“Crazy, Stupid, Love was written by Dan Fogelman and directed by the team of Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, and I’m happy to report that they have made the single best mainstream movie for adults this summer.”—
Um, ex-squeeze me, ZELDA isn’t mainstream enough for you, EW.com??
Erin McKenna talks to Sloane Crosley on HelloGiggles
Sloane:For most of the young women I meet, laziness is really not the issue. The younger women who come to my readings are smart and so funny and put-together and frighteningly ambitious...But the flip side of that is that want everything to be perfect out of the gate. I believe they paralyze themselves with this fear. That’s what Jenny [Egan] was saying. Basically: get over yourself, have a little faith in your own talent, do something new that only you can and produce above all.
Erin:I love that. Fear, perfectionism and unwillingness to make mistakes only lead to avoidance or failure. You have to know that each time you screw up, you’re just that much closer to your victory. Man, when I started baking, everything was naaaasty and I was often on the floor crying! But instead of laying there in a tear fest, I’d visualize the bakery, breathe in that joy and pick myself up and start over.
I’m trying to grapple with the idea that for the next month or so, I might have to officially put stand-up on the back burner in order to take advantage of a number of opportunities in improv, sketch and writing. Going forward, I might only be able to hit a mic a few times a week (Hell, that’s all I’ve squeezed in for the past month or so). It’s frustrating because I love stand-up, and I feel like I’m starting to get better ideas for jokes and deliver more on-point performances. Still, I have an improv class starting, and three teams with performances/rehearsals blocked for the next month. I have some big writing opportunities that I need to set aside time to work on. People are finally hitting me up about working on sketch comedy, too, which is actually the reason I moved to NYC in the first place. Oh, and I have a personal life now.
If I’m being honest, stand-up is already on the back burner. I’ve been trying to maintain a balance with everything else, and it’s been so hard. It’s especially hard, because just as I said I feel like I’m having some tiny breakthroughs in stand-up, I know for a fact I’m having massive breakthroughs in my other creative pursuits. I need to make peace with the fact that I can’t be everywhere all at once. Blargh.
Which reminds me, I have to finally flesh out some ideas for jokes for the mics I’m hitting tonight. The rest of the week is blocked out for other stuff.
I overheard a woman in a business suit say this on her phone while we were both waiting to cross 55th street this morning. I gave her an involuntary, “FOR REALZIES?” look, and she immediately made an involuntary, “YOU WEREN’T SUPPOSED TO HEAR THAT, YOUNG ONE,” look. And then we ignored each other. She continued her telephone conversation and I pumped up the volume on “Come on, Eileen”, and we crossed the street…never to cross paths again.
It would be amazing if I managed to crash her botox party.
I'm going to Los Angeles for the first time ever in September!
I’m only going to be there really for two days, but I’m going to attend (not be on—mind you) a panel at WGA-West about Women in Late Night Comedy and I’m going to be crashing with the awesome Aparna and I’m going to check out a mic and I’m going to see stand up shows and I’m going to hopefully see a Groundlings show and I’m going to walk into a fancy store on Rodeo Drive dressed like a hooker and then walk back in with a bunch of shopping bags and a fancy suit and say, “You work on commission, right? Big mistake. Huge!” and I’m going to finally have an excuse to renew my drivers license. Yay! Travels!
I had this epic breakthrough on the fourth day of the Annoyance Intensive. I’ve talked to people for a while about how I see all the different disciplines of comedy as requiring different tools from a comic’s toolbox. I used to argue that, “Sure, I could just do one thing in comedy. That’s like just using a hammer. If you get really good with a hammer, you can do amazing and creative stuff. At some point, though, you might want more tools though to build something bigger.” People talk about the “tools” we use as writers and performers a lot. We’ve got tools like character work, one-liners, game, relationship, crowd work, storytelling, voice, physicality, etc.
On my first day with Mick Napier, he pointed out that I’m really good at adding specificity to things. Which means instead of saying, “Hey, put that book down over there,” I would tell an improviser something like, “Bertram, put the Lost Works of Galileo next to that Ming vase.” It was a huge compliment. Napier told me I should make a personal game of just naming as many things as I want in scenes just to see what happens. Cool, right? So, later when all the other teachers were telling us to fuck the words and worry about emotion and physicality and relationships, I got a little confused. I moaned to Mark Sutton, “Can’t I have fun with the words, too, though? Words are like my toys.” Later in the week, after Susan Messing told me I should literally masturbate on stage, and while Rebecca Sohn made me exhibit the emotion of joy like a fairy, it hit me that it wasn’t just the words that were my toys. Every “tool” I had been learning how to use in stand up, improv, sketch and writing were actually toys to play with.
Realizing that comedy isn’t supposed to be work, but play, is like this big “duh” moment for me. I mean, I’ve always known that the less effort I put into being funny, and the more I put into having fun, the funnier I am. It’s this maddening thing because you put pressure then on having fun, and you can’t have fun if you’re stressed out about having fun. But the idea that whenever I’m writing or on stage is playtime—and it is-I’m not getting paid for this-it’s not my job—is incredibly inspiring. And now, whenever people ask me why I do stand up and improv and writing and blogs and sketch and scripted stuff, I don’t have pussy out with a vague answer. I know the reason why. I want to get to play with as many toys as I possibly can. I want more fun.
What shows did you see while you were in Chicago! Who were you favs? Who weren't your favs?
Tuesday night I saw Cook County (opening act was Wonder Bat) and The Reckoning (opening act was Dream Cannon) at iO
Wednesday night I saw Felt (opening act was Noget) at iO
Friday night I saw Improvised Shakespeare at iO
Saturday night I saw Co-Ed Prison Sluts and Skin-prov at Annoyance
I wish wish wish wish I’d seen either performance of Messing with a Friend (but I was hanging with a friend) or TJ and Dave (but it was sold out).
All of the shows had things I loved about them, and little things I wasn’t so crazy about. I have to say, one opening team at iO (I won’t name names) was really not good. I think what irked me the most about them was how nervous and unsure of themselves they seemed. I suffer from it—so I’m especially sensitive to it. But in general, there was a lot to be inspired by. Jet Everleth was AMAZEBALLS. The Improvised Shakespeare troupe was fantastic per usual, though this particular show was a bit silly. Felt was so cool to watch because it was literal talking heads, but you got drawn in because the puppets would ‘react’ to things like real people.
hello, back again! remember me, annoying girl with lots of questions? I have more! I was just lurking your blog because your life is kind of awesome, in the sense that you're doing exactly what I hope to be eventually. anyway, I see that you just got back from chicago and took improv classes. I was just wondering if you did iO or second city and whether or not you have any info to share that you haven't already, because I really hope to one day take some classes at either one of those, or UCB.
Hello! Seriously, you’re not annoying. It’s not like you’re sitting outside my apartment building hurling pebbles at my window all night long. I’m totes happy to answer any and all questions I can about improv and stand up and what not.
I did a week long intensive at Annoyance. If you’ve never heard of it, that’s okay. Second City is the big famous glossy place. iO is the storied training ground. Annoyance is the theater that was started by a bunch of insanely talented improvisers who wanted more freedom to do whatever they wanted to when they are on stage. I chose Annoyance’s intensive over iO’s or Second City’s because I have almost 9 years of improv under my belt. I’ve gotten really confusing training. I get in my head a lot. Annoyance’s philosophy was designed to help performers like me trust myself more. So, the UCB’s big philosophy is establish a “who, what, where” in your first three lines and then find the game and just do that. iO teaches you the elegant rules of “Yes, and”, no questions and taking care of your partner, etc. Annoyance says the best way to find the game and to take care of your partner is to screw the rules and take care of yourself first. If you come on with an intention, stick with it, and the rest will take care of itself.
A lot of their philosophies can be summed up in Mick Napier’s book, “Improvise”. Napier directed Tina Fey, Rachel Dratch and Scott Adsit in a now fabled Second City show in the 1990’s. He used to direct Second City. He was my teacher at the beginning and end of the week, and on Saturday he took me and a bunch of gay dudes and one guy from Toronto to a gay bar that you would swear I stole from a Stefon sketch if I described it to you. I also got taught by Susan Messing, Rich Sohn, Rebecca Sohn and Mark Sutton. So, I picked it because the level of instruction was ridiculous—and it was. I feel so much stronger as a performer after only one week with them.
Let me know if you have any other questions! I hope I gave some clarification on stuff.
Okay…so…I just checked out The PIT’s website to confirm when my Level 5 class starts and I saw that Jet Eveleth is in town tonight doing her solo show at 8pm. Apparently she’s also doing an improv set with Paul Brittain and Scott Adsit. It’s only $5 motherfuckers.
If I didn’t have an improv rehearsal at 7:30pm*, I WOULD SO MURDER SOMEONE TO SEE THIS. I saw Jet Eveleth last week at iO with the Reckoning and now want to be just like her when I grow up. In fact, every girl should want to be like Jet Eveleth when they grow up and every girl in NYC should see this show and make me jealous of them.
*I get to play with new people tonight! Hurrah! I mean-yes-I now want to murder someone myself, but I get to play!! Must remind myself of that.
Organize Honey Badger (my devious improv comedy scheme)
Just stuff, really…
*Jena Friedman headlined the last show. Less than a week later I broke the news on Splitsider that she got the Letterman writing gig. I’m not ever going to explicitly say the two facts are related, but I will say cool shit happens at my little show. We had a dance off in front of a giant fan last time…
I will try to do a longer post later, but essentially yesterday was tougher, but still awesome. I’m getting to know my super cool classmates more. I saw Cook County and the Reckoning at iO and now my goal in life is to be Jet Eveleth. The bitch does what she wants when she wants to do it and it’s awesome.