Sunday, August 31, 2008

It's also wedding season.

I have three weddings to go to over the next three weekends, two of them of the destination variety.

All of them should be fun, but I realized today that I'm not going to be able to perform in an improv show until September 26th. That's a long time.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

It's moving weekend in Chicago.

During my 8:00 Whirled News show the audience suggestion for the second act was "moving day." Padraic gave a monolouge about how he still needs people to help him move tomorrow. No one in the cast (or audience) seemed willing to volunteer.

During my 10:30 Diplomat Motel show, the audience volunteer for the Dream (where we do a short improv piece about the things that happened to an audience member that day) explained that they'd spent the day moving.

Eckart, pictured here backstage with boxes of Swanel, also moved today. Before moving in with his girlfriend this weekend, Eckart has lived in the same large apartment for what I would guess is just shy of a decade. During that time he's had a large rotating cast of improvisers as his roommates. Dozens of improvisers have lived there over the years, including some incredibly highly regarded ones (at least in improv circles) like T.J. Jagadowski, Bob Dassie and Jack McBrayer (Kenneth from '30 Rock'). Hell, I even lived there for about three months myself once.

A few performers will still be living there, continuing the tradition, but it seems like the end of an era now that Eckart no longer holds the lease on Chicago improv's "Chelsea Hotel."

Eckart: Someone was saying I should put a row of headshots going up the front stairs, of everyone who'd lived there. Like the headshots along the ramp when you walk into iO.
Me: I don't really have headshots but I would have gotten you a picture.
Eckart: I ended up not doing it. Pretty low on the priority list. But who knows, I still know the people who live there. Maybe it'll happen eventually.

Friday, August 29, 2008

I took this picture late at night at a party a few months back. Looking at it now, I'm trying to figure out if I thought the chalk board was funny because of the phrase "DSL + Milk" or if it was because I'd never realized Com Ed was so close to "comedy."

Thursday, August 28, 2008

For convenience sake we've had the last two sketch show meetings at Caribou Coffee. So we read our sketches with someone writing their screenplay on one side of us and someone else conducting vaguely shady job interviews on the other side of us.

We talked about how we were all DVR-ing the Obama speech we were missing.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

My senior year of college (undergrad) I took a "cross-curriculum" class on The Study of Irony. I was excited about the class after having done some nerdy research of my own for an After Dinner Speech, 'Is Our Society Becoming Too Ironic?' (It didn't do as well as my competition speech the year before, 'Is Our Society Becoming Too Paranoid?')

The class itself was easy, which is good when you're a senior checking off the last of your required credit hours, but beyond that it was a disappointment. It was cross-curricular only in the sense that it was taught by a French teacher. He was a nice enough guy, but he taught us in the call and response manner of a remedial language class. After reading aloud, say, a passage from a Shell Silverstein poem, he'd ask the class, "Was that ironic?" We'd answer yes or no and he'd move on to the next example. A Dilbert cartoon. "Is this ironic?" Yes. "Is this ironic?" Yes. (Hint: They were pretty much all ironic)

Further discussion or probing questions weren't so much discouraged as met with an awkward silence from the teacher and the class. I quickly got tired of being the annoying guy in class who would say things like, "I read about a psychological study on irony, or more specifically sarcasm, that when people use sarcasm they often really do mean the surface meaning. Instead of there's a surface meaning in quotation marks but the real meaning is the hidden meaning underneath. It's the opposite. We use the irony to say things that are too dorky or too sincere. So the hidden meaning is actually hiding the fact that we really mean the surface meaning but can't allow ourselves to just say those... things... which is... kind of interesting, right? Maybe we could... I don't know... is that something we could.... discuss? Anybody? No? Okay. Then yes, I do think this Dr. Seuss story is ironic."

A girl I was kind-of-almost-dating had her own senior year cross-curriculum class at the same time. Her's was on Existentialism. We'd run into each other in the halls after our respective classes.

Me: How's Existentialism?
Her: Better than I expected. How's Irony?
Me: Not as good as you'd think.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Poland, who now works in the small TV upstairs instead of the bigger one downstairs, recently wrote on his blog about his son getting in trouble at summer camp. He wasn't sure exactly what the problem had been until he read the official note from the camp that explained that his son, "has been making 'farting' noises with his armpit. We discussed how it was inappropriate at camp and a big distraction to other campers. He continued to make the noises while we were in a large group after he was told to stop. Could you please talk to him about appropriate behavior?"

He wrote on his blog, "And just how does one punish rogue armpit flatus? No tank tops for a week!"

Poland: I asked him why he wouldn't stop. He said it was because the attention he got felt too good to resist. The laughs.
Me: Yep.
Poland: He's gotten a taste for it.
Me: Wait 'til he finds out how much of his dad's job involves fart noises.

Poland was kind enough to let me take this picture, even though he was unhappy with his hair.

Steve-o: Have the top of the screen cut it off.
Poland: Yeah. I'll do that.
Steve-o: Although, I think you're overestimating how well we can actually see you.

[As a side note, all four of the people mentioned in this post can be (kind of) seen in this picture.]

Monday, August 25, 2008

Sarah got us tickets to see a free screening of Alan Ball's upcoming movie, 'Towelhead.' He answered some questions afterward.

Ball: I don't try to intentionally provoke people, or make them uncomfortable. I guess I'm just an incredibly twisted person. The same things aren't shocking to me.

As you can tell from this picture, we were not in the front row this time. You can kind of see Ball sitting up front, under the rolling credits.

Sarah: From back here he sort of looks like Ricky Gervais.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

I noticed that CVS now has a Political Birthday Card shelf.

For example, one of the cards reads, "Have a Democratic Birthday Party." Inside it reads, "All the candles lean to the left."

The Republican version is exactly the same except, "all the candles lean to the right."

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Steve biked over today to record another in our ongoing series of Mystery Cove podcasts (subscribe to it via iTunes!).

Steve was recently hired to be a funny man-on-campus correspondent for Fright Night Tailgate, a college football show on the Big Ten Network. He'll be doing it along with Jordan, who also appeared on the show last year. So that's essentially what both of them will be up to for the next 13 weeks, traveling to college campuses and shooting funny remote pieces.

Steve: I just ran into an old high school acquaintance in an airport and she asked me what I was up to these days. I told her I'd just been hired as a correspondent on this football show. She just paused and said, "So... have you.... become someone who knows a lot about football?"
Me: You'll be fine.
Steve: I head off in two days. I'm not really sure what to expect.
Me: Do you have any kind of itinerary?
Steve: Yeah. This first week I'm going to box a woman and go water skiing.

Friday, August 22, 2008

This sign is funny, but also, sadly, true. If you have to spend much time in Wrigleyville, you're going to smell some urine.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

At a work lunch, Innis and I were talking about having names that are easy to make fun of.

Me: Do you ever think about just giving up and changing your name to Anus?
Innis: I hate you. When I was a senior in high school my soccer coach gave me the coach's award and called me Penis in front of the whole assembly.
Me: Ouch.
Innis: He was Greek with a heavy accent, though.
Me: I just had to put up with a lot of "did you camp on your knee" jokes.
Innis: Taunts are tougher when they aren't funny.

[By the way, as I was taking this picture of Innis (and his pre-Mustache Day beard) an almost heavenly ray of light descended down on him through the Goose Island skylight.]

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Another picture from Joe and Shelby's improv wedding.

Duffy brought the cake from Jewel.

Me: I'm amazed it didn't fall off your bike.
Duffy: I didn't even think to tie it down. The security guard in the parking lot wouldn't let me leave until he got some rope. I'm glad he did.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

I've been going through my closet recently weeding out clothes that I know I'm not going to wear anymore, even stuff with sentimental value.

This old Comedy Corner shirt from grad school (on the back it reads, "Nah, dude, seriously!") is one of the things I'm throwing away.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Hansen's big case is finally done so he's on vacation. I took the day off and went to Six Flags with him to ride some roller coasters.

We got our picture taken with the Green Lantern. After this shot, the Green Lantern leaned over and whispered, "It's Green Lantern and the Twin Towers."

Sunday, August 17, 2008

One of the nicest things about Joe and Shelby's improvised wedding was the cooperative nature of the whole evening.

There were very few decorations, so the wedding party "scene painted" (which is just a fancy improv way of saying, described the scenery) as we walked down the aisle ("Children kick the pews in front of them, while mothers yank on their arms, shushing"). Beloved improv veterans T.J. and Noah officiated the service, prodding people to participate while also keeping things moving along.

Devin played a keyboard and Danny played a singing saw.

Danny: 'Rainbow Connection' is harder to play than you'd think.

Audience member isn't the right word, exactly, but volunteers from among those watching the ceremony were frequently needed to step forward and deliver, say, a fake reading or enact, as the program called it "a drunken interruption." People were hesitant at first, a quiet sense of are-we-supposed-to-really-go-up-there hung over the guests, but after the first improviser stepped forward to make up a reading off the top of their head ("A reading from the Book of Mad Libs..."), the flood gates opened and like an improv show that gets its first hearty laugh, it was smooth sailing to the end.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Tonight I stood up in Joe and Shelby's prewedding improvised wedding. It took place upstairs above the bar Mullens which is a few doors down from iO (and is one of the spaces iO used to occupy way back before it opened its own theater).

They exchanged their vows in the form of two classic short form improv games. Shelby did 'Hesitation' which involves a performer stopping mid-statement, and reaching our their arm to the audience, signaling that they need a suggestion.

Shelby: Joe... I have always loved your.... your...
Audience Member: Money!
Shelby: I have always loved you for your money. That big jar of pennies you've been saving is really exciting.
[Joe makes comical pulling at collar gesture]
Shelby: But I don't need a lot of money to be happy. All I need is... is...
Audience Member: A baby!

Joe did his vows in the style of a similar game, New Choice (or Take it Back, or any number of other names). Every time a bell is rang, the performer has to change their last statement.

Joe: Shelby, you are the person I love more than anyone in the world.
Joe: Shelby, you're the person I see more than anyone in the world.

Friday, August 15, 2008

One of the things I love about improv is that you don't have to worry about sets or costumes or props. That said, whenever I sit in on a late night show at the ATC it's fun to perform on whatever set they have up for their current play. Currently, the play is about Jim Jones and the stage is lined with shelves full of document boxes.

In this picture the opening group does a scene set in a bookstore, occasionally wandering in and out of the aisles.

As freeing as it is to invent whatever you want in a show because you're not limited by anything physical actually being there, it's a nice change of pace to play off real scenery.

I was convinced someone would initiate a Raiders of the Lost Ark scene, but no one did, and for once I refrained from going for the obvious pop culture reference myself.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Whirled News sketch show meeting at Alex and Megan's place.

Alex: [explaining how Young should read his part in a potential Abraham Lincoln sketch] He's kind of like Billy from Battlestar Galactica.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Joe is getting married next month. The wedding is down in North Carolina, so he and his fiancee, Shelby (who is in the background of this picture) are also having an early Chicago reception in town this weekend. Since they're both improvisers, and almost all the guests will be improvisers as well, they've decided to improvise a fake wedding ceremony for themselves as part of the event.

I'm not really sure how it's going to work, but everyone in Otis (that can make it) are groomsmen.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Today the small group of us at work that put together the You Don't Know Jack game moved upstairs to the second floor, officially breaking off from the rest of the office. So I no longer sit back to back with Tom.

We are percolating some exciting plans, but starting out... it's pretty quiet up here. Right now it's just me, Steveo, Allard, Poland's TV and the new guy.

Steveo: [via e-mail] I don’t want anybody to think we’re being separated from the rest of Jellyvision. In the old days, we had people on both levels, and, believe it or not, we all still were one big company. And we didn’t even have IM back then! That said, like a long-distance relationship (Arnie), it’ll take just that smidgen of extra effort to do more lunches and Call of Duty and phone sex together.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Watched a little of the Olympics, but honestly, the most entertaining thing I saw on television tonight was this description I stumbled across while channel surfing.

"Lullabies are discussed."

Sarah: Do you think your sisters would be disappointed that you haven't caught volleyball-fever?
Me: Maybe.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Trying to get some sketches written for the Whirled News election season sketch show.

Lately, it's hard to find time and energy for all my various creative projects (including this one... short entry).

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Shotts sat in with us during our Diplomat Motel show tonight (several people were out of town for an improv festival in New York).

Otis has been broken up for over a year now and it was fun to play with him again.

Friday, August 8, 2008

There's some extra seating downstairs in the cabaret at iO, tucked away in a weird side corner near the back. Some people call it the Hamlet Lounge. Unless a show is packed, the Hamlet Lounge is usually half filled with a smattering of late-comers and students. It's the worst place to see the show from. Improv is very immediate and intimate. You can feel the show getting less funny the farther away you are.

Still, I have some fondness for the Hamlet Lounge. When I first came to Chicago and first started taking classes at iO, I saw a lot of shows sitting back there. Students get to see shows for free but have to give up their seats to paying customers. If I got there early enough and the show wasn't too packed, I could usually sit in that front row on the Lounge, right at the shelf table.

And I usually did get there early enough. I knew almost no one in town at the time, and not that many people at the theater. What else did I have to do? A few times a week I would take two long bus rides to the theater, and sit there with my nose in a book, shyly waiting for the show to begin. And I ate it all up, loved every minute of it. Some of what I saw was bad, but I didn't care, and some of it... well, some it still seems like it must have been the most amazing stuff I've ever seen, like a first rush of a drug or a first flush of love.

This blog would be very different if I were writing it then.

I still love improv, but we are an old married couple now. We have a more hard-eyed view of each other, and we're lucky to do it once or twice a week.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

This text message exchange represents a kind of joke that is imminently easy and lazy in a "that's what she said" kind of way, but is also irresistible to almost every funny person I know.

"That's going to be the title of my autobiography."

"That was my nickname in high school."

"Wasn't that the title of your band's first album?"

It's an almost compulsive response to an unintentionally evocative (or yes, just dirty) turn of phrase. They're not even jokes, really. I think it's mostly a way of saying, "I like those words together." Taking someone else's sentence and florescent yellow highlighting the part that tickles us.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

About a month back I was at the ComedySportz bar and ended up hanging out with Ben for a while. He had just returned from a long stint performing in a Second City show on a cruise ship.

Ben: I hate it when people say, "hey stranger" to me. It implies some kind of ownership. I get it. I've been gone a while.

I have to admit, hanging out for an hour or two, an awful lot of people came up to him and said exactly that. "Hey stranger."

Later, backstage, Sarah and I were getting ready to leave and so was Ben.

Ben: I just have to put these pants back in the Lost and Found box.
Me: ... have you been wearing random pants from the Lost and Found?
Ben: No. I don't have a locker so I keep my show jersey in the Lost and Found box.
Sarah: You don't have a locker?
Ben: I don't even know where they are. Where are the lockers?
Sarah: Man, you have been gone a long time.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

To go along with the giant popcorn box (or maybe just to get it out of his house) Steve-o brought in a giant styrofoam Twinkie he'd made for some comedy shows years ago.

If you look closely, it's apparent that a lot of work went into it, attaching layer after layer of styrofoam, sanding them down into a smooth Twinkie shape.

Steve-o: It took hours. And when I was done I was like, "I probably shouldn't have been breathing this stuff in." I looked it up online, and yep, it was some of the most carcinogenic stuff possible.

Innis and I verbally stumbled over each other, trying to make the same joke at the same time. Two different versions of, "It was still probably better for you than an actual Twinkie."

Monday, August 4, 2008

The end of the trip.

Here's Meador and I posing with the t-shirts we bought at the local Walmart.

Nick was staying on a few extra days at the cabin. His wife and daughters are going to come down and join him, but he was going to have to spend one night alone by the lake.

Nick had also seen the movie 'The Strangers' and we talked about the possibility of a band of masked teenagers tormenting then murdering him.

Nick: Yeah... when it gets late, I'm going to be a little scared.
Me: Does it make it worse that you won't have a car? No means of escape.
Nick: Even if I did have a car they'd obviously disable it before starting anything. That's horror movie 101. I guess I could try to escape on the pontoon boat.

Later that night, back in Chicago, just as I figured Nick was getting ready for bed, I had Sarah call the cabin, and like the creepy girl at the beginning of 'The Strangers' say into the phone, "Is Tamara there?"

I could hear Nick yell, "Real funny, freaks!"

Sunday, August 3, 2008

As fun as the cabin trip is, by the end, most of us are tired and a bit cranky.

Tonight we sat down to watch the Russian vampire movie 'Day Watch.' It's the sequel to 'Night Watch' which most of us had seen together in the theater, and although I wouldn't call it "good" exactly it was weird in a particularly fun way. So Nick rented the sequel for the trip, thinking it would be fun to watch it together.

It wasn't.

Maybe we were just all burnt out, but watching the movie (which involved vampire-like creatures trying to find a magical, and ridiculous, Chalk of Fate), and Nick's refusal to turn it off, just seemed to make most of us angrier and angrier. Young actually stormed out to the porch grumbling, "Why are we STILL watching this stupid movie!"

After the movie was over, we tried to redeem the evening by playing our yearly game of Tip the Cup. It's basically just a drinking game, but we start each round by making funny and unapologetically sentimental toasts. A nice tradition.

Me: Who wants to make the first toast?
[tired, grumpy silence]
Nick: Uh... I'll go I guess. Well, I know we usually start with jokier toasts, but I just want to talk about something that, I think, is important to all of us. I'd like to make a toast to... the Chalk of Fate, deep in Samarkand, hidden away in Tamerlane's tomb, holding the power to undo any action, and to undo the fragile peace between the forces of dark and light...

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Trupe, hungover, on pontoon boat. He kept the sunglasses on even when swimming.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Hansen's been incredibly busy with work lately. Most of the last few months have been spent up in Wisconsin working on a court case.

Hansen: It's tough not seeing my daughter. My wife told me they were watching the weather channel and something came on about the weather in Wisconsin and my daughter said, "That's where Daddy lives now."

Understandably, we weren't sure if he'd be able to make it on the cabin trip this year. I mean, he'd said all year he'd be here, never said he wouldn't, but as the weekend drew closer, we mostly just didn't hear anything from him no matter how often we tried to get in touch with him (although he did pipe up once up via e-mail to make fun of Martin for canceling).

This morning, as we were all groggily stumbling around, Trupe said, "Guess who just sauntered around the side of the cabin?"

I thought maybe he was joking but there was Hansen, with a "what, of course I was coming" attitude.

Unfortunately, by nightfall he'd gotten a message on his Blackberry summoning him back to work for a last minute case-related emergency.

Still, we got one day of Hansen.