supposed to run on stage. But we're not telling you when.
Trupe: [laughing] You just have to figure it out for yourself.
Me: See if my instincts are good enough to Intuit the right moment.

These days its hard to watch any show (improv, sketch or otherwise) without feeling antsy. I'd rather do it than watch it. But I enjoyed watching the Backrow show, seeing it from the outside for once, like an out-of-body experience.

I missed the weekly Whirled News show to watch the Backrow.

Glynn: No offense, but it was one of the better Whirled News shows in a while.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Sarah's birthday. I got her two cakes to make up for last year.

Sarah: There's going to be a lot of cake this weekend.
Me: Don't get me a cake.
Sarah: You're getting a cake.
Me: We already have two cakes.
Sarah: Everyone deserves cake on their birthday!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

The Chicago SketchFest starts this week. It's a good festival and gets bigger every year. Rumor has it it's well surpassed the yearly Improv Festival.

That said, the posters are terrible. I have yet to hear a positive thing about them from anyone. I remember the first year of the festival the posters were decent, if a little bland. Each year the festival has gotten bigger and better and each year the posters have gotten worse. Last year they had them all hanging next to each other in the Theater Building lobby so you could easily chart their decline.

The last few years the posters have featured a naked picture of the festival's executive producer. When the subject comes up he laughs and shrugs, "They talked me into it."

But he's naked in his headshots too. I guess the dude just likes being naked.

Still, go see some shows.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Over a year ago, Young shot a commercial for a local cable company (the audition material described the character as a "Donald Faison type"). Seasons passed and it seemed like it would never air.

This fall, though, it aired constantly. Young became the "I Still Have a Dish" Guy. Strangers recognized him. One night we were at a bar with a bunch of improvisers and the commercial ran five times. We cheered each time. "Young!! It's Young's commercial!"

I haven't seen it in about a month now. I think it's window of on-air time has passed. It was fun while it lasted.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

At about 2 in the morning at Duffy's party I overheard/half-participated in this conversation near the keg in the basement.

Dunbar: You should come and see my show at Sketchfest.
Thea: Yeah. Maybe.
Dunbar: Here, I have some of the music I made for the show on my iPhone.
Thea: Oh?
Me: You have it on your iPhone?
Dunbar: Yeah, here...
Thea: You don't have to...
Dunbar: [holding iPhone near Thea's ear] Listen.
Thea: I can't really hear it...
Dunbar: [digging in pockets] Hold on.
Thea: That's okay, I don't need to hear...
Dunbar: [pulling out earbuds] No no no... listen...
Thea: Uh, okay...