Saturday, November 29, 2008

That's our show! Thanks for coming. Don't forget to tip the waitstaff!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

... and lights.

Monday, November 24, 2008

I don't perform with anyone on Otis anymore (except for Shotts's brief, and now finished, sit-in stint with Diplomat Motel) but we still get together for a few longstanding annual events like Gandy Gras and, tonight, Otis-giving. Not shows, just dinners.

Lauren wasn't able to come because she moved to New York, but since we scheduled the dinner for Monday, one of the few nights the Second City Mainstage is dark, Shelly was able to stop by.

Duffy forgot to thaw out the turkey properly but we still all stuffed ourselves on sides.

It was the first gathering I can remember where no one brought up doing an Otis reunion show or trying to get a couple slots at the Playground (or shooting videos), but we did talk about how nice it would be to get together for some drinks for New Years.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

It was good to see my nephews Ty and Will.

Julie: We told them they were going to see Uncle Arnie. We asked, "Do you know who Uncle Arnie is?" They said, "Uncle Arnie is funny."

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The whole family flew down to Atlanta for Senior Night, Allie's last college volleyball game. Or actually, her last home game. Actually, no, her second to last home game. But anyway, Senior Night.

There was much discussion about whether we should all go on the court for the family picture.

Julie: I drove all the way down here. I think that's enough.
Matt: I'm going out and I'm just the brother-in-law.
Arnie: People will point at you and scream that you don't belong.
Sherry: Isn't it just supposed to be parents?
Arnie: There are an awful lot of us.

Eventually we decided to all go out. I did notice once we were out there, though, that most of the other senior just had their parents with them, and the announcer explained that their grandparents, etc were "watching from the stands."

We had this picture taken which Mom was hoping to use for her Christmas cards, although maybe not since you can barely see Julie and Will is completely hidden behind Allie's head.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Recently we've been dedicating a little time at work to playing party games. Board games, video games, random games people play. We play games and then ask ourselves, what did we like, what did we not like. What makes a good party game.

Today we hooked Poland's camera up to the big TV so he could be on a team with Steveo for Cranium. One teammate in Chicago, one in Michigan.

Here they are playing the Cranium question type that is essentially Pictionary. Steveo draws and holds the picture up to Poland's camera.

Poland: Hole! Shirt! Shirt hole!
Amanda: The clue is Place. Shirt hole isn't a place.
Allard: Time.
Steveo: It was a laundry mat! See!
Poland: I can barely see anything.
Me: This is really stupid. I'm glad we're doing this.

All in all, I've got a pretty good life.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

One of my original ideas for this blog was for it to be loosely structured like a long form improv show. Heading off in all directions to start and then coming together with connections and call backs at the end.

My feeling about the blog over the last few months is that it never really went anywhere, and there were some good bits but it's mostly just kind of there.

Chin: And this is different from a lot of improv shows how?
Me: So I've succeeded in making my blog a bad improv show?
Chin: Write that.

Bad is maybe too strong a word. I've done some bad improv shows, bracingly bad, but, and maybe I'm deluding myself here, those are a rarity. Of course, the truly transcendent ones don't happen often either. Most fall under the category of Unrealized Potential. Good, but not as good as they could have been.

Still, people were entertained and fun was had. The last thing you should ever do is bail on a show before it's over because it's not as good as you want it to be. Sure, you could, as I'm doing now, break the fourth wall and comment on the show, be honest about how you think it's not so great and see if that honesty can take you somewhere interesting. But maybe the audience doesn't think it's a bad show, and it's probably best to keep moving forward, projecting confidence (being an expert) until the lights go out.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

As I've mentioned before, when SNL is hiring, one of their (many) usual places to look is iO. SNL talent scouts come and see a showcase here once or twice a year. I've done some, I've not done some.

There was an all-women showcase a few weeks back and from that showcase, eight very talented Chicago improvisers were flown out to New York to do the infamous SNL audition where you stand on the show's stage and do five minutes of material while no one laughs. Among the women invited were Shelly (from Otis) and Steve and Jordan's girlfriends (who both obviously have identities above and beyond being girlfriends, but I haven't mentioned them on the blog before so I'm referring to them as that for simplicity's sake).

Steve: [from a conversation that week] It's funny. On Wednesday my girlfriend is going to be performing for Lorne Michaels and I'm going to be... what... interviewing a glee club.
Me: Yes. But you'll be interviewing a glee club on your national cable sports show.
Steve: Well, sure.

(It's worth mentioning that Steve had his own SNL callback a few years ago.)

Unfortunately, none of the Chicago women were hired.

Anyway, that's a long intro into mentioning that Charna recently said to me in passing, "The next time there's an SNL showcase here, you're at the top of the list." Very flattering, very nice. I don't really do characters or impressions, but still, it's nice to be on that list, even if it would be slightly wasted on me.

There was an SNL showcase last night which I wasn't in.

Charna: [via e-mail] There was only one slot left and I decided to go with Alex, but you're on the top of the list for the next one.

This didn't particularly bother me. I don't consider myself unworthy (or above it) but SNL performer isn't really in my skill set. Still, they're looking for writers so I submitted a writing packet through Charna.

I brought the packet to the showcase concealed in my bag. I felt slightly embarrassed about it, like a taxi driver with a screenplay tucked under his seat in case a celebrity steps in his cab.

I ran into Megan outside the theater.

Megan: Time to watch Alex do the showcase and pretend I'd actually want my boyfriend to move to New York.

Charna was very nice and made a point of tracking me down during the intermission to get my writing packet. My cover letter read, "Hello. Tonight at the iO theater in Chicago, there was a talent showcase for Saturday Night Live. The probably wise decision was made to keep the amount of performers down to a reasonable number. Sadly, this meant that there was not room for me to participate. Charna has assured me that I was 'the very next person' so, if you happen to hire everyone you see perform tonight and then find that you have one more writer position to fill, keep in mind that I am the next person and would probably be a logical candidate for that job (unless, of course, Charna was just being in nice by saying that I'm the next person, which is certainly possible)."

Too cute? Probably. And the sketches in the packet weren't particularly SNL-centric (except for one topical Obama sketch from the Whirled News sketch show), but like my lackluster Second City audition earlier this year, I'm trying to make a point of going after things. Putting myself out there, at least. The next step is probably putting myself out there in a way that is more than least.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Back in Chicago.

This cement drawing (of what might be a bone but is probably a penis) was literally the first thing we saw after stepping out of a taxi cab in front of my apartment. We stepped right on it.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Good vacation.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Every day at the pool (at both resorts) activity directors try to talk guests into playing Crazy Games (that's how they're listed on the schedule). I always pass. "No thanks. I'd rather just read or swim or drink."

Today, though, they were playing that game where you throw golf balls connected with rope at a little PVC pipe ladder (I only know it by joke names like Dangle Balls and Sling Sacs). I like that game. So I volunteered to play along with a young man and woman from Mexico City and two old women from Canada.

At first I worried I'd play "too well" and would have to start throwing the game if I got too far ahead (each night before the Entertainment Show, the winners of the Crazy Games are called up on stage to wave their certificates of achievement back and forth over their heads while the DJ plays 'We Are the Champions'). I didn't need to worry about winning, though, because I did genuinely badly for most of the game. I had a bit of a rally near the end but still came in second to the deeply tanned Canadian woman who always giggled and rasped, "blue balls" when handed the blue colored balls.

After about five or six rounds, the entertainment director made the game more Crazy by adding new rules like "throw with your eyes closed" or "throw under your leg." I was fine with these new rules. Why not? But I felt bad that I didn't find them as hilarious as the other people playing the game. Why is closing your eyes while throwing not funny to me? How was I the humorless one?

The final round involved spinning around three times before throwing. The catch was, though, that the entertainment director would pretend to get distracted while counting the number of spins. So... you could either keep spinning and spinning or spin three times and throw only to be playfully scolded for not going to three. A lose lose situation (or just good dumb fun, pretending on how you look at it). By the time it got to me I had watched four people contend with this. I decided to go with endless spinning, thinking, "I am trapped in someone else's joke."

Saturday, November 15, 2008

We've been loving our resort, but yesterday they offered us a free upgrade to an even nicer resort down the beach and we've decided to take it.

So this is our vacation getaway from our vacation getaway.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Many of the people who work at the resort seem to have a playful, teasing sense of humor.

Sarah: Could I have a Mai Tai?
Bartender: Mai Tai? [points to tie] I only have one.


Sarah: [pointing to colorful drink woman at bar has just ordered] What's that?
Bartender: A woman.

Maybe these aren't the height of hilarity, but when the people involved don't share a first language, they're pretty good (or, it may be significant that these all took place while drinking).

The point is, though, that everyone seems nice and funny.

Here is Aldo, our favorite, who works at the front desk.

Sarah: Is there a gym here?
Aldo: You don't need the gym.
Me: But I do.
Aldo: She doesn't. You... maybe.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The ruins of Tulum.

It was really beautiful and I'd love to say that Sarah and I learned a lot about ancient Mayan culture, but honestly, we mostly took wacky pictures of ourselves, many of them involving Sarah punching nature.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The resort we're staying at has live entertainment every night. Tonight was the Michael Jackson show. Basically, an impersonator lip synced Michael Jackson songs for about an hour.

The MC introduced the show as, "the best show we have all week," although frankly I have higher hopes for tomorrow night's 'Around the World' (advertised with the slogan, "Enjoy Our Entertainment Show!").

Growing quickly bored with watching a man walk-dance back and forth on stage while lip syncing, Sarah and I ended up talking to a very nice old Belgian couple that was sitting behind us.

Belgian Man: We like Barack Obama.
Belgian Woman: Yes, but everyone in Europe worries that he will be assassinated.

We talked pleasantly about politics and the world and hoped it wasn't painfully obvious that although they knew a lot about America, we know next to nothing about Belgium.

Eventually we got back around to talking about Michael Jackson. The Belgian man said, "Michael Jackson... he is a bit problematic you know... he is..." He trailed off and we all nodded and raised our eyebrows in agreement.

"But he's got a couple great songs," I said.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Vacationing in Mexico.

Some things you will hear a lot of on your first day in Playa del Carmen:

1. "Are you on your honeymoon?"

We heard this one about three times before we even left the airport (each time from someone we thought worked for the airport or the shuttle service, although they always turned out to be someone trying to sell us something).

Official-Seeming Person: Are you two on your honeymoon?
Sarah: Oh ho, no.
Me: No. Just on vacation.
Official-Seeming Person: Just practicing?
Me: I guess so.
Official-Seeming Person: We offer many scuba-diving packages.

2. "Are you Canadian?"

Everyone seemed to think we were Canadian. Supposedly there is a lot of Canadian tourism in Mexico. More than Americans, though?

I half-suspect they were politely offering us an out. "Where are you from? Canada? It's alright to just say you're Canadians and make everything less awkward."

3. "Visit our famous 5th Avenue. Lots of shopping. It is not the New York City 5th Avenue. It's our 5th Avenue."

It's not so much that we heard this several times, it's that the wording was always exactly the same, as if it had been widely agreed that this was the perfect joke (and informative too!) when talking to honeymooning Canadians about 5th Avenue.

Monday, November 10, 2008

By the way, this is what Young and I look like on cable sports television.

The Big Ten Network post videos of the pretaped on-campus segments on their website, but not the live bumpers, so, sadly, this picture is all you're going to get.

Mom: [via text] dad & i just watched it. we thought u were pretty funny

Sunday, November 9, 2008

After an unusually warm fall it's now become winter cold.

Theater-going is seasonal. As soon as the cold hits, more people come to see shows. Whirled News was as packed as it's been in a long time. Extra chairs up front. Extra chairs on the sides. Tonight's Diplomat Motel show was packed too.

Also, selfishly, I'm glad it's finally gotten cold just in time for Sarah and I to leave for our vacation to Mexico this week.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The booking company that gets Whirled News paying road shows (like the ones in Texas and Louisiana) requested new photos of us, so they could do better promotion. Basically, funny pictures.

So we had a staged photo shoot before our show tonight. Angela Manginelli took pictures while Charna gave us direction like, "You two, pick her up. You, look angry."

[As always, you should check out Angela's photos here, and her various official iO photos here.]

Friday, November 7, 2008

Jordan and Steve's show 'Friday Night Tailgate' was shooting at Northwestern this week, and they asked Young and I to come up and do a bit during one of their live segments.

At the end of the show, when the in-studio host, Mike Hall (also an improviser at iO), talks to the on-location Jordan and Steve he finds that they have been replaced by myself and Young wearing fake mustaches and Jordan and Steve's hoodies. It's kind of hard to explain. Basically, we're fatter versions of those guys.

Afterwards, we all decided to go get some drinks and walked out of the tent where the show was shot and onto a dark and empty baseball field.

Jordan: This is the part where we're mobbed by fans.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The sketch show is officially done. Pack up the props and take them home.

Since the election is already over, we decided to cut some scenes and alter some of the others to make them kiiiinnnndd of make sense now that all the campaigning is done. On top of that, one of our cast members couldn't make it because they assumed we wouldn't still be doing the show the Thursday after the election too (which, to be fair, is a reasonable assumption). So everything was very much up in the air.

But then it didn't really matter because only two people showed up, so we sent them to the downstairs show and had a few drinks and toasted to the election and the show being done.

Me: Now I know how McCain must feel right now. Secretly relieved.

So, 'Yes We Can't' was a noble failure at best. Still, it was mostly fun and there were some good bits in there.

For instance, here's my favorite scene in the show. You can click on 'Watch in High Quality' right under the video to watch it in, well, better picture quality (this is probably common knowledge but I just figured it out myself today).

And here's an audience participation piece I did in the show. We got eight volunteers and handed them paddles with wires running backstage (to nothing) and tried to at least halfway convince them we were doing actual real-time opinion polling. This video is just the audio from that over the powerpoint presentation that we used to fake the results.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Charna stopped by the Electapalooza party last night for an hour or so. She was kind enough to buy 15 pizzas for the audience.

Here she is checking her Blackberry.

Charna: I just got a text from Amy Poehler. She wants to know if things are crazy here.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day.

I went to my local polling station this morning, my pockets stuffed with my voter card, drivers license, passport and utility bill (just in case), prepared for a crazy election day ordeal. More than prepared... almost craving it ("In '08 I stood in line for three hours, but I stayed and I cast my vote!"). In reality, the whole process only took about 15 minutes.

This evening Whirled News hosted iO's Electapalooza Party/Show. We had election coverage playing on the giant screen in the theater and did some hastily thrown together comedy bits during the commercial breaks.

Here, Steve talks about how both candidates are unlikely to win since a senator hasn't won the presidency since the '60s. And Young talks about how the electoral votes of the underwater kingdom are being ignored (this was really just an excuse for him to dress like Aquaman).

Other bits included pretending my iPhone was CNN's silly demographic break-down touchscreen wall ("Among convicted felons, 0% voted for McCain and 0% voted for Obama...") and Alex admitting that his vote for Commissioner of Water Reclamation went to David Clearwater, purely because of his name ("I mean... come on... Clearwater!").

Once Obama was announced the winner, though, we pretty much stopped doing bits. We couldn't (nor would we want to try to) compete with what was playing on the giant TV screen. Everyone watched and cheered and laughed and got generally choked up.

Then, after the speech we had a dance party.

Shane: A good night. When we did this four years ago, the night did not end with dancing.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Speaking of kids, here's one more picture from the Halloween party at work.

Shane's family and Tom's family.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Eddie brought his daughter to the theater before the Whirled News show last night. They walked around backstage pretending to get ready for a show.

Eddie: Fly check!

Then they entered through one of the doors, Eddie making a distant-crowd-cheering noise. Holding hands, they half-ran across the front of the stage.

Eddie: Sweep edit!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Halloween got strange in the wee hours

After the iO party ended, a number of us went to an after-hours bar, which promptly lost Young's credit card by accidentally giving it to some other patron with the same first name. As the bar closed, the bartender explained, "There's nothing we can do. You should go cancel the card. Happy Halloween."

Young was understandably pissed. As I watched him storm off into the night, I felt sorry for him, but also had to admit it was kind of funny to watch him charge angrily down the street dressed as a medieval knight.

Next, several of us went to a diner for some 4am breakfast food. There was only one overworked and frazzled waitress, so it was a long wait. The young man who refilled our water explained that he'd come in to order some food and the waitress had asked him to help out. "That was three hours ago. I'm in it for the experience of it."

About an hour later there was some commotion from the other side of the restaurant. A deaf man was arguing with the waitress, waving a piece of paper around. Then he started going from table to table, showing the paper and mouthing, "I'm sorry. I'm sorry." The paper read, "We are deaf. We have been here for over 20 minutes and no one has taken our order. People have come in after us and gotten service. What have we done wrong?"

The waitress stormed over. "Stop bothering my customers! Leave them alone!" The deaf man continued on to more tables with his paper. The waitress yelled, "No one cares! No one cares! Raise your hand if you care!"

As this went on and on, my thoughts on the situation changed from, "Oh dear, whatever's happened, the deaf man is clearly in the right," to, "Oh, I think that deaf man is really drunk."

The deaf man was eventually escorted out by his more sober seeming deaf friends.

A few minutes later, the volunteer bus boy headed for the door. "Well, I'm out of here. Did you see those guys that just left? They stole my coat." He didn't seem that upset, just shrugged and headed outside towards his next experience.