Happy Birthday, TMI!

I’ve been doing shows with a group called TMI Hollywood for almost two years now. Since they started in August of 2012.tmi

Sunday, they celebrate these two years of incredible humor, hard work, and lots of ridiculous sillies.

For two years, they’ve booked a guest host and put up a completely new show every single week based on the celebrity gossip and Hollywood happenings in the past week. It takes an incredible amount of hard work and dedication to run this well-oiled (usually) machine.

I lucked out when I went to that audition and lucked out to snag a spot in that cast. I’ve been even luckier to have stuck with it for the past two years and continue to be a part of the ever-growing and extremely talented community.

If you’re around LA on Sunday, August 10, come check out the show at the Second City Hollywood.

If you’re not, they always stream them live online at the website (and then upload the full show video to YouTube the next day).

And there’s always awesome pictures on their Facebook page and great tweets on their Twitter.

I’m grateful to know them and to get to work and play with them constantly.

Happy birthday, my obnoxious comedy lovers. Here’s to many more!

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Break’s Over

I had an epic day yesterday. I performed on The Groundlings stage in the early afternoon then a few hours later on the UCB stage. It was delightful.double day

A lot of time, energy, and effort went into both shows and I had a blast.

I also went without working out for two weeks because of the amount of time, energy, and effort that went into those shows.

I have to watch myself because I have a tendency to put too much on my plate. When I do that, I let the important me-things like exercise, meditation and journaling fall by the wayside.

Now that my big day yesterday is done (and was a ton of fun), it’s time to start reevaluating and re-grounding. I let myself sleep in but still worked out in my apartment as best I could for 20 minutes this morning. I’m gonna make sure I get in a quick meditation this afternoon. I’m gonna try and get some rest tonight so I can get up tomorrow and start getting back on track.

Of course there are lots of things I always have on the docket, but I gave myself a break to focus on getting through yesterday. Now that yesterday is done…break’s over. Back to work.

Feminine Advantage

rosieAs I may have mentioned once or twice on this blog (hint: I mention it all the time), I do comedy. I improvise, do sketch, do comedic acting, write my own comedy pieces and series, have a comedic solo show and podcast, write silly stuff and perform stand up constantly.

I’m not writing this post to reiterate that. I’m writing this post to clarify a concept I’ve been hearing too much of lately.

I’ve been told by a few friends in these various comedy worlds that I have a distinct advantage in comedy because I’m a woman.

I don’t want to go into the (asinine, outdated, and pointless) debate about women in comedy.

What I do want to make clear is- it is not an inherent advantage to be a woman in comedy.

Please note: I’m about to talk in stereotypes. Not because I think this is always (or even often) the case. But because I have been stereotyped. So I want to respond to the issues as they were presented to me. So we’re going into the language of stereotypes to do so. Please give me a little leeway here.

My friends in the sketch community tell me that my wait to go through a particularly long program will be significantly less because I’m a woman. I’ve been hearing this for the year and half I’ve been waiting. Which is, funny enough, the same length of time my male counterparts have been waiting.

I know there are fewer women in the program and that they tend to keep the classes even gender-wise. So they say. I also know that mathematically speaking, their excuses don’t make sense. If the classes are kept even, meaning the same number of men and women are going through the program, how do I have an advantage of waiting less time because I’m a woman again? Think about this and get back to me. Because I can’t seem to find the logic in it.

But I also know as I look at the people who have gone through the program that there are significantly less women in the company than men. So my advantage- if we can figure out that little illogical mathematical glitch I mentioned above- is that I get to move through the program more quickly? Not that I stand a better chance to actually make it to the top of the ranks? I’m confused. Because given the option, I’d rather take more time to get through a program I stand a bigger chance of performing with than moving through it more rapidly just to be “done” and not get to perform regularly.

They sometimes say it’s an advantage to be a woman in sketch comedy because sketch groups are often men and they need to meet their female quota. What they forget is that the pieces men often write for the women in their group are often over-simplified and over-sexualized, emphasizing our womanliness over our actual comedic talent.

I was also recently told by some stand up comedian friends of mine that I have an advantage as a woman in stand up. I get more opportunities and gigs because shows need to meet their female quota.

They seem to forget that every open mic I go to, I have to set up clear boundaries with every male I interact with that I will not, in fact, sleep with them for stage time. I have to deal with the fact that when I stand in front of that group of men, they are going to be looking at what I’m wearing and the shape of my (albeit luscious) body before they listen to what I’m saying. I have to deal with the fact that a lot of these comedy mics take place late at night in somewhat seedy areas of Los Angeles. I also have to deal with the fact that I’ve (usually) just listened to a bunch of jokes about penises, masturbation, and how difficult women are. And if I stand up there and mention something about my own hormones, I toe a very delicate line between sounding “whiny” and being a “bitch.” If I’m not overly friendly to the other comedians, I’m a bitch. If I am overly friendly to the other comedians, I’m a tease.

Not to mention, bookers will cut women comedians from shows if they feel there are too many. They’ll cut women comedians from shows because a different female comedian didn’t do well so they’re taking a risk by putting up another. This is still happening.

I am not complaining. I love what I do. I love being around comedians (male and female). They’re my favorite people on the planet. Some of the most important people in my life and career I’ve met through these comedy outlets. Many of them have been male. Many of them have treated me with nothing but love, respect, and support. Many of them I have nothing but love, respect, and support for as well.

But I want to set the record straight. There are no inherent “advantages” to being a certain gender or looking a certain way. Sometimes, I do get “lucky” and fit a particular mold people are looking for that can help catapult my career in a certain direction. And the reason that person thought of me in the first place was because they’d seen my work and knew I was good. And they saw my work because I’m actually doing the work.

And sometimes I do get a gig because of some superficial factor nobody has control over. But that’s showbiz, kid. You need to appeal to certain audiences and demographics. And sometimes that means meeting certain criteria.

So to all the people who think women get advantages in comedy by only having a tunnel-vision perspective and seeing what you want to see as if somehow our success is taking away from your opportunity… I have but one simple thing to say to you:

Go luck yourself.

Meaning get out there and work your ass off and odds are you can get “lucky” once in a while too.

Ways to Take a Compliment

I wrote this article for the fabulous online magazine Ms. In the Biz.

4 Ways to Take a Compliment.”

Click. Read. Learn. Enjoy.

Push it

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I may be pushing myself a little this next month.

I’m on a roll. I’m more motivated than I’ve ever been- and more free to follow through on that motivation than I’ve ever been. The result… I’m putting too much on my plate.

I’ve always been an overachiever. I have a tendency to burn the candle at both ends of the stick. I know this about myself. I accept it. I’ve never really understood what boundaries are in any sense of the word.

I assume I can do anything, so I just put my mind to accomplishing something, and I do it.

In some ways, my blind stubbornness serves me. I tend to produce. A lot. And in producing a lot, I improve a lot. I learn by doing and because I do a lot, I learn very quickly.

In other ways, it works against me. I can find myself razzled and spread out. And I’m very often thrown off balance because I get so obsessed with any number of projects and deadlines I’ve arbitrarily created for myself. And in the midst of it all, I add more. I’m not a balanced or interesting person when this is happening. I get tunnel vision and it’s hard to get out of it. I repeat myself because my experiences beyond the imaginary world I’m living in are limited for the time being. I’m not the best friend or partner during these times. I get so focused on what needs to be accomplished, I tend to overlook everything else. I don’t return text messages in a timely manner (if at all). I don’t tend to call you back. I don’t want to go get coffee and chat. All I want to do is go into my little bubble and create.

These phases don’t always last very long. Partly because they’re emotionally and physically exhausting to uphold. But when I’m in them, I’m completely immersed. No coming up for air.

I don’t know why. It’s in my nature. I’ll probably always do it. I enjoy it. It makes me feel the most alive.

I often joke that if I have 1,000 things to do, 998 of them will get done. If I have 1 thing to do, it will not get done. I will do anything but that one thing. So I keep a long list of to do’s to make sure I get things ta-done.

November will be a month where I know in advance I’m pushing my limits. Here are just a few things on the docket: I’ll be performing in two sketch shows with Second City which will require some rehearsal and prep time of course, four stand up show cases which will require keeping my skills and sets sharp and almost daily open mics, a short film, two podcast episodes, a few segments for a potential pilot, writing/starring/filming/co-producing a web series, and writing a novel on top of all of it and recording/editing/uploading daily vlogs documenting the writing journey. And, if I’m lucky, more things will be added to that list.  All in the span of one month.

Meanwhile, I’ll be keeping up this fabulous blog, my Femoir blog, and working out regularly.

Did I mention I have a full-time day job and spend most weekends babysitting? That, too.

The most wonderful time of the year will be especially wonderful if I can pull off the miracle of accomplishing all of the above-listed stuff.

I’m going into the abyss. I’ve already started by descent. My apologies for my temporary absence. I’ll see you again in December.

Wish me luck.

Have you ever found yourself so completely focused on a particular project, that you let so many other things fall by the wayside? Do you care when this happens? Do you notice it? CAN YOU HELP ME?

Improvising in Los Angeles

 I get asked about improv in LA often. I finally created a comprehensive outline of my humble opinion of every school out here. I sent this to a couple stand up comics who asked me about getting into improv, but I’ve tweaked it for anyone.

These opinions come from a place of total love for this form.

And they are just my opinion. Hopefully it helps you. Hopefully, if you work for or are obsessed with a particular institution- it doesn’t offend you. Just like in improv, there is no “right” choice. You just make a choice, live in it, and see how it makes you feel.

So let’s get all touchy-feely, folks.

FYI: I studied at Second City Conservatory in Chicago, iO Chicago and the Annoyance. I’ve done improv intensives and retreats all over the country before coming to LA (happy to share which ones if you ask). In LA, I’m involved with Groundlings and UCB while still hitting up the other comedy places regularly. I’ve spent a lot of money, energy, and time in this world. Does that make me more qualified to have an opinion? No. Anyone can have an opinion. But it does mean I’ve hustled and still regularly hustle. So I have feelers out everywhere.  Constantly feeling. And this is what I’ve felt.

See how I brought it back to the touchy-feely stuff ? That’s called a callback. You’re learning already!

Here’s what I say to everyone  who want to start improvising: know what you want to get out of it before you choose a theater training center. Go see several different shows at each place and see which speaks to your sensibilities. At the end of the day, it’s a form of expression and we all express ourselves differently. Each major improv training ground offers very different outcome goals and it’s important to know what you want before you do it. Also, it’s a major expense, so before you go and blow several hundred dollars, it’s good to know why you want to be there in the first place.

UCB

Offers awesome classes for people who are first improvising and a really positive environment to learn the basics. They approach improvisation as an end unto itself meaning their improv shows are just that- completely improvised (and I’ve heard their sketch program loves to use improvisers to help brainstorm ideas and what not, though I haven’t taken any sketch classes there).

PROs: great for beginners; you get a show at the end of each of your classes on the UCB stage which is not only awesome because the UCB stage rocks, but is great for industry because UCB is arguably the ‘hottest‘ comedy theater right now for scouting and opportunities and whatnot; they have a super-diverse stage lineup so any given night of the week can be filled with all styles of comedy- stand up, sketch, and improv. There are also AMAZING performers and performances that happen nightly. Plus, show costs are the most reasonable you’ll find anywhere (ranging between $5-$10). And, while you’re a student, most shows are free. Also, you get to choose your teacher (assuming you have options in when you can take the class, of course).

CON: In the improv program at least, they hit very hard on a very specific form of improvising- using ‘game’ to find the funny in the scene. This could make you feel stifled at first- but you know what they say- you have to learn the rules to break them properly. Then again, some people love love love game (and do very well with it) so it could be a catapult for you rather than holding you back. You don’t know until you try (and fail then try, try again).

GROUNDLINGS

Fantastic basic classes for beginners as well and really awesome stuff for people who want to get better at specifically character work. They approach improvisation as both a tool to create sketch and as an end unto itself (though their weekend mainstage shows- the stuff their known for- is sketch comedy that they used improvisation to create). They have plenty of other shows that are completely improvised (my personal favorite is the Wednesday night Crazy Uncle Joe show. In my humble opinion, it is exactly what improvisation should be. It’s out there, fast-paced, filled with strong character work, and extremely fun and accessible for the audience. There’s room for failure, but the pace of the show and the caliber of the performers make it successful week after week. If you’re in LA- go see it. Now. Or rather, next Wednesday.)

PROs: They have a track of classes you don’t have to audition into that are for beginning improvisers as well and are just as fantastic as what they call the ‘core track’; I’ve had a very positive experience there and LOVE it; they let you be a little sillier and wackier while still teaching you how to be a good improviser; some of the funniest people I’ve ever seen are Groundlings; I see a Groundling or a person I recognize from the Groundlings on every other commercial and in like half the shows I watch- they work like crazy. (Note: This is true for many UCB performers, too, there is just a much more massive pool to choose from. So while may faces are easily recognizable, many are not working as much.) Also! They have created a new “G2” theater space specifically for student shows, so if you’re on the waiting list (like me…see below) for your next class, they’ve gotten better about offering workshops with the opportunity to keep your skills sharp and perform more regularly.

CON: If you choose to go through the core program, you have to ‘pass’ at the end of each of your classes in order to continue to the next level. You can retake the class up to 2X (total of 3X taking the class) in order to ‘pass’ if you go this track, as well. This ‘pass’ system can sometimes create a weird vibe in class because everyone wants to move ahead and theoretically (many years down the road) become a ‘Groundling.’ The good news is, you get feedback while being told ‘pass’ or ‘retake’ – so you know what to work on not just be told “GETOUTTAHERE! NO!” You also only get a class show at the end of each class starting with the advanced class only (not the first two- basic or intermediate). The first the classes- basic, intermediate, and advanced are all offered pretty frequently. After that, you’re put on a waitlist for nobody knows how long (current average wait time 1.5 years) until you get called for the next level ‘Writing lab’ where you produce shows and write a bunch. After that, assuming you ‘pass‘ you’re on a waitlist again for the last level of the training program. Rumor is right now that waitlist time is around 2 years.

I don’t know a TON about SECOND CITY and iO West programs in LA. I do know that both of those theaters are filled with some of the most talented and funniest improvisers (especially many former-Chicago transplants) in the city.

Second City tends to approach improvisation as a tool to help you create sketch comedy and uses it less frequently as the show itself (though, like all other theaters, they have a wide variety of shows, plenty of which are fully improvised).

iO tends to approach improvisation as the end unto itself- they improvise within different forms and teams and experiment with styles and whatnot. Improvising is the show. Of course, they offer a (great) sketch program as well, but we’re talking improv here. Let’s stay focused.

The only real CON with these places is they’re not as ‘hot‘ as the other two theaters in LA. At least that’s the “word on the street”- for what it’s worth. You’re more likely to get industry to come out to UCB or Groundlings rather than iO and Second City- though OF COURSE there are amazing people at all of the theaters. And industry DEFINITELY come out to both Second City and iO. Who knows? (Answer: f***ing nobody.)

Financially, they all cost about the same…a boat load for a ‘poor’ actor. But this is what we invest in, right? Second City, iO and UCB all have internship programs to help you pay for classes. But they are highly competitive so don’t count on it- at least for your first couple classes. Groundlings offers a couple payment options to make it hurt a little less when paying outright for the classes, but you do pay a small interest for using them. But, speaking from experience, when you’re shelling out that much cash- it’s sometimes worth it.

So I’ll say it again, know what you want and why you’re getting into improv before you choose a place. That will help you enjoy the experience there even more. Go see shows. Each of these major improv institutions offers a variety of classes depending on your wants and needs. They all have comprehensive classes in improvsation, long form improvisation, sketch comedy writing, solo workshops, advanced improvisation, etc. Just choose where you can vibe with.

I’ll also say, lots of teachers teach improv on their own on the side. Although this can be beneficial and may be a route you want to go, I’d at least start at a major institution before veering off to a more specialized teacher. Mostly because you get a much more diverse group of peers and students at the major places which can help you decide if a certain style or approach works best for you.

I should also note, this is a pretty comprehensive list but not completely satisfying by any means. It’s just a start. The anal retentive part of me wants to keep discussing all the nuances of each place and why some of my generalizations are not completely true and yadda yadda. But the normal part of me is tired of typing and obsessing over this. So… I’m done. For now.

I love improvisation and have had really positive experiences in that community. I find it makes ALL performances I do better- stand up, sketch, auditions, writing- everything. I have so much more confidence now in my own ability and my own voice thanks to improvisation. Were it not for my confidence in all that, I would not have begun stand up because I would have been so nervous about what could happen onstage. Now, I look forward to when things don’t go according to plan or it’s a really feisty audience or it’s a really quiet audience- whatever!

Having the foundation that improv puts in your mind means you’ve always got something to fall back on in your own talent toolkit, so you never have to get mad or angry at the audience for not being as responsive or too responsive or whatever. They’re always right because in improv, everything that’s happening is always right. You’re more present and responsive in the moment and aware of your surroundings because of the improv training.

Basically, improvisers are just kinda better people. So… you know. Start improvising, you a$$hole.

Loves ya.

We did it!

Thank you to everyone who made the first run of Femoir 2013 such a success! Second City Hollywood was a great and gracious host to a very fun and very wacky and very successful version of Femoir and I couldn’t be more grateful and proud to have this show live again!

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

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