When I was little kid, the first thing I ever wanted to be was a stand-up comedian. I loved the idea of standing up in front of a crowd and making them laugh. Then when I was 18 years old, I took my first improv class, and I have been side tracked from my original vision for the last 35 five years.
Improv has been very good to me; I have had a fair amount of success as both an improv teacher and performer. But creatively, nothing has been more fulfilling than when I have gotten back to my original vision of writing and performing my own material.
When I did my first solo show, “I am 27, I Still Live At Home and Sell Office Supplies,” all the stars seemed to line up to make the show a success. I worked with the right director, Gary Rudoren; I was at the right theater, The Annoyance; and it was the right topic — kids moving back home with their parents. It ran for a year and half, and I will always look at this as the high point in my career.
My one-man show was really my love of stand-up combined with what I had learned from Del Close: that truth is funny. In those days we would do honest monologues taken from our lives as the “opening” for Harold shows. The monologues were always my favorite part of improvising, even more than the scene work, and they fostered my obsession with truth in comedy. Del believed you could just get up stage and tell a story without having to elaborate on it and you could get a laugh. He was right 80 percent of the time. I became fascinated with how you could be revealing and funny at the same time. I still am.
So far, I’ve done a total of four one-man shows, and I’ve learned that a good show is a result of a good process. With “I’m 27,” I had a great process and a great show. Gary had me improvise stories I had been telling for years. We never wrote anything down. Instead, I just had the script in my head, and once the show was up, we continued to work on it, making it tighter and tighter. When we finally closed the show, it wasn’t the same show we had opened with. It was tighter, and I was a better performer.
And now, more than 15 years after my last one-man show, “Living in a Dwarf’s House,” I’m finally back to writing another one. I’m trying to combine stories about having Betsy, my Dad dying and being on a plane where they thought I was terrorist. And it’s the most fun I’ve had in a really long time.
Though I’m writing things down this time, I’m still enjoying the process. I am writing with the help of Lauren and phone calls with Gary, and I feel my confidence coming back to me. I’m getting to do what I loved so much about the first one: express myself in an honest and revealing way. It’s nice to get back there.