Posts Tagged ‘improvisation’

NOT FUNNY ENOUGH

July 30, 2009

PART ONE. FAILING ON THE FUNNY METER

As someone who is inherently competitive, it’s very frustrating being a member of a family that excels in something at which you are not the strongest.  My family is funny.  Or as they will now be known henceforth —that family of funny wannabes.  I’m distancing myself from them after this experience. 

Tomorrow at 2 PM, I will be told via email if I made it into the Groundlings Basic One Improv Class.  Everyone who has been through that system starts at this level—Will Ferrell, Phil Hartmann, and thousands of other wannabes.  After today’s audition, I’m pretty confident in saying I don’t have a snowball’s chance in ‘H E double hockey sticks’ to get into this class. But I’m getting ahead of myself. You’re probably asking ‘why pray tell would you ever want to go through a comedy improvisation class with the Groundlings?’  Blame it on my brother-in-law.

Last week, he and I were having a perfectly pleasant phone conversation, nephews, work, vacation—then we segued into the subject of funny.  I made the mistake of asking him to rank each family member by funniness.  We got to me and he avoided the question by turning it into a complicated meter system where I ended up somewhere in the slightly humourous range, nowhere near funny. 

“I disagree with your evaluation of my funniness.  I’ve been told by many people that I’m funny but it’s a more dry, ironic wit,” I said.

He paused, actually guffawed.  “Really?  I’ll give you this, you’re funnier on paper than in person.”

“What does that mean?” I asked, appalled. “That I have to think things through because I’m so mentally slow?” 

“You try too hard, you’re too studied.  Like your dad.  But he’s still funnier than you.”

My dad!  Daddy is still using the same joke from twenty years ago after he gets the bill at a restaurant, ‘Whoa, hold on, can someone get me a phone?, because that looks more like a phone number than a bill.’  Anyhoo, my brother-in-law and I discussed how I could get funnier, and he mentioned  me working on my story delivery.  He noted that work friends ASK him to tell funny stories and do impressions.  (Personally, I think my brother-in-law has way too much time on his hands at work and should be focusing on bringing home more bacon.  I’m just saying.) 

After the conversation, I was boiling, so I did what I do whenever I’m told I’m not good at something.  I found a class.  I really wanted to show him that if I focused, like with sailing, sea-kayaking, moutaineering, social psychology, Indian cuisine, Spanish, French, and creative writing, I could and WOULD get better.  And that’s when it appeared on screen…The Groundlings…my personal great white hope. 

The instructions on the website for the Groundlings classes stipulated that everyone had to audition.  I had acted in college and high school, and I had also done improv in drama class.  Piece of cake.  This puppy would be a no-brainer.  The instructions did mention the requirement of a photo and resumé, but said a head shot wasn’t necessary.  No sweat, I had just taken some great photos for my old Match.com profile a year ago, and I did have a professional resumé. 

Audition day arrived.  (Cue the foreboding music.)  I was starting to get nervous that morning, and wondered if I was truly suffering from some 40-year-old life melt down.  But I was determined.  Since he got me into this mess, I called my brother-in-law to work me through it.  He suggested perhaps I needed some “back-up material,” in case I went blank. 

“Have some good come backs.  Like maybe with different accents to show your range.  Spanish accents can be funny,” he noted. 

“Yeah, I don’t do accents.”  I said. ‘What about comeback lines that have already worked.  Like on sitcoms.  ‘What you talkin’ about Willis?’ from Different Strokes or something from SNL that a comedian would appreciate.  If I throw enough at them—that could be the joke.”

“Yes, you doing a 5-year-old little kid from an eighties television show, that might be retro, but will wear thin, and you don’t sound like Gary Coleman at all.” 

“Well, hopefully no one is particularly good, I mean it’s auditioning for Basic One, these aren’t professionals.”

At the end of the call, he wished me good luck and I went off to Rite-Aid to process my 3 x 5 photos.  As audition time rolled around, which was also lunch time, I raced out of the Pacific Design Center, only having time to print out my resume, and grab a snickers from the vending machine for lunch.  I told myself this whole audition thing was just a formality.  I’d ace this.  And maybe I’d get extra points for working at an entertainment PR firm.  It was obviously in my blood.

NEXT…….PART TWO- THE AUDITION, CUE THE CRICKETS

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