Sunday, January 08, 2012

and then we all met oprah...

I’m trying to figure out how (and where) to best write about my experience at the Second City Training Center. It was very literally a life-changing experience. I’m struggling to find the words to express just how terrifying/wonderful this past week has been.

So stay tuned for that emotional bullshit.

In the meantime, I need to tell you about my last night in Chicago.

I’d made plans the night before to meet back up with Jordan, the comedic genius 21-year old from my afternoon comedy writing class. He wears a baseball hat 100% of the time and parts of it are held together with a safety pin. I kinda love him.

And I also wanted to meet up with Lynn, the friend from class who took me to a taping of Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me, which is a story for another post. Trust me.

I then decided to text Justin, a comedian from Pittsburg who was also at the Training Center. And Jordan had texted Geoff, a Gosling-esque hipster from Scottsdale in our writing class. Geoff was staying in his girlfriend’s mom’s apartment two blocks from my hotel. So Jordan and I met them there. And we figured people would just show up as the night progressed.

Which is how I found myself hanging out with three 21-year olds whispering because someone’s mom was sleeping, while we tried to figure out where to go. I felt really old.

We decided on a weird Mexican place next door, where Justin finally arrived, bringing along Shelley. Shelley is also in the other class, and I have no idea where she is from but she is very funny. And with them, they had Ben.

Ben was in my improv class. He’s from Wisconsin and exceptionally weird. Like Andy Kauffman weird. I loved to watch him, but I was terrified of doing improv with Ben, because he calmly deadpans every line and says shit TO ME like, “Steve, why is there an magical alligator coming out of your penis?”

I cannot 'yes, and' that.

(Yes, and is the number one rule of improv. If someone throws something out there, you have to go with it, say yes to it, and then add to their idea. Yes, and is very big at Second City. It’s on the t-shirts.)

Anyway, the 7 of us are hanging out and someone made a joke about Tracy Chapman. Shelley pulled out a notebook and wrote it down. Then Ben slowly took the notebook and wrote a Tracy Chapman joke. I was next. We all just instantly started passing around a notebook and when it came to you, you just knew to write down a Tracy Chapman joke.

By the time the notebook made it to Jordan, Justin cocked his head, listened to the music and screamed, “Holy shit you guys, they’re playing a Tracy Chapman song!”

Cue hysteria.

“This is a sign!” Justin screamed. “There is a midnight open mic at Second City tonight. It’s 11:55. Let’s go!”

There is no way that in my San Francisco world that I would ever be hanging out in what I regard as the middle of the night with people who know when the open mics are, much less want to arrive to one LATE and then actually perform.

“Oh, you guys.” I said, being old again. “I have a flight tomorrow.”

“Beth!” Jordan screamed across the table. “I thought we agreed you are my date tonight! You’re going. We’re all going.”

In that case then yes. Obviously. I am going.

Six of us went racing through the halls, up the escalators of Second City. People, amazing people, spend decades studying at Second City, and we’d spent one measly week there. But we ran though that place like we owned it.

“Where’s the open mic? Which theater?” Justin was screaming at random people standing around.

We pushed open the doors to the little black box theater on the 4th Floor to find 15 people watching a guy do his set on stage.

All 6 of us awkwardly “excuse me’d” our way to the front. Ben marched right over to the sign up sheet. It was 12:15.

After a a couple of men did short sets, Ben, our comedic representative, was announced as the final act of the night. As he walked on stage with a notebook full of our Tracy Chapman jokes, the rest of us went nuts.

Our jokes were stupid. Our jokes were offensive. But Ben deadpanned them all, and just kind of stared at the audience. “Tracy Chapman is so tough, she can rip apart a phone book with her bare testicles. (pause.) You don’t like that one? Okay.”

I was laughing so hard, I still ache.

With that, the show was over. Once again, Justin rallied us. “A triumph! We’re going across the street to celebrate!”

Directly across the street from Second City is Corcoran’s, or as Geoff started calling it, Johnny Cochran’s. We piled into the perfect wooden booth in the window. And then we played, “Make Me Smile.” Someone had written “Make Me Smile” on a cocktail napkin and passed it down to Geoff and me, sitting across from each other in the window. We’d slam it up against the window and the COOL people on the sidewalk did funny stuff for us.

We were there for AWHILE, and we had an exciting array of responses to ‘make me smile" mainly due to all the comedy shows getting out and drunk people getting taken away in ambulances. It was all very thrilling to me. There was a smattering of moonings, kissing through the glass, one guy did an entire improv scene. Delighted, we gave him a standing ovation, and he came and joined us. He studies at iO, another improv mecca in Chicago.

At this point, it was really the middle of the night, I was in a bar across the street from Second Fucking City with my classmates who felt like my dear, close friends. Everyone was doing voices, and routines and jokes. Geoff performed an entire scene from Good Will Hunting. Jordan can do every movie, ever. In character. Ben sat hunched over at the end, silently drinking a pina colada covered in whipped cream. I have a lot of versions of heaven, but this was up there.

Was this an incredibly challenging experience? Am I glad I came? Did it change everything?

Yes. Yes, and…


Seana said...

Let me just assure you Bethy, you are NOT old. You are at the perfect age right now. And it appears you are enjoying it appropriately. Keep up the good work, Chica.

Greg said...

What an awesome post! You are SO awesome. No really I mean awesome in the good way not the snarky internet bullshit way.

Lighter lit!

Anonymous said...

Not sure if 1st comment took. Second City a Blast: check out Pan Theater in Oakland
(oakland #5 & Space #20). I dare you to see Screwtape Letters at Herbst (sp) Jan 21st & 22nd San Francisco- would LOVE your comments (and also Mark Morfords) - Check it out!