Jimmy Carrane and Susan Messing

Facebook intervention

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I have been involved in a bit of controversy around some of my Facebook posts. I have heard through others people that some of my friends are concerned, they think I am ruining my reputation, sharing too much information or having another break down.

On the most recent episode of Improv Nerd podcast, we turned the tables and had Susan Messing interview me, and during the interview, she confronted me on my polarizing Facebook posts, asking me why I was writing them.

If you haven’t been following me, here’s an example of what I’ve been writing. I’ve posted some self-loathing stuff like “I have been so busy lately, I have not found any time to hate myself” and “To all of the women I keep turning into my mother, Happy Mother’s Day,” to more positive posts like “Brilliance coming soon” or “When is someone going to realize how deep I am and offer me a book deal off my Facebook posts?”

Some days I have posted several times in a row, all about how I wished Facebook would make me feel better or how I have so much shame.

When Susan asked me about why I am writing these kind of posts, I wish I had not been so defensive and had given her a different answer. The one I would give today would be “I don’t know.”

When I put a post on Facebook, I sit at my computer screen and it’s like I go into a persona, much like when I am improvising a character, and I lose myself, saying things through the character that I am afraid to say in my boring everyday life.

After the show on the car ride home from Stage 773, my wife, Lauren, confessed that she did not get some of my Facebook posts. My producer called me and, like Susan and my wife, thought I should put the energy I am putting into Facebook and write a new one-man show. I felt ganged up on: This was a Facebook intervention.

I have written many solo shows and each process has been different. And maybe this is my process for writing another solo show or a book or a screen play. Who knows? All I know right now is that my voice is getting stronger and I am having fun. I learned a long time ago at the Annoyance Theater that product follows process, and not the other way around.

I will tell you this whole “Facbookgate” has left me confused and kicked up my people-pleasing, which has always held me back since I was old enough to express myself. When I post now on Facebook, I second-guess myself, and before I write something I think, “What will people think?”

This is death for any artist in any field. I want the people-pleasing to go away, and I want to care less about what people think of me. If I am going to continue to grow as an artist, I need to be comfortable in making people uncomfortable. I hope I have your blessing.

6 replies
  1. Jordan Weimer
    Jordan Weimer says:

    It must be hard to tell that you’re affecting people from your screen but the aggregate of your posts over the last few weeks and months has been fantastic. I think I’m not the only one whose brain has churned a quite a lot because of your posts. Personally, while you’ve been quieter recently, I knew that it was probably because of the negative feedback you’d gotten from the important people in your life. That input seemed to me to be undeniable. People who cared about you were concerned and as a commentator I started to think about my role in steadfastly encouraging a behavior in you that I question in myself. I have nothing to lose so it’s easy for me to post and experiment and encourage others to do similarly. So, I’ve been chewing on the design problems you exposed recently.

    The new problem I’ve seen is “how does a writer reveal their weaknesses on social media without making their audience feel unsafe or the need to help?” What I’m starting to see is that maybe tense is the most important piece. You have a tendency to write in the present tense. But, if you changed to past tense, I think that would change everything. A status that reads, “I’m choking to death right now,” is a lot different from, “this morning I was choking to death.” In one the audience might consider how fast they can get to you to give you the Heimlich Maneuver. In the other, the audience already knows the outcome and can feel safe. Present tense — in the context of social media at least — breaks the forth wall and leaves you “fucking with the audience” while past tense lets the audience know it can safely observe something dangerous at a distance.

    For me, there was some “after burn” from your previous posts. It’s like doing weight lifting instead of straight cardio; afterward, there is a ton of work being done to put new things together. So, a few days off might actually be fine because the substance of your posts and the reactions they caused has been fantastic and complex.

    That said, I hope you can get back to posting more often. It just seems like you’ve been at a point where you’re deciding which way to solve your design problems. I hope you just go there instead of following the “less is more” approach. It doesn’t actually seek to solve the problem as much as mitigate it by avoiding it. Plus, “Less is more” is nearly a hundred years old created by IIT professor of architecture Mies Van Der Rohe and it’s responsible for giant boring concrete and glass extruded forms all over our country. They’re like blue glass play-do shat out of that press thing. I much prefer the philosophy “yes is more” (http://www.archdaily.com/366660/yes-is-more-the-big-philosophy/) which means to say yes to the design problem, solve it, move on to the next problem, and have fun. Yes and yes is more.

    Obviously, there is a component to this that I reject as I am posting a comment at a length that I’m pretty sure is completely socially unacceptable. I resist the idea that anyone writing a paragraph must be a raving madman. I also resist the idea that simply because I do not know you in real life that I can’t talk to you or — at the very least — at you. (If I were to write a response to Aristotle I couldn’t do anything but talk at him anyway. So, that is not new. Talking to past celebrities is basically what academics do. You’re just here and can respond, if you so choose. Either way I’m happy writing about what your posts me through my eyes.) And, I am hoping that some of those design problems evaporate by mentioning them. I guess I should also mention that brevity is not simply keeping an idea short, it means that you don’t waste words on your way to your point. And, so I rest in the idea that if I could have written one sentence that says all of this that I would have. Beyond that — as I’ve read in Philip Lopate’s book “To Show and To Tell” (Lopate — professor of creative writing at NYU — is the leading scholar of the Personal Essay Genre and one of its best writers. Check him out!) — it is important not only for me to show my own sanity but to hit the nail on the head a bit.

    I am not a crazy person from the web. I may be crazy but it’s not what defines everything I do. I simply think it’s important to express ideas on the internet. And, I hope that other’s will do that too. One doesn’t need to spend much time on youtube to realize the average comment on the internet is written by an inexplicably racist misogynist (paradoxically?) religious person. And, it seems as though people’s natural reaction is to associate internet interaction with insanity and avoid it. But, that only serves to further separate the internet comments from the sanity. What I’d really like to see is sane people comment enough to drown out the crazy. I believe perhaps to a fault that there are a lot more educated and rational people than insane people; It’s just that those people value a type of brevity that is speciously defined because it’s assumes meaningless or that only insane people talk on the web. They forget that online interaction is no more meaningless than conversation. It’s no more addictive than conversation. Smiles, crossed arms, or verbal counter arguments are probably more addictive than ‘likes’ and comments because they’re instantaneous and rapid. And, if Facebook is largely shallow it’s because it is social interaction and social interaction is rarely deep. Facebook cannot be more shallow or devoid of meaning than a conversation about the weather. So, I think logically it follows that — like a conversation with another deep person — the depth of our interaction is only limited by the personal depth of the individuals involved and — most importantly — their willingness to share. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that if Montaigne posted his essay’s to his Facebook page they would not suddenly lose their depth. Of, if Richard Wright posted “Notes of a Native Son” on his page, it would not lose it’s depth. Carlin wouldn’t have lost his bite if his specials were posted to Facebook instead of HBO. He just wouldn’t have made as much money. What if Jonathan Swift decided not to publish based upon how many people wouldn’t understand his satire? What if all of them decided not to publish for fear of seeming crazy or pretentious, where would we be?

    I wish for more intelligent, educated and experienced improvisors to write and participating in written world that exists on the web. Hell, I even hope more of the uneducated people do too. I am a high school dropout that learned to write largely on discussion boards on old Facebook groups so I have an appreciation for the idea that when we participate in the dialogue we get better at it to a shocking degree. If it weren’t for watching several genius level intellects one from Harvard and one from Brown battle over the ultimately cliche topic “abortion”, I wouldn’t have learned how fast and perfectly a person can write. They’d rip off five paragraph arguments and counter arguments in less than thirty minutes that were chalked full of actual support and effective deconstruction of the other’s argument. It was incredible to watch and though it didn’t inspire me to become better, I simply became better by participating. I used to be a horrendous speller. I used to make many typos. Now they’re pretty rare. That’s not because I am gifted. It’s because it was ground in to me by dueling twelve year old kids over whether Jesus really existed or if this dragon I got on Dragonvale looks like Squirtle from Pokemon while they looked for any easy ad hominem argument based upon my grammar and spelling. And, though those weren’t particularly productive arguments, in aggregate a series of meaningless arguments gave be this ability to write and publish relatively error free without an editor. Writing on a typewriter without a backspace helped tremendously as well. The process is important, and participating in web conversations broadens you and allows you to see every single possible cliched argument under the sun. I’ve also gotten to dive into the specifics of many arguments like Apple’s involvement with Foxconn and the topic of whether the word ‘thug’ is used in place of racial slurs or whether GQ’s hottest women issue is socially corrosive. And, my understanding or secular moral reasoning has blossomed because of those — presumed — trivial arguments on the web.

    I know profoundly that Youtube doesn’t have to be trivial. Facebook doesn’t have to be trivial. Twitter doesn’t have to be trivial. (See what Robin Williams does with only a hundred and forty characters. More incredibly: See what what Alec Baldwin does with only one.) If you’ve made it this far you know reading is not dead because of Facebook and the internet. For some, it’s just the opposite. Likewise, thought is not dead. There is as much meaning here as we all decide. And, if there is a lack of meaning, it is only because we left meaning out. And I truly believe that it is our moral obligation as sane, educated people to write and participate online and to drive the depth of our interactions down to the angel fish near the ocean floor. And, see where that takes us. Like you said I don’t know where it’s going but the process is important. And, I hope that the future will be Asimovian where the internet is like the library where Pulitzer met the intellectuals at age twenty that pointed him toward his first job in journalism working at a local German newspaper in St. Louis. For me, it already has been.

    I’m pretty sure that you’ll write on here regardless of what I’ve said. Creation seems to be a part of you; like an eventuality of your state of being. Maybe, it’s more willful than that. I don’t know you enough to say. But, I read that you feel you’ve let people down by not holding up your end of the bargain recently on Facebook, and I hear you; though I disagree with you because a substantial amount of my thought has been precipitated by your posts so I can’t help but be extremely satisfied by how you’ve held up your end of the bargain — however vague your end of the bargain is. But, I will say that I hope more improvisors on your level see their end of the bargain as you do. And, I sincerely hope that sharing more catches on… even if it is in the present tense. The more people say yes and write and listen, the better we all get. It’s just a matter of living “yes and yes is more” and seeing where we go.

    Reply
  2. Greg Morelli
    Greg Morelli says:

    You have my blessing, from above, from below.

    You’re such an imaginative artist, Jimmy, I got the feeling, as someone who was lucky enough to be in the room when you were being interviewed by Susan Messing, that what she was asking of you, albeit selfishly, was to create more of a context than facebook allows, so we, your loving audience, albeit selfish audience, can see the world a little more clearly through your thoughtful eyes.

    If you’re happing doing it, well then keep on doing it. If you’re happy being unhappy, well then keep on being unhappy.

    In the end, who the Hell am I? And what does my blessing mean? Really?

    I’ll tell you what it means: nothing, not a God Damn thing. Nonetheless, God Bless You, Jimmy Carrane.

    Reply
  3. Buddy King
    Buddy King says:

    Jimmy, we don’t know each other well enough for me to bust in as a “friend”. Maybe that’s better. I witnessed one of your workshops and recognized it as being advised by an artist. I have been performing for fifty years professionally and have witnessed genius on only a few occasions, but “witness” is the key word here. Working with Del Close was much the same. You are totally absorbed, see nothing but the moment and the character abolishing all the other bullshit that clutter our lives and our performance art. For whatever reason(s), we are fucked up. If we weren’t, communicating ideas and feelings would not present themselves in this obsessive form. What I’m getting at here is that you seem to be exploring, growing, changing and developing. It’s important for without it the art stops. In this stage you must be careful because you are vulnerable. Chrysalis and all that. You have support, so just recognize when you need to talk to somebody that respects your work and isn’t frightened by new behaviors.
    I am a fan.

    Reply
  4. Jason Buckley
    Jason Buckley says:

    I think FB brings out the tendency improvisers often have in a scene to “fix” a character’s problems rather than allow the improviser to explore them. Partly because on FB people often don’t recognise how much someone is posting as a character, and partly because people assume that every intimation of a problem is an invitation to solve it, when anyone posts something uncomfortable there’s a rush to make it comfortable again: console, convince or get someone to say, “I was only joking.”

    Reply
  5. Peter Reinemann
    Peter Reinemann says:

    Fuck em if they can’t take a joke.

    The best use of comedy is to point out our foibles, inconsistencies, hypocrasies etc. The comic is concidered courageous if he points them out in the powers that be (turth to power).

    Also courageuous is the one who sees and acknowledges those traits in himself.

    We all got em . We should all be able to laugh at ourselves as well as “them”.

    Thanks for the show and go fuck yourself,

    Love PETER

    Reply

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