For months, I would come out of the shower while my skin was all soft-like, use my laptop, then find these perfectly symmetrical raised bumps by my toes. I worriedly spent way too much time googling foot diseases and close-inspecting photos of ringworms to see if they were ever perfectly symmetrical. Way too long later, I eventually realized it was from propping my laptop’s cooling pad on my feet. Sometimes I am an idiot.
Also, this is by no means my attempt to turn this tumblr into a foot fetishist blog, but like, is there a market in that?
I posted three weeks ago about my thoughts on Harold/Lloyd auditions from last year and I realized that despite how self-indulgent it feels, it might be interesting to others or at least myself to keep posting things I wrote about improv over a year ago.
That period of time when you first start to get deeply immersed in improv might be the best time, because the insights come frequently and intensely, and everything seems revelatory.
It’s also interesting to track change/progress because it’s one of those vague concepts that’s impossible to grasp in the moment, because it can only be measured by comparison, in the future. You don’t know how you’re improving going forwards, you can only inspect it as you compare past to present.
Most of what I post is going to be excerpts from too-long email discussions with my friend Mike Bilow, who does improv in Los Angeles. He was the only person I knew that did long-form when I first got started, and was my improv pen-pal long before I knew any NY improvisers I could talk to about all this stuff. He even ran scenes with me during audition week via Skype because he’s a great friend.
GChat, nearing college graduation, 4/19/11:
Bilow: how are you feeling about the real world
Lily: expectant, apprehensive, apathetic, excited, adjective, unsure
Lily: actually, I kind of want to hear your thoughts on improv. My graduation gift to myself was improv101 classes at ucb
Email to Bilow, amid my first ASH class with Delaney, 6/21/12:
That’s great that you took a shortform class, you’ll have to tell me more in person. I’d be interested in taking one as well- anything unfamiliar that pushes me out of my comfort zone. I got the general diagnosis from a frequent coach recently that I make the right moves but it looks like I’m still learning how to have fun. Which isn’t terrible, but felt terrible. I do have fun improvising or I wouldn’t be doing it, but they’re right- I get so tense and nervous that it really inhibits the experience and product. I know some people attribute it to just needing more reps, but that feels like a really passive way to deal with it. Sure, I need to improvise thousands of more hours, but rather than going through those hours by rote, I’m trying to actively find things that are scary or foreign to me to throw myself into, eg that musical improv class. Also did terribly in a freestyle rap workshop with Eliza Skinner that I made myself take to face fears. Hopefully once I’ve embarrassed myself a million ways, I won’t be as easily embarrassed. I’m positive I’ve told you all this before, so I’m sorry for repeating myself.
In that same vein of motivation, I’ve recently felt like I need to get out more in sets. Such a dumb problem, mostly stemming from a tumultuous indie team. I have no problem stepping out but I don’t race to do it, so if other people are more aggressive, I tend to politely defer to them. Because of that, I wanted to try twoprov or threeprov and recently started a threeprov group with two friends/teammates. I thought it would be harder but it has been the easiest and most fun group I’ve ever improvised with. Which also ties back to chemistry and playing with people who you respect and trust and with whom you wouldn’t hesitate for a second to jump in and support their dumb idea. Some other things I’d like to try: a short-form class, classes at the other NY improv theaters, an acting class, an intensive in Chicago, black-tar heroin, bath salts.
That threeprov group became Pompadour, and we all lived happily ever after.
I just want to watch animated shorts for the rest of the week. This is the cutest.
Emma Jean Noble is screening her animation final tonight at 4pm and 7pm. People should go to it.
I have no relation to this event other than that I will be there and I think animated shorts are great and that Emma is a goddess.
“An address on Vanderbilt Avenue in Brooklyn. An F train that never comes. Unfinished on-spec scripts for “Saturday Night Live.” The artistically inclined friend of yours who, incongruously, is dating a man who works at Goldman Sachs. That exorbitant $3 fee at the Bank of America A.T.M. — and the long unpalatable walk to the next deli, to find a cheaper option.
Such are the totems of young life in New York City, the visual and emotional shorthand that anyone who has lived and struggled here in their underfinanced 20s will immediately recognize. This period of time — the years of going to adult dinner parties without anything adult to relate; the friendships that end over trivial matters of geography and relationship status; the afternoons of waking up at 2 p.m., and starting to drink at 3 — is the subject, loosely, of a heartfelt new film from, “Frances Ha.”
“Frances Ha” is about a 27-year-old chrysalis of a human, played by Ms. Gerwig. Frances is an aspiring modern dancer conducting a platonic love affair with her best friend, Sophie (Mickey Sumner), and the New York City — shot in seductive, “Manhattan”-reminiscent, digital black and white — they both live in. It is a deeply romantic film with no real romance at its center, a love letter to a city that is depicted, at times, as anything but lovable.
“There’s no heterosexual relationship in it,” Ms. Gerwig said. “There’s no kissing.” Instead, the movie chronicles Frances’ flirtation with adulthood and her subsequent fall from perpetual adolescent grace. “I’m so embarrassed,” Frances says. “I’m not a real person yet.”
For Mr. Baumbach, “Frances Ha” is a return to a moment he’s never really stopped writing about: “That period in your 20s where you’re necessarily having to separate yourself from a kind of romantic idea of yourself,” as he put it.”
Well, that review was everything I expected and wanted it to be, to the point of cliche. I am really hoping this movie will be more like “Kicking and Screaming” and less like “Greenberg.”
It’s rainy outside. So stay in and listen to this acoustic version of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Despair” all day long.
DFW, 1997: "John Updike, Champion Literary Phallocrat, Drops One; Is This Finally the End for Magnificent Narcissists?" →
“… Mr. Updike, for example, has for years been constructing protagonists who are basically all the same guy (see for example Rabbit Angstrom, Dick Maple, Piet Hanema, Henry Bech, Rev. Tom Marshfield, Roger’s Version ‘s “Uncle Nunc”) and who are all clearly stand-ins for the author himself… . Always either the narrator or the point-of-view character, they all have the author’s astounding perceptual gifts; they all think and speak in the same effortlessly lush, synesthetic way Mr. Updike does. They are also always incorrigibly narcissistic, philandering, self-contemptuous, self-pitying … and deeply alone, alone the way only a solipsist can be alone. They never belong to any sort of larger unit or community or cause. Though usually family men, they never really love anybody-and, though always heterosexual to the point of satyriasis, they especially don’t love women. The very world around them, as beautifully as they see and describe it, seems to exist for them only insofar as it evokes impressions and associations and emotions inside the self.
I’m guessing that for the young educated adults of the 60′s and 70′s, for whom the ultimate horror was the hypocritical conformity and repression of their own parents’ generation, Mr. Updike’s evocation of the libidinous self appeared redemptive and even heroic. But the young educated adults of the 90′s-who were, of course, the children of the same impassioned infidelities and divorces Mr. Updike wrote about so beautifully-got to watch all this brave new individualism and self-expression and sexual freedom deteriorate into the joyless and anomic self-indulgence of the Me Generation.”
(via The New York Observer)
This is a book review by David Foster Wallace from 1997 that I kept rereading last summer, mostly because of the passage excerpted above. Life captured as an emotionless aesthetic experience and self-formation as a rebellious response to past traumas. As always, DFW was able to take a small assignment and capture the larger issue for which it was emblematic.
Come on everyone, let’s get dumb.
Big Dumb: A One-Man Summer Music Festival
Written by and Starring Matthew Starr
Directed by Matt Dennie and Justin Tyler
Paired with the one and only Brandon Gulya and his new spank, Who Are You People And Why Are You Watching Me?
The show is May 22 at 6:30pm at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre.
Make your reservations right now.
Get a ticket NOW!
Look at that fuckin’ golden retriever with a fuckin’ guitar. This is going to be a great show.
After reading Anthony Apruzzese’s excellent year-in-improv review in January, I began to write a similar thing about my improv experiences in 2012. I tried to incorporate everything and wrote a 2K word monster that only got up to June. Then my ADD medication wore off and I probably got distracted by a falling speck of dust. I never finished writing it, but I did save it as a draft, which I reread today for the first time.
What was interesting to me was what I wrote about last March, following auditions. I had just gotten into Advanced Study and I had just done my first ever indie show. I thought I’d paste it below, word-for-word, for some perspective:
Spring 2012 Harold/Lloyd Auditions
I had zero expectations for these since I had just gotten into advanced study the day before audition signups. It might be the best audition I’ll ever have because of that. I did two scenes that I was happy with and was glad to have had the experience. I didn’t get a callback, but thought it was awesome that two people from my 401 did.
Afterwards, I had two takeaways:
- Follow the fear is the Del Close quote that I most take to heart. I’d just read Mick Napier’s “Improvise,” and I felt that my fear was holding me back as an improviser, and I’d never be ready for a house team if I couldn’t get over it. My 401 was on Wednesdays and we used to head over to the Grandma’s Ashes jam afterwards, where I would watch but never submit my name, because I didn’t love the fast and chaotic type of play, and feared doing poorly in front of so many peers and teachers. Also, the first time I ever jammed, some stranger touched my hair a lot, which I didn’t like, and I used that as my excuse for a while. I realized this had to change and I would only get over my fears by repeatedly tackling them. The next time I caught myself thinking “I can’t do that, I’m scared,” I turned it into “I have to do that because I’m scared.” This has worked wonders.
- Work harder. Seems self-explanatory, but I was practicing twice a week and seeing shows, and I felt like I was working hard enough, without any thought of how I could be pushing myself more. After my 401 classmate got onto Lloyd night, it seemed like he was practicing five times a week and still going to all the jams and shows, and I was reminded that unless I’ve hit a breaking point, I can always be working harder. This, combined with my embracing of “follow the fear,” made me seek out new practice groups. I used to be super-picky about who I played with, because I was sensitive and scared, but I realized that to improve, I had to get good enough to be able to play with anyone and still make them look good.
I feel incredibly blessed to be joining UCB’s Lloyd Night. I feel even luckier that I get to be on the theater’s first all-female house improv team. I know I haven’t been doing this for that long, but I took those two mini-revelations to heart and have worked really damn hard at this in the past year. I feel ready. I looked at some improv notes I wrote last summer/fall, and my key takeaways were that my handwriting is shit and that I’ve gotten over a lot of my previous fears by tackling them head-on. I stupidly love improvising more than anything else I’ve ever done. Stupidly, because I know that improv can’t be the end goal and it’s ephemeral and I should be writing more and blah blah blah, but have you ever watched a specific artisan, such as a baker, and wondered how they could care so much about the rise and fall of bread while it illicits no such emotional response from you? Some crafts just weirdly fit right into you like a missing puzzle piece.
Everything is a sequence of events. I left my office job last June to focus on comedy, but really only had improv in mind. I was then able to take some day-time ASH classes. Without those, I probably wouldn’t have had enough notes to get into Shannon’s Suck My Dick class, which has been one of the best things to ever happen to both my improv and personal life.
Of course, that’s the individual part of the equation, and improv isn’t done solo. I couldn’t have gotten here without great coaches and teachers, and teammates who were willing to bust their asses collaboratively. I could probably write a million little posts thanking individuals in the upcoming days. Certainly SMD and Pompadour deserve more exposition.
Anyways, that’s just some of where I am right now, and where I was a year ago.
Iggy Azalea, “Work” (stripped version)
Day Camp Kids made me realize there’s a new Iggy Azalea single. This is the stripped version of the song. The actual MV for this and “My World” are examples of a level of classy/trashy to aspire towards.