There is a saying I’ve heard that goes: “Don’t quit before the miracle.” But when you’re in the arts and creating shows, how do you know how long you have to wait?
I have been doing the podcast Improv Nerd for over five years. I’ve had some really big name guests. I’ve toured with the show all across the country at improv festivals and theaters. But the audiences have always been unpredictable. Sometimes we’ve had as few as two wayward improv students, and sometimes we’ve had some really nice crowds of about 80 people.
They’ve never been huge. Until last Sunday.
Our guest was Rachel Dratch and it was part of the Chicago Improv Festival. We originally had the show booked in Judy’s Beat Lounge at the Second City. It sold out in a matter of hours, so we moved it to a larger venue at Second City’s e.t.c. Theater. Then that show sold out, too, and finally they moved it to the Second City Main Stage. And for the first time in more than five years, I was actually performing the show in front of more than 300 people.
Plus, not only did it sell out, the show itself was incredible. Rachel was as honest and open in the interview as you could hope for. But the best part for me was getting to improvising with her again. We had been in a couple groups together back in the ’90s in Chicago, and performing with her again was so easy, just like improv should be.
I joked at the top of show that my goal when I started out in improv in my 20s was to be on Main Stage. I just didn’t think it would take 30 years to get there and only last an hour.
But you know what? I did it. Who would have thought when I started doing this silly little podcast that I would end up on Main Stage doing it for one night? I certainly didn’t. And the thing that is so cool is I did it with something I created.
I cannot tell you how many times I have wanted to quit doing this podcast. And to be perfectly honest here, I am not certain of its future. I have put a lot of time into it, so much so that my wife Lauren is getting annoyed at me and wants me to move on to other things. I have sunk of a lot of my own money into it. I have bitched and moaned that I think I should be farther along with it at this point. It should be more popular and I should be living off it. That has not come true, yet. But what is true is that I have not quit on myself.
The thing that sucks is you never know when something is going to catch on. We’re trained to think that if something doesn’t catch on in a couple of weeks we should abandon it immediately and assume we are doing something wrong.
I’ve often been a quitter in my life – whether it was in little league, in school, or in my improv career. But finally with this show, I’ve stuck with it. I just kept trudging down the road, even when I didn’t want to, so when a big opportunity finally arose, I was prepared. I had done the live show close to 200 times by the time this one came along. I have a staff of six people who make the show run like a Swiss watch. All of us were ready for our big moment and it showed.
When I first started doing the podcast I felt entitled. I thought, “I am Jimmy Carrane and I am getting these great guests. Why isn’t this an instant hit?” I was not ready. I look back and I am glad that this big show came when it did.
The hardest part of not giving up is you never know when the miracle is going to come. I think they call that faith. So whatever you do, if you believe in yourself or your own project, keep going. Don’t give up before the miracle happens.