As artists, improvisers and human beings we all get jealous, some of us worse than others. Saying you never get jealous is like saying you never get angry or you never get sad or afraid. It’s part of the human condition.
With jealousy, the only thing we can hope for is that the duration doesn’t last too long. There have been times when I have been free of it, but jealousy is like cancer: Just when you think you’ve beaten it and it will never come back, it mysteriously shows up in another part of your body.
That’s precisely what happened to me last month. The uber-improv group Beer Shark Mice came to Chicago to do a series of sold-out shows and workshops at iO Chicago.
I have worked with all of the members of that group back in Chicago over 20 years ago, in once capacity or another. Since then, they have all moved to LA and have done extremely well. They are all very talented people. They have all worked hard. But still, I can feel jealous of their success in Hollywood.
Jealousy is not logical, it never has been, so to trying to figure it out makes no sense, but typically, the people I started out with in improv are the ones I can get the most jealous about.
Here’s what pisses me off about jealously, besides the fact that I have it from time to time: I am often too afraid to admit that I’m feeling it. When you say you’re jealous of someone, people misinterpret it and think you’re dissing on the person. That could not be farther from the truth.
Admitting you are jealous is a good thing. If you listen to my podcast, Improv Nerd, you have heard me talk about my jealousy of Tina Fey, who started in improv here in Chicago. First of all, my jealousy of her has nothing to do with Tina Fey. It’s 100 percent about me. It’s my issue. If anything, I am dissing on myself. Secondly, I have admitted my jealousy of Tina Fey over 100 times, and guess what? It seems to have subsided for the time being.
Being jealous of someone else just means that you wish that you had something they have. It can be talent, looks, money, fame… anything that you compare yourself to someone else with and feel like you fall up short.
I denied my jealousy of others — and a lot of my other emotions — for a very long time, and I can humbly say that denying that I felt it didn’t do any good. I didn’t admit I was jealous because I was worried of what people would think of me. People think jealousy and anger are bad, so I denied that I felt those emotions and stuffed them until they reached a toxic level in my body. When you do that, I can guarantee it will come out sideways and it will harm yourself and others and ruin your shows.
I did a two-person show years ago called Naked with Stephanie Weir, one of the best improvisers I have ever gotten to work with. The show was great, but it could have been much better for all of us if I could have dealt with me jealousy better. Not only was I incredibly jealous of her talent, but I also couldn’t admit it at the time, not even to myself. So instead, I made angry and negative choices on stage, which made me difficult to work with. I am sure I was nightmare for all involved, and I still have shame about that show.
If you get anything out of this blog today, I hope that it’s that it’s ok to admit that you’re jealous of others, because if you don’t, there’s a good chance it will turn into bitterness. I’ve been down that road many of times, and if we own it and takes steps forward in our own careers, it will dissipate and we can get out of our own way on stage and in our lives.