Monday, February 9, 2015

On Career Goals and Making It

When you spend a huge chunk of your adult life performing comedy and then you move to Los Angeles, it makes sense that the two would go hand in hand.  So, it makes sense that people are always asking me "Are you doing any shows?" or "Where are you performing these days?" or "Where are your taking classes?"  But despite it making sense, I'm still getting more and more bothered by it.

My time performing did inspire my move to Los Angeles, but it's not the only reason.  And whenever my answers are: "Not really" or "Once at iO and this other show in a strip mall next to a Von's" or "I'm not taking classes" - I get looks of disappointment, or advice on what I should be doing or the dreaded "It'll get better once you start performing more!"

My love of performing and writing pushed me to move to Los Angeles.  I thought about moving a lot, but I wasn't really sure where I wanted to move.  There was Chicago to study improv at Second City, or New York for UCB and there was Los Angeles for Groundlings or UCB.  In the end, I decided on Los Angeles because I could train at whatever improv school I wanted to and I felt that there would be more writing opportunities in television which was the end goal I saw for myself.

In my mind, there was no other option.  It was comedy or bust!  When you spend so much of your life focusing on comedy and performing, there is nothing else.  There is really only one path to take and there are only a handful of jobs to go after.  It just so happens that basically everyone in the comedy world - thousands of people - are literally going for those same jobs.

Needless to say, this past year has been slightly overwhelming and eye-opening.

The first road block I hit was money. I don't have the funds to take improv classes.  They range from $400-600 for one course.  It seemed outrageous to me - and it still does.  I have so much to pay for and paying that much for a skill that I already had just seemed crazy.  It's not that I think I can't grow or get any better, I know that I can, but I can't justify spending the money on something I have already spent so much time and money on.

The next road block for me was the overwhelming scene.  I love improv and I think I'm pretty good at it.  It's something that I get and feel comfortable doing.  But there are hardly any jobs in improv.  Well, you can teach it.  And you can be on Whose Line Is It Anyway? but it's hard to make a career out of unless you're Colin Mochrie and Ryan Stiles.  There are ways to find a job, but they're rare and either don't pay that well or they're used as stepping stones to a bigger thing.  Like SNL for example, or acting or television writing or basically ANYTHING ELSE in the entertainment industry.  You make those connections and you break into that scene by taking classes and performing at well-known theaters.  And that's awesome.  The improv community is huge and it's great.  But it's the first part that I can't get past… it's HUGE.  Overwhelmingly huge.  A part of me wishes I moved out here when I was younger and had less improv experience because moving out here with a resume full of improv credits is equal parts awesome and completely worthless.  I just don't have the ambition or want to break into the scene again.  I think it's great and valuable for people who want to do it… but that's just it.

I don't feel like doing it anymore.  I don't feel like doing shows at 11:30pm on a Saturday night for an audience of ten random people.  I don't feel like that's making me a better performer and I don't think it's the most productive use of my time.  I don't feel like going to an improv class right now.  I have taken and taught so many classes and performed in and watched so many shows that I am NUMB.  Every cheap joke, dropped piece of object work, scene where two people are standing on stage just talking at each other, missed ending… ugh, I just can't get past them.   I don't feel like watching people improvise anymore.  I have fun performing, and I love getting me some laughs, but I'm just at a point in my career where I'm happy with the amount of performing I did and I'm ready to take a hiatus from doing it professionally.  I'm happy with random shows every now and then, but I don't pine for it so much that I'm going to spend money to pursue it as a career goal.

Once I decided that, I felt GREAT.  I don't need to do improv anymore!  But if I don't do improv, then who am I?  For ten years, improv comedy has been my livelihood.  It's been part of my identity.  Without it, what am I?  How do I define my career?  What do I say that I do?  Am I just a funny Talent Coordinator at an advertising agency now?

And without improv, how will I get where I want to be in life?  How will I become successful?

I don't know that answer, but I do know this: there is more than one path.  

There is more than one job.  

There is more than one way to define your career. 

A lot of Groundlings and Second City performers have been hired at SNL… but some people were cast in other ways.  Some television writers have improv backgrounds, some don't.  Some people take the highway and get there quicker, but MOST people have to take the back roads and make some wrong turns and make pit stops along the way.

I don't feel that my decision to not take classes (right now) means that I'm not doing anything worthwhile in Los Angeles, or that I'm not doing anything for my career.  Some people have literally said that to me and I just want to punch them in their face/balls.  I'm living my god damn life, that's what I'm doing!  Get off my D!  I don't feel that I'm not successful and I don't feel that I'm giving up on my career.  I have a thousand career goals and they don't all have to do with improv!  There are other ways for me to do comedy.

You can do whatever you want to do and there are a lot of paths you can take to achieve your goals. And one person's vision of success isn't the same / doesn't have to be the same as yours.  If someone views constant performing, writing movies or acting in commercials and TV shows "making it" - then that doesn't have to be what "making it" means for you.

Make it however you want to make it.  Be it microwave… or oven… or fast food window.

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