How hard are you willing to work?

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I’m a pretty lazy person. A lot of you may say that I’m not giving myself enough credit but ask anyone I’ve ever lived with. They’ll tell you that there are days where I only emerge from my bed to accept my GrubHub delivery. I would live every single day like this… but I have too many goals.

Lately, people have been kicking me in the ass. I had a mini freak-out on Friday night about this. I felt like all of a sudden everything was possible and it was absolutely terrifying. Before then, I was kind of going through the motions of being a comedy student. Ok, I’m going to enroll in this program then when that’s done, I’ll go over here. I’ll continue learning until someone looks at me and says it’s time to go.

The problem is that no one is going to tell me it’s time. My last improv teacher really stressed this one. He told us that you are responsible for your own success and that this whole industry isn’t linear. Someone isn’t going to come up to you the minute you finish a program and tell you that you’re beautiful and fabulous and since you have a piece of paper saying you completed a program, you’re hired. That’s just not how it works. There are too many people who want the same goal and dream… how hard are you willing to work for it?

One of my favorite teachers once told me that Tina Fey didn’t just become Tina Fey. She wasn’t always the goddess of comedy. She worked her ass off and wrote every single day so that she would get better. I have to admit that I used to say that I loved improv because there was no homework. You just showed up, got a suggestion, and did your thing. That’s not true.

I was once in a show where I got Kurt Vonnegut as a suggestion. The only thing I know about Vonnegut was that he wrote a book called “Slaughterhouse-Five” and DePaul offered an English class about his books that I never took. There’s nothing worse than that feeling of being onstage with three other people, praying that one of them knows what the hell Vonnegut is known for. Luckily, someone else did and I took their lead.

After that show, I wrote down a list of things I should know. For the past five months, I have been going over classic movies, books and TV shows that I previously knew nothing about. I gave myself homework. It’s not that you have to know everything – that’s just impossible. But if someone in the audience shouts out To Kill a Mockingbird and I know nothing about the book because I relied on SparkNotes in high school, I’m going to look dumb. Dumb isn’t funny. Maybe there are like two bros in the audience who think that you’re funny for improvising a scene about how you have no idea what To Kill a Mockingbird is. But bros aren’t the ones hiring you, directors are. Directors don’t just look for funny people, they want you to be memorable. They want people to remember how smart you were when you took To Kill a Mockingbird as a suggestion and improvised a scene where you called all authority figures by their first name because that’s what Harper Lee taught you to do.

Additionally, no one makes it just by being a good improviser. Actually, let me retract that statement… because I don’t know if it’s true. Maybe there’s some super talented dude who just improvised… but for most of us, you have to be able to do it all. You have to act, write, sing and have some super cool talent that makes you different (I can shove six pens in my cheeks, thank you very much).

For awhile, I was coasting. I think the reason people really started pushing me is because they realized that I can write. I literally had someone come up to me the other day and offer me an audition slot for a show because he found out that I write. So many people find an excuse. Oh, I don’t do that. I’m not a writer, I’m a performer. My writing teacher summed it up perfectly the other day by pointing out that people are just scared of concepts. She mentioned that a lot of people hate writing satire in fear of the word alone. It sounds fancy, so people assume that it’s difficult. You don’t have to be a political science guru to write good political satire. You don’t have to be the best writer on the planet to call yourself a writer.

At the end of the day, figure out what you really want. Then make a list of everything you have to do to allow yourself the best chance of success. When I started this whole journey, I told myself that I can deal with failure as long as I know that I did everything in my power to make it work. That I could look back on it all without regrets. So on Friday, after allowing myself a vent sesh with my roommate to deal with the freak-out, I wrote a list. I have to eat healthy and make going to the gym a priority again. I have to write something everyday, no matter how long. I have to audition for shows that my conscious tells me I won’t get. I have to put money into my savings account so that financial stability will never be the reason I turn something down. I have to be responsible for my own success.  

After my list was complete, I put it somewhere I could see every single morning with the words “How bad do you want it?” scribbled on top.

How hard are you willing to work?

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