Teens these days.


(Photo: Carol Kaliff, Hearst Connecticut Media)

Today kids across America walked out of school to protest gun violence and the inability for our government to pass common sense gun control.

That’s incredible. I can only imagine being a government & politics teacher, or any other branch of history/American studies, and witnessing your students actively participating in and organizing peaceful protests. Or deciding not to participate because they didn’t agree with the protests. Either way, it’s a teach by doing moment. It’s teaching kids to be actionable instead of simply memorizing facts or spitting out theory.

Facebook is flooded with posts of alum, teachers and parents talking about the school walkouts or walk ins, where assemblies are being held in memory of the students killed due to gun violence. CNN is live-streaming the walkouts and the words of our CT Senator Chris Murphy. Across the nation kids are holding up signs stating their beliefs and desire for the adults in charge to be actionable. They are no longer complicit and trusting that adults will get the work done. The Parkland students showed them that their voice matters even when they are unable to vote. That you don’t have to wait until you’re 18 to voice political opinions.

I was young for my grade and didn’t turn 18 until I was in college. I remember being furious that I couldn’t vote in the primaries that year, even though I would be 18 by the general election. I was always highly opinionated when it came to politics, thanks to my mother who was always a well-informed citizen and my brother, who walked into the Democratic Headquarters at 16 to start volunteering. I would tag along with him, making calls to remind democrats and independents to vote, checking in on our elderly residents to see if any needed rides to polls, attending Chris Murphy’s debates when running for Congress, joining the Young Dems chapter my brother helped start and my favorite part of the process: going from poll to poll on election night to watch them count then ending back at Headquarters or a restaurant to hear the results roll in. I couldn’t vote, but I was more engaged in the political process than most adults.

Which was why I was furious when adults would undermine my intelligence in my teenage years. I would often hear that my opinions, and the opinions of my peers, were just echos of my family’s beliefs. I understand the thought, and recognize that may be true in some cases, but I could never understand why my civics teacher would take so much time explaining our nation’s workings to us, only to tell me that my opinions were just something I inherited from my parents when I got in a fight with a classmate over Bush’s reelection. Of course my family influenced my beliefs, but I was also smart enough to research and act on my own. I was old enough to hold opinions.

I remember a car ride where my mom and brother were talking a politics. I listened without much input, thinking instead of my recent civics lesson on political parties.

“What if I’m a Republican instead of a Democrat?” I asked my family.

I was constantly the lawyer of the family. I always wanted to think about situations from a different angle. A contrarian, always thinking of the other side before agreeing with my family.

“Your beliefs line up with the Democratic Party,” my mom replied.

“But what if they don’t? What if I’m a Republican instead?” I asked.

“Then you can be a Republican.”

I went home and did all the research I could on both parties. I spent hours trying to understand the difference and political platforms. I weighed policies against my moral beliefs and found that I did side with the Dems.

All of this was done my freshman year of high school. Clearly I was already intelligent and thoughtful enough to question my beliefs and recheck them against my political affiliation. My thoughts and opinions haven’t changed much. They evolved slightly with the times and my maturity. Whereas I used to think we should eliminate marriage entirely, calling everything a civil union, so we can eliminate the religious context of marriage, I’ve realized that battle gets misconstrued and calling everything a marriage is a better angle. I used to be much more fiscally liberal that I am today. I used to be pro-choice under medical necessity but am now entirely pro-choice. Tiny tweaks, but my adult mind is still in line with my teen mind.

So I still get angry that I was always underestimated. That adults did not believe that I researched my policies enough. To be fair, this still happens. I was constantly accused for siding with Hillary instead of Bernie because she was a woman, when in reality I thought she was the most qualified candidate we ever had and her fiscally moderate policies enabled me to reap benefits while still covering costs of social security and welfare.

People may say that I was a different type of teen. That not everyone was as mature. Well then, why not teach them to find their own opinions instead of dismissing them?

I think adults fall into an awful habit of thinking kids don’t know enough. We talk down to them and assume they can’t possibly understand. But clearly they do.

Today’s teens are living in a world where any question they have can be answered in a matter of seconds on their phones. Teenagers are actually MUCH better at recognizing “fake news” than we are. Aside from their obvious increased technical literacy, they’re also taught how to seek out information. As students, they have access to online encyclopedias and academic research. They’re constantly being told not to trust sites like Facebook and Wikipedia, and instead fact check every piece of information they want to use. They’re writing research reports and getting graded on whether or not their facts are confirmed. They’re much better at finding the truth than we are.

Without the ability to vote, I believe they’re getting antsy. I remember talking to my cousins, just shy of 18, about how much it sucked to be unable to vote in such an important presidential election. And now here we are, with massive school shootings happening at levels that I can’t even comprehend, and they’re done with us adults. They can’t vote, but they can speak for themselves and remind politicians that they’re voting very, very soon.

We need to stop underestimating kids and instead listen to them. That’s how I treat the kids I babysit. I never want to influence their own moral and political beliefs, so I just listen to them and encourage them to think about where they stand. The other day a kid I babysat was doing a project on trans kids and I found that she knew way more than even I did. I offered no opinions and instead just let her inform me on the topic. When I was watching some younger kids, someone came to the door who was running for local office. What followed was an hour long conversation with the kids about what their platforms would be and how they can run for office within their school. While I would steer at times, like suggesting they invest in scientific research when they said they wanted to stop all hurricanes, I let them carry the conversation.

We invest so much time and money into our kids and their education. But often when they want to show us the results of that investment, we don’t listen. While what happened at Stoneman Douglas was horrific, it is inspiring to see the students use their voices and speak up for themselves when a politician is dismissive of their question. Unless you’re a teacher or school employee, the topic of school shootings will ALWAYS impact the kids in your life more than it will ever impact you. Empower them to use their voices, especially if they’re teenagers. I’m so proud of these teens who are speaking up for the students in Sandy Hook who are still too young to speak for themselves. There are no longer only parents representing their students, but students themselves being actionable.

Keep going teens. Stand up for what you believe in and know that your mind is worthy of respect and your opinions are worth being heard.

Moving on.


When I moved to Chicago, I thought I’d leave before college graduation.

I wanted to be a teacher and it made sense to my seventeen year old self to only go to an out of state college for three years then come back to CT or NY to get certified within that state. But when I changed my major three days into my freshman year, that plan went out the window.

I was supposed to move back to the East Coast after college graduation. Actually, I did move back to the East Coast. Well, kinda. I did not renew my lease in Chicago. I packed up and planned to move home but was called in for a job interview. The day before going home, I put all of my stuff in storage then went on the interview. I figured that if I didn’t get the job, I could come back and get my stuff. Then I packed all my clothes and headed home. We immediately went on vacation for a week where I found out that I was being called in for a second interview. After vacation, I headed back to Chicago and took the job. So essentially, I just over packed for vacation

When I started working in Chicago, I had no immediate plans to leave. I always knew I would eventually end up on the East Coast, but I never had a definite time frame. My standard answer was that I would be in Chicago for two more years, which turned into three, which turned into four. Two years ago, I was ready to pack up everything and move to Los Angeles but breaking my knee put those plans on hold. I wasn’t too upset about that though because Chicago always pulled me back.

I’m nine and a half years into my extended stay in Chicago. I love this city with my entire heart. I love the people I met and the strangers who greet me with the kindness and optimism that can only be traced back to the Midwest. I love taking an hour long walk after work along the lake and finding myself still in awe of our skyline. I love the neighborhoods I lived in – Lincoln Park, the Southport Corridor of Lakeview and now Uptown. I love that I always find something new in the city like how expansive Montrose Park is or where to order the best Chicken Shawarma plate. I love when I find myself back on DePaul’s campus and replay the memories: the quad where I used to run through the sprinklers after a night of drinking, the dorm where I met my best friends, the hall where I was initiated into Chi Omega. I feel the pit in my stomach churning when I find myself by my old place on Cornelia, wishing I had enough money to buy the townhouse that I loved so much. I like the way we all gather inside for long nights of beers and Christmas lights in the winter and eat outside every night in the summer. I love Eagles games at Mad River, our annual Christmas Trolley and late nights after comedy shows at Old Town Alehouse. I love how it’s in the middle of the country so flying to either coast is not a hassle. In college I cried on every ride to the airport down Lake Shore Drive. I knew I would be back soon, but I never wanted to leave. I would strain my neck looking back at the skyline on the way to Midway until it was completely out of view.

I never wanted to permanently live in Chicago. I stand by that. For every reason I have for loving Chicago, I have another reason I want to be home. The thought of raising children so far away from my family is worse than leaving Chicago. I don’t want to be a long distance aunt anymore. I missed a lot of my nephew and cousins growing up and while I don’t regret my time here, it’s bittersweet to see all the time lost whenever I realize how old they are. While I pride myself in being a lot more present these days because I’m more financially stable, I want to be able to join in on all the little things the next generation of my family will bring. I want to be at sports games and school plays and whenever I have my own kids, I want sleepovers with cousins and dinners with grandma. Beyond family, I miss New England. I miss having four seasons instead of two and being so close to so many major cities. I don’t like that each time I come home it’s an event. I want to be able to visit with friends without feeling like I’m stiffing my family. I’d like to be able to relax instead of making sure I got to see everyone while home. And I miss New England falls. GOD how I miss New England falls. I miss the hills and the trees and the mountains. I miss the foliage and the scent of October. I miss being able to hike up real trails instead of city paths.

But each time I think I’m ready to leave, something pulls me back. It’s not easy being in love with a city so far from home. I wish New York or Philadelphia had the same vibe as Chicago.

I know that in the next few years I’ll be leaving this city. Where I’m going next I’m not too sure of. I don’t know if I want to spend a year in LA living in warm weather for once before returning to the East Coast, or if I just want to head straight home. I’m not even sure of where on the East Coast I want to live. While I’m 90% sure I’ll end up in New York City, which would split the difference between my extended family in New Jersey and my immediate family in Connecticut, I’m not positive. I may jet out to California in a year then head over to New York City a year or two later. But whatever way I split it, I have two years max left in Chicago.

I’ve set dates on moves before, so I know things can change. But the problem is that I keep on delaying my departure which makes it more difficult to leave. I fall more in love with this city with each passing year. There are some good reasons why I haven’t left Chicago, like breaking my knee and wanting to stay with my medical team until completely recovered, but the truth is that I’m also terrified. I wasn’t scared of going to college. Everyone made some sort of leap that year. And while I was constantly scared after college, it was also a normal transitional period. But here I am, in my late twenties, and there are no external forces like going to college or joining the workforce to push me out. This decision is completely self-motivated and I’m the only one that can execute it. I’m scared that I won’t find the same support group I have here. I’m worried that moving closer to my family will keep me from hustling in comedy. I’m concerned that my constant indecisiveness on where to live will be what keeps relationships from forming.

My friends in Connecticut and Los Angeles will all confirm that I’m not a great long distance friend. I miss and love them but get distracted when I’m in a different city. I push away from the ones I’m really close to because it hurts to know we no longer live close enough to be dependent on each other. I try to separate myself so I’m not disappointed when their life eventually goes on and they find someone to fill my void in their new city. I want to change these things about myself, but I know that it’s something I struggle with.

I know that Chicago will always be here to visit. But I loved being a resident. I know my close friends will remain my close friends and I’ll probably come back as often as I jet to the East Coast right now. And I know that if I ever find that I made the wrong decision, there’s a three story walkup on Cornelia Ave. that I’m more than happy to put a down payment on.

I chose the perfect city to become an adult in, both legally and mentally. Any pain or hurt is almost always the result of loving something, so I’m thankful that I found myself in a city that I loved so hard.

After almost 10 years, I’ll finally answer the most frequently asked question of an East Coast transplant: Chicago is WAY better than New York*. But sometimes the thing we love most isn’t what fits best.

*(Except for the pizza. NYC thin crust over Chicago any day.)



So I fell into a fad diet.

For the last 30 days, I ate according to Whole 30. After having knee surgery in October, and my team going all the way to a Super Bowl win, I wasn’t eating well. I was immobile for two months and while I tried to eat as healthy as possible, it meant a lot of canned soup and pasta. My metabolism was gone because I couldn’t do anything so I was never hungry. I’d eat maybe once a day then snack on all the sweets and easy to grab carbs.

With the Super Bowl, I spent Sundays at a bar where I’d grab a Philly Cheesesteak and a few beers. While I’m someone who loves to cook, and never cooks unhealthy food, I had a hard time with eating out and grabbing takeout. When I started walking again, I started working and going through physical therapy, both of which were incredibly exhausting, and never had the energy to cook. Living in a major city grants me unlimited access to takeout, so I would typically grab some Thai food across the street because the thought of cooking was exhausting.

I decided that once the Super Bowl was over, I’d get back to clean eating and chose Whole 30 because I have a handful of friends who enjoyed it. It was a much easier plan than others I’ve tried. There weren’t rules assigned to days or times, and there were zero to no bans on specific fruits or vegetables (except corn, which I eat maybe twice a year, and lima beans/peas, which I never eat). The rules were pretty easy – no sugar, alcohol, grains, gluten, soy, dairy, beans, etc. etc. It was easier to focus on the things I could eat: meat, fruits, veggies, most nuts and seeds. There wasn’t any measuring of olive oil, or banana ban, so it actually ended up being much easier than I anticipated.

There’s a few things that helped lead to my success. First, I love to cook. On normal days before my surgery, I usually cooked all of my meals. I prefer my own food to eating out. The oils used in takeout tend to make my skin feel hot and I just like what I like. So having to cook every single meal for thirty days wasn’t a huge challenge. It just meant that I had to take the extra time. Instead of being too lazy and sleepy to pack my lunch for the next day, I forced myself to take the fifteen minutes before bed to do it.

I also really love the taste of healthy food. Even when I’m not eating well, I still love the taste of fresh fruits and vegetables. I was never a carbs person. Growing up, I never really ate pasta or bread. So aside from revising my snacks, cutting gluten out wasn’t much different than my normal diet. I spent a third of my life allergic to dairy, another third lactose intolerant and the last third trying to convince my body to build up a tolerance, so cutting dairy wasn’t a big issue either. I never drank milk and only started liking cheese in college. I always kept greek yogurt in my fridge for a quick snack or breakfast, but never craved it. So dairy was easy to let go. The only things I really missed were hummus, brown rice, ketchup, Diet Coke and peanut butter. While I definitely wasn’t making healthy choices before Whole 30, I still enjoyed healthy food, so it wasn’t like I had to train myself to like new food.

I also never had to count days. I started right after the Super Bowl and my 30 day marker was my mom coming out to visit tomorrow. I was actually pretty surprised when I realized today was my last day. It’s helpful to not have to mark each passing day or have a countdown. Additionally, there wasn’t much going on. February is a boring month full of nights in and snowy days so I didn’t have to worry about the social aspect of it. Over all thirty days, I only had five alcoholic drinks and ate two tiny things that I wasn’t supposed to. I never felt like I was missing out.

The biggest advantage I had was my financial security. As someone who spent most of my life trying to find the cheapest groceries possible, it was a privilege to have a good enough job that I can spend $2.50 on an avocado when I don’t want to go all the way to Whole Foods where they’re half the price (surprising, yet true… their avocados are practically free). I could afford to buy almond butter, ghee and organic beef jerky. While I’d rather not pay $2.50 per Rx bar when I could get a whole box of Kashi bars for the same price, I was able to for a month. I wanted to set myself up for success, so I allowed myself to buy the pricier groceries if it meant I wouldn’t cheat on the program. If I tried doing this even a year ago, it would be much more difficult because I would have to settle for whatever produce I could afford that week.

I tried not to talk about it. I only brought it up if I had to explain why I wasn’t eating or drinking. In the past, I was that person always writing posts about what I was eating and this time around I didn’t have the desire. I didn’t even weigh myself before it. It was less about weight loss than it was about reclaiming my body after having no control over it. For two years I’ve had to bend to its every demand and I was finally able to tell it what to do. It was a bit of a cleanse. Riding myself of the long and boring recovery days and celebrating the fact I could grocery shop and cook again. I posted my food on Instagram, but that was about it.

I found that by not talking about it, I normalized the way I ate. When I was filming, I brought my own snacks in case craft services didn’t have anything for me to eat instead of sending my “dietary restriction” over. Luckily there is almost always a bunch of healthy snacks at craft services and I didn’t have to worry about it. When I was at a friend’s party, I found the things I could eat and avoided the rest. When I went out, I drank the least amount of calories possible but didn’t explain why I wasn’t grabbing my usual beer. When a friend wanted to do dinner, I offered to cook so I could make something I could easily eat. Treating it as no big deal preventing it from feeling like one.

Honestly, I feel great. I have more energy and am much happier. My 5:40am alarm clock is less menacing because I don’t feel like a sloth anymore. While the diet is meant to be just a 30 day thing, I know I’ll adapt a lot of it into my day to day routine. I’ll take back the beans, brown rice and occasional gluten but I’m more or less done with dairy. I decided to eat at least one yogurt a week so I will be able to tolerate dairy when I want to indulge in the occasional cheese platter or slice but there’s no reason to keep a container of goat cheese in my fridge. I decided to limit my sugar intake to twice a week, in whatever form I want, so I can continue to reach for an all fruit smoothie or clementine instead of tootsie rolls. Plantain chips are my new pretzels and I’ll keep a bag of frozen turkey meatballs for nights when I don’t want to cook. Dates are the new sweet and I’m only allowing myself one Diet Coke a week. When drinking, I’ll opt for a good vodka soda, or dirty martini, and try to limit my beer and wine intake.

The largest habit I wanted to break is getting takeout. I decided to create a “take out tracker” in my bullet journal. If I don’t eat out for ten days in a row, I get a free meal where I can pick up dinner or bank it for another day. If I break my streak with anything but a reward, I have to start new.

It’s nice to try a diet when your goal isn’t weight loss. Honestly I have no idea how much I weighed before this and have no clue what I weigh now. I’m trying to go for something a little more sustainable than what was popular in the past. But I can’t lie – it does feel nice to fit a little better in my jeans.

My notice to the grammar police.


Whatz up, grammar police? I used to be one of you. I hated when people used incorrect grammar. Then I realized I was kind of being a dick.

If you’re my parent, editor, teacher, director… please correct my grammar. That’s your job. If I’m asking you to review a piece or if I’m composing an email that represents our company, please correct my grammar. Everyone else can chill out.

I write my blog as a personal challenge. I try to write at least three entries during my lunch break each week. I’ll write them, let my mind cool a bit, then come back to them during another break to read before publishing. I considered writing these the night before I post them but then I realized that half of why my readers like my posts has to do with my lack of editing. I don’t have time to go back and second guess everything. I don’t have time to question whether or not people will think I’m an asshole for being so blunt. I don’t have time to judge myself.

Which means that I always don’t have time to catch every single grammatical error or typo.

I used to be very self-conscious about it. Growing up, English was my favorite subject (shocked, huh?) which meant that I was one of those people. I looked for something wrong in everyone’s writing. I mined my classmates’ hard work in hopes of finding a grammatical bomb to drop. I thought it made me entitled and intelligent… in a competitive class, it gave me an edge up. I thought people who used poor grammar were stupid. My younger self was so damn proud of my impeccable grammar.

But my younger self would also never start a blog. I was too self-conscious about making mistakes. Each piece of writing I produced took endless hours. I googled everything – hoping that I wouldn’t get a single thing wrong. That I would remain grammatically perfect.

I understand the point of correcting grammar for good reason. You want people to have the best chance at success. When I read something on Huffington Post or even The Onion, I expect the grammar to be perfect. I’d harshly judge someone who publishes a book with an obvious grammatical mistake. But that’s because it’s their job to get it right.

However, when you’re constantly stopping your 25 year old friend’s story to tell them that they used “who” when they should have used “whom”, you’re just being an asshole. When you put up a passive aggressive status saying that Jewel employees need to go back to school for using “since” instead of “because”, you’re just being an asshole. If there’s anything that I want my readers to understand, it’s that no one likes assholes and dicks.

Bite your tongue and realize that you’re probably doing more harm than good. When you point out flaws, you keep people from feeling free to express themselves. Ask yourself if it’s your place to correct them. If it’s not, just keep it to yourself. No one is perfect. By pretending that you are, you’re actually just putting a huge target on your back… oh, just you wait until you make one little mistake…

English teachers should have impeccable grammar. Published authors should have impeccable grammar. Politicians making speeches (or actually, their ghost writers who are writing them) should have impeccable grammar.

So give your friendly bus driver who says “I’m doing good!” a break… (or, you know… your favorite blogger who uses “you guys” constantly while claiming she’s a feminist. ) Use your perfect command of the English language in a more useful way… like coming up with creative puns so you can stop being so tense! Thanks guys… I’m here all day. 

A year in quotes.


So my improversary (is that a thing?) came and went without much noise. Last March marked a year since I reentered the comedy world. And it changed everything. I could go on and on about how much joining this community changed my life but if you read my blog then you’ve heard it all before. Instead, I’m going to share my favorite quotes from the people who taught me how to be a better performer, writer and person.

I love teaching Level A because you all have no idea that your life is about to change. I really believe that if everyone in the world took an improv class, the world would be a better place. – Brian Posen

Brian was my first teacher since coming back to improv. I distinctly remember him saying this… it was one of the first things out of his mouth. The reason I remember it so vividly is because I thought he was crazy. I thought that he was some hyped up optimist. Change my life? Okay, buddy. I’m just here to be funny. I couldn’t have been more wrong. In improv you learn how to treat every single person with respect and dignity. You are taught that the world doesn’t revolve around you. You don’t have to always be right, you should agree more than you disagree and what you put out in the world is what you receive. My entire life did change. I have no idea how I would have gotten through the hardship I’ve faced in the past year without the people, lessons and hope that this community gave me.

“Amount of time doesn’t mean quality of work. – Jay Sukow

It was hard to pick just one quote from Mr. Jay Sukow. The man is full of advice and really believes in his students. There isn’t a single person who doesn’t rave about him. They’re never like, “Oh, I had Jay. He’s a cool dude.” Everyone sings his praises. However, when looking back on this year, this was probably the Jay quote that helped me the most. I had a really hard time with coming to terms with my success. I freaked out when I was cast onto a team with people who were far more experienced than me and immediately assumed that I didn’t belong. Jay taught me that experience doesn’t always correlate with the caliber of talent. Don’t doubt yourself because you think you’re not ready. Give yourself more credit than that. There’s nothing noble in belittling your success. Be grateful, confident and brave. Don’t be your own worst critic. Believe in the opportunities that you’re granted.

Lorne Michaels isn’t going to pop in on our class. No one from mainstage is going to swing by to see who the next rising star is. The truth is, they don’t care what you do in here. Here is where you can fail. – Rich Baker

A lot of people feel this immense yet illogical pressure in class. You want your classmates and teachers to respect you as a performer. It’s natural. However, the classroom is a safe place to fail. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Don’t treat it like an audition. It’s not. So what if you fail? If you give yourself permission to fail in class, you’ll inevitably discover something great. Some new talent that you never knew you had. In fact, the classroom is the perfect place to fail because everyone around you already loves and respects you. Their opinion isn’t going to change because you didn’t know how to do a German accent. They don’t care. And if they do, then they’re a dick. 


You have to ‘Yes, and’ yourself too. Don’t tell yourself that you’re wrong for thinking, feeling and acting the way you do. – Katie Rich

You learn from day one that you have to “yes, and” your scene partner. It eventually becomes second nature. But one of the many things that Katie taught me is that you have to treat yourself with that same respect. Don’t judge yourself. Don’t be your own worst critic. Honestly react to how you feel in the moment… that’s what improvising is. When you initiate a feeling or action, don’t rush to judge yourself. Instead, believe in your instinct and add to it. Trust that your directors & teachers will advise you on how to improve. Don’t put that weight on yourself.

Rule of ten. Out of every ten things you write, nine will be shitty. Yeah, but what’s the end of that sentence? One will be great. That’s the most important part. – Tyler Dean Kempf

You’re going to write shit. It’s inevitable. Everyone writes a shitty piece… it happens. It doesn’t mean that you’re a bad writer or have nothing to contribute to the world. However, every now and again you’re going to write something really great. And it’ll feel amazing. Those five pages of gold are going to remind you why you write in the first place. They’ll remind you that there’s still something inside of you… you just have to mine a bit to get to it. I started writing three sketches for every sketch that I turn in… the first two are usually the ones I leave at home. Sometimes it takes writing crap to clear your mind for something great. The thing that I loved about the way Tyler phrased this, and the thing that makes it so TDK, is that when my classmate stopped at the idea of ‘nine will be shitty’, Tyler made him continue so that we realized that the most important part of the Rule of Ten is that one sketch will be great. Don’t look at the bad… don’t look at the hard work that will have to go into making something great. Instead, remind yourself of the end result.

There’s no right way to do art. If you think that there is then you’re going after something unattainable. You just have to do you and make it art. – Jay Steigmann

It was just as hard to pick a Jay Steigmann quote as it was to pick a Jay Sukow quote. I could definitely write a book of essays called “Lessons I’ve Learned from People Named Jay.” I mean, with quotes such as “Voldemort don’t do summers” and “In Minnesota they play duck, duck, grey duck because they’re assholes” it’s a little tough to choose. But I like this one. Here’s why… when you’re pursuing an art form, you look to people who are successful. You try to figure out how they did it and then try to model yourself to be more like them. Well, that’ll kill you. Just like Dove teaches us, everyone is different. When you try to be someone else, you lose all of the wonderful things that make you great. Put out what you want to consume. What I consider to be funny is vastly different then what my friend may think is funny… so there’s really no way that you’re going to please everyone. Instead, just do you. Trust that you’re good enough to succeed while staying true to yourself. 

The pressure to write.


I have an annoying little habit. I write down everything. And I mean everything. I don’t leave the house without two notebooks – one 8×11 that I use for content, material and writing notes and a 3×5 that I use for inspiration, advice, tidbits about life from my teachers and performance notes. It comes in handy.

Every Saturday I have to turn in a sketch. We’re given a style and the task of completing it by next week’s class. Homework. Easy right? Well, usually it is. This week is really hard.

Last week I turned in a sketch that I thought was too easy. I essentially took my life and just heightened it… made fun of it. An office sketch with an intern who was inspired (and played by) a very close friend of mine who is immensely talented. I thought it was silly and cute… but too easy… too overdone. Imagine my surprise when it went over really well. I mean, it was something I didn’t even work hard at. I just wrote as myself, for myself. I didn’t think about the social connotation or life questions. I just did it.

So now I’m sitting here, trying to get myself to write, and I have this pressure that I’m putting on myself to really hit it out of the park. Now I have something to live up to. Now there’s the expectation for me to write something else relatable yet unique. Before, I would just go for it and not really care if people liked it. Now, I’m sitting here trying to study myself and figure out how the hell I did it the first time.

So what do I do now? Well, I turned to my notebook. I flipped back to when I first came up with the premise… I looked for any kind of hint as to where to begin. Instead, I found a quote I wrote down from my teacher after she saw my sketch last week. She goes around and gives everyone feedback… how to improve, what went right, what didn’t hit. Last week she got to me and kind of stared at me for a bit.

“Annie Taylor. I almost said ‘You’re perfect, never change.’ But it’s my duty to give you something to work on… so let’s talk about your title…”

Nothing will ever be perfect. Even when you get it all right, someone will always have a way to make it better. So why put the pressure on yourself to make something perfect? All you can do is put out something that you believe in… that you think is really good… and hope that others like it too. I need to stop looking at what I did right in the past and focus on what other things I can do in the future. If perfect can’t happen anyways, why am I so scared that I won’t be perfect?

I found another great quote from a previous teacher when I was breezing through my notes. He said, “I don’t believe in writer’s block. It just doesn’t exist. You can look at anything in the room and get inspiration. Just start writing. So, no… I don’t believe in writer’s block. But I do believe in lazy writers.”

Don’t be a perfectionist. Don’t be a lazy writer. Just write what you’d want to watch.

Empty compliments don’t exist

Life Lessons

If you’ve ever worked with me in any creative capacity, you know that I can be pretty hard on myself. This goes for anything from planning the perfect Christmas gift for my mom to flipping every bedroom I’ve rented to resemble a West Elm magazine. I tend to look for every problem and try to find a way to make that disappear. Yeah, my current room looks magnificent… but you know what sucks? That my shoes scuffed the white paint on the bottom of my closet wall and now I feel horrible about what my room looks like. 

I grew up as an athlete and I have that mindset that there are always ways to improve… but somewhere along the way, I started to be a perfectionist who thinks I can only be good if I did everything right. It’s okay to mess up, everyone does it, but if you mess up then you definitely were not great.  Mistakes are for practice… talented people don’t mess up when it’s game time. 

This mindset needs to die. I recognize that… but it doesn’t make it any easier to kill. It’s like when I found out, after 10 years of playing softball, that I am no longer allowed to throw the ball with a side arm because I’ll dislocate my elbow if I keep doing it. I talked to my coach about it … “Wait, what? I realize that it hurts my arm… but throwing it side armed makes me better! I don’t care if I’m hurting myself in the process!” His response? “It’s not making you better… you’re hurting yourself and if you keep on doing this then you’re not going to have a long career in this sport.” Oh.

So lets fast forward to today. Well, actually… lets rewind to yesterday now that we’re here. Yesterday during my break, I watched my most recent improv show online. How did I feel before watching it? I thought the show was fun… I made some good choices, some mistakes and there were notes I had for myself… but overall, I was more focused on the fact that I had a blast with my favorite people to share a stage with. Then I watched the show.

What did I think after watching it? “Ok Annie, there were times that you were good… but you didn’t follow all the rules. You didn’t play to the height of your intelligence. You chose a character that makes chicks look bad. It would have been better if you came in as the girlfriend who was actually brilliant .. that would have shocked everyone. You could have listened to your partners more. Where was your object work? Why did you pause too much in your intro? When you recognized the booth, you blocked Elissa’s face. You really need a haircut.”

What. The. Fuck. Am. I. Doing. To. Myself?

I’m not making myself better by thinking this. What I’m doing is killing my career, shitting all over the people who constantly support & teach me and becoming one of those people who think that they’re always the victim… aka embodying the type of person I can’t stand to be around. How many times am I going to hear people tell me that I’m good before I believe it myself? I’m actually getting sick of the lectures, compliments and coaching sessions about my confidence. Why? Because I personally know what I have to do… it’s just that it’ll take some time before I break the habit… and it makes me feel really really bad for not being able to apply the advice I’m given.

Then, last night I woke up around 2am and just sat there thinking. I thought about my accomplishments, the notes that I get, books I’ve read and podcasts I’ve practically memorized. That’s when the simplest thought dawned on me – I’m new at this. Yeah, I’ve been “improvising” my entire life just through the type of person I am, but I just learned the rules 8 months ago. Why the fuck am I expecting myself to follow them all right away?

It took looking at someone else in my situation for me to really understand what my problem looks like to an outsider. A member of another team I’m on is brand new to improv… like, squeaky clean. And she’s fucking incredible. Seriously… this chick just gets it. She hasn’t been taught all the rules yet & somehow she just naturally knows them. From my point of view, I was floored when I found out she’s new & only saw her as that much more talented. From hers? She’s kinda freaking out. I talked with her this past week after rehearsal and told her that it’s all in her head… she’s the only one who is noticing any of her flaws… everyone else is floored by her talent. There was this “Ah hah!” moment when I realized I was talking to myself just as much as I was talking to her. 

If anything, I should be incredibly proud of where I am right now & the fact that it has only taken me 8 months to get there. I’m comparing myself to people who have been doing this for years and feeling disappointed when I’m not at their level. I should feel comforted that my natural talent and personality are already there… I just need keep on training and the rules will find a way in with time. Most of all, I need to really start listening to compliments more and notes less. Why am I able to take notes and treat them like gold but brush off every and any compliment I get? It’s good to be humble but come on Annie – this is ridiculous. Listen to your coaches – they have a lot of experience and aren’t handing out empty compliments. They wouldn’t waste their time on you if the potential wasn’t there. Listen to your ensemble – they watch you perform at least three hours every week… if they still think you’re funny after 96 hours rehearsing together, you must be entertaining. Listen to your audience – realize that laughter is coming because you earning it. You’re entertaining them. You have them in your palm and that’s what we all hope for. Most of all, stop listening to yourself… naturally, you know what to do… but don’t listen to those voices telling you otherwise.

So… yeah. It’s hard to get over a bad habit. However, it’s fucking killing me and I’m not going to get far unless I kill it first. So today I’m making a pledge… I’ll still take notes and apply them so I can grow but I won’t be so damn hard on myself. I’ll listen to the compliments and leave it up to my teachers and coaches to tell me how I’m doing, not myself. I’m talented and I’m going to make many mistakes… both can be true at the same time. Most of all… I have to stop letting others be my biggest fans… that title is reserved for me.