Acting as if I'm a success

Acting As If I’m A Success

Jimmy CarraneI am leaving this Sunday to go to LA with my wife. I’m going to be doing three live Improv Nerd shows with three amazing guests: Andy Richter, Matt Besser and Beer Shark Mice. I am also teaching a workshop next Saturday, which shockingly sold out in about 24 hours.

Most people would be excited, right? Great guests, a few days in the sun, a chance to take my show to the next level. But I am not like most people. I am terrified.

LA is a city that intimidates me. It’s a place where “I feel less than,” not good enough, even more so than I normally do in Chicago. I moved there for five weeks in my early 30s and auditioned for some shows, and I came back flat broke and un-famous with my tail between my legs.

People I started out with, on the other hand, moved to LA and made it big. Pat Finn is on a show on Nickelodeon, Neil Flynn is on “The Middle,” Dave Koechner is filming Anchor Man 2.

So now I’m going back there, feeling exposed and stupid. I mean, how can a person who teaches improv compare himself to people who have successful careers in TV and film?

The problem is I can’t. If I do, it only makes me feel worse, but I can’t stop. It’s like a compulsion to cut yourself or eat so much cheese and caramel corn until you want to throw up.

I don’t know if you know this about me, but I have terrible habit of “comparing my insides with everybody’s outsides.” That’s why I love to play low status characters in improv scenes because that’s what I’ve done my whole life.

My wife, Lauren, is constantly saying I’m a great teacher and a great interviewer, telling me people respect me and that I help people, but those affirmations are wasted on me.

So, my therapist gave me this crazy-ass experiment to try. Instead of saying I am not good enough, I am a piece of shit… my usual schtick, when I go to LA I am going to “act as if” I am successful. And to make matters worse he told me to write a blog with affirmations in it.

I really don’t know if it will work, or how long it will last, or if when I finish writing this, I will black this out like my drunken Christmas Eve of 1982. But I am willing to try something different.

I am also going to ask you to help me prepare for this trip. If you have affirmations or compliments, please pass them on by writing in the comments section. I will be checking my blog addictively while I am on the trip.

OK, I am stalling. I dread writing these. I feel uncomfortable. As you know from my last blog, I am more comfortable with the dark side of myself… Fuck it, here I go.

1. I have a beautiful, loving and supporting wife who is going on the trip with me. (Yes, I am lucky).

2. I am a great improv teacher. (I believe this one).

3. I am fucking great interviewer. (I believe this one, too).

4. I am great writer and I get great response from these blog pieces. (I feel like I am stretching it, but I’m not lying yet.)

5. I have a great sense of humor. I am great improviser. (This one is hard to say. I kind of believe it, and I am putting it down.)

6. I have three wonderful guest lined up. (Fine, let’s move on.)

7. In the past year and a half, we have interviewed some real A list people for the Improv Nerd podcast, and it has grown in popularity and have built up tons of fans from across the world. (True, and I feel I am try to sell you something.)

8. My friends the Finns are throwing a party for me and my wife in LA. (I am feeling tired and want to quit.)

9. I make my living as Improv teacher. (I feel sadness.)

10. I have great friends. (More sadness)


Please, if you would like to add to list please feel to do so. I need your help.

46 replies
  1. Teresa York
    Teresa York says:

    This is great! LA can be intimidating, but I think everyone is just angry from not finding a parking spot. I look forward to taking your workshop on Saturday.

  2. Dave K
    Dave K says:

    Jimmy, I look forward to your blogs and podcasts. I check them religiously because I’ve found myself learning a lot through your interviews and words.
    I’ve only been your student when you were co-teaching with Koechner when he was here last summer, but with that, your blog, interviews, and just starting your book, I feel like I’ve been a student of yours for a while.
    I appreciate what you share, both professionally and personally, and will give you these pieces of advice that I follow for the shows I’m in:
    1. Just have fun.
    2. You know what you’re doing.
    3. Don’t worry about what they’re thinking…do what you do.
    4. Have fun.
    5. Have fun.
    (I literally tell myself this multiple times…)

  3. Danielle Bluford
    Danielle Bluford says:

    I truly loved my time spent as one of your students and you really are an exceptional teacher! Thank you for your patience and wisdom, and sharing with us your thoughts and fears. You have so much to give and they will be lucky to have you as a teacher in LA!

  4. Somara
    Somara says:

    Don’t forget one big plus of course, as Dr. James Carrane you are the premier Midwest adolescent expert. Anyone who is an adolescent expert can take on L.A./Hollywood/whatever. No problem. 🙂

  5. Gerta Bland
    Gerta Bland says:

    Do yourself a huge favor and have a great trip. Don’t undermine yourself. Use your “mental testicles” and then you can congratulate yourself on the plane on the way home that you had a great experience.

  6. Tim Touhy
    Tim Touhy says:

    Jimmy, I’m proud to know you and grateful by what you teach me. So, here’s a thought, say “yes” to yourself because you Rock! Safe travels and don’t let those L.A. people take you away from us in Chicago.

  7. Susan Thomas
    Susan Thomas says:

    My favorite new mantra from “The Big Leap”: I expand in abundance, success, and love every day, as I inspire those around me to do the same.” How lucky are you, Jimmy? YOU actually do inspire people every day.

  8. Sommer Austin
    Sommer Austin says:

    Jimmy, you are a generous and sensitive artist and teacher– and you are a truly authentic and genuine person– this shows through in every aspect of your very artful life.

  9. Steve Springmeyer
    Steve Springmeyer says:

    I love reading your blog, and get a lot out of it. EVERY TIME. Have a great trip to LA!

    Geez, I’m afraid my comment is too stupid and meaningless to post. (i.e. You are not alone.) 😕

  10. Greg Morelli
    Greg Morelli says:

    1) You’re Awesome

    2) You’re Awesome Because You Don’t Know You’re Awesome

    3) You’re Happy Being Unhappy So Go Ahead And Be Unhappy

    4) You Only Gave Yourself 5-Weeks To Make It In LA, Nothing Happens In 5-Weeks, Silly

    5) Being “Un-Famous” Is A Mitzvah

    6) I’m Taking Time-Out From My Incredibly Self-Important Life To Write 10 Affirmations On Your Blog, Silly

    7) Matt Besser Is A Jerk, Don’t Glorify Jerks

    8) Think About How Lucky You Are To Be A Grown-Up Who Still Gives Himself Permission To Be “Terrified” Because You Care Deeply About Something As Unimportant As Improv

    9) You’re Awesome

    10) You’re Awesome Because Even Though Now You Know You’re Awesome, You’re Still Not A Jerk

  11. Brandon Ogborn
    Brandon Ogborn says:

    Jimmy – you’re heart is so big and wonderful and you share so much joy in the art. I just got back from a week in LA and made pretty much the same list before I left. You’ll crush it! How can you not? Nobody does what you do and you do it incredibly well. You’re not Dave Koechner, you’re Jimmy! By the way, you have to see The Tomkat Project at The Playground when you get back – Terry loved it. Advise for LA: where bright colors. Everyone in West H’wood has black hoodies on with black jackets over it.

  12. Brandon Ogborn
    Brandon Ogborn says:

    You’re not Dave K, you’re Jimmy! You do what no one else is doing and you do it well. I just got back from a week in LA and made the same list for myself – so don’t worry, we all get this way about LA. By the way, you HAVE to see The Tomkat Project when you get back. Terry LOVED it. Advice for LA: where bright colors. Everyone in H’wood has a black hoodie on. Fuck that!

  13. Louis Hirsch
    Louis Hirsch says:

    I have seen your work with B urning desires.The impov piece you did were you were the addict trying to be the top man in the rehab center was genius. You are also a great teacher or else how did I get so good. There are a 😆 lot of people out there who love you,And if there are any who don’t screw them.

  14. Mary Nelligan
    Mary Nelligan says:

    I wish I could relate but comparison, beating myself up and eating too much cheese and caramel corn aren’t my thang.
    😉 You are one of my favorite people – funny, fabulous and with a wonderful singular spirit. Plus you have sexy, handsome and talented down to a science! Wait, wait, there’s more … you have a sexy, beautiful and talented wife and you two are a big time power couple. I guarantee people compare themselves to you. So, here’s to a successful and fun trip to LA. Love you to you and Lauren.

  15. Vijay
    Vijay says:

    You know me, I am simply afraid of taking your first class; and yet, I auditioned for a short film through Skype. First,the director watched me and after that she asked me to audition with a famous Indian actress who was already selected for the film. My nightmare were no different than yours and then I suddenly recalled the words of one of my acting teacher – if you are cast against a famous actor, do not be intimidated, because it is there problem; you can expect to get the best of them and if you respond accordingly you will be just fine. I got the part, shot the film and the actress as she was leaving, whispered to me, I hope our path cross again. So now I know, I can do it. You have been around the block a hundred times; you can do it. Bend their ears or break a leg whatever applies to you.

  16. v
    v says:

    i love reading your words of inspiration when i get emails about your blog. you are so brave to put yourself out there and say all the vulnerable things that most of the people in this community are feeling.

    everyone is always on a path to loving themselves- and it sounds like you’re doing a pretty great job on the journey. i think we have to define our own success in life. fame is not success. money is not success. at the end of the day, even those who are “rich and famous” are going to the same place we all are. i define success as happiness, and it sounds like you have quite a bit of that in your life. 🙄

  17. Camille W.
    Camille W. says:

    You are incredibly funny, really great with people, very entertaining, cute, very present, spiritual, insightful, you are famous to me because I remember you on the radio, and you’ve been in a film with Johnny Depp. How many people can say they have ACTED IN A FILM with Johnny Depp? Um, this all seems really, really successful to me. And the fact that you help so many people get bigger within themselves through improv? If you were just hanging out in a trailer on a lot in L.A. all the time, imagine all the people who would still be stuck in their shells?

    Just sayin’

    Have a great trip!

  18. Tim shea
    Tim shea says:

    Having had the great fortune to have had you as my instructor at 2 workshops, brief as they were, I can confirm # 2 on your list. You are a great improv teacher. What your list didn’t include was the subset of that. You have the gift of immediate empathy with those performers who lack the confidence to believe in themselves and their choices. The amount of support that this generates in you coupled with your knowledge of what works in a theatrical setting lonly covers about half of what makes you a Road to Damacus kind of teacher.

  19. Pete Rodriguez
    Pete Rodriguez says:

    I say this as truth. No one, no one I ever saw was more interesting on stage than you. Period. I don’t what that translates into, but it is what I always looked for. Good luck.

  20. chris
    chris says:

    Jimmy, your blogs are great. I am not the naturally talented leading person, but I definitely contribute certain characters, choices, moves to improv. I feel like I should be better after studying for so long, but then I have a great show. And basically that’s what you constantly remind and challenge us to do… find your strengths, be OK with them and take some risks too to get out of that comfort zone. I also tool the Koechner workshop and hope to take a class of yours someday. Or perform even! Knock em dead in L.A. you will. And if you don’t, so what. That town has tons of phonies. You are real. So you beat them right there.

  21. Pete Rodriguez
    Pete Rodriguez says:

    You were and probably still the most interesting person I have ever seen on stage. That’s what I always looked for.
    Good luck.

  22. Heather
    Heather says:

    Your blogs and insights as a teacher are great! Your openness and bravery help countless people. No need to act like a success. You ARE a success.

  23. Trish Berrong
    Trish Berrong says:

    By writing this, you’ve made it OK for hundreds of others of us who see ourselves as “less than” to feel delightfully normal. That’s one of the bravest things I’ve ever seen someone at your level of talent and success do. So thanks!

  24. Tom Jansson
    Tom Jansson says:

    You ARE funny and talented.
    You bring compassion and laughter and healing to the lives of many.
    Your blog is a success.
    Your show is a success.
    Your classes are a success.
    Your trip will be a success.

    I know I’m not alone when I say I’m very glad to know you!

  25. Patti Lavery
    Patti Lavery says:

    Here’s the thing: I’m normally too shy to put anything of real meaning about myself into cyberspace, but you inspire boldness in me… I had the privilege of taking a few (too few) improv classes with you while studying acting in grad school, and just by virtue of your being your true beautiful, flawed, fragile self, you made a deep connection and I’ve followed your blogs often. I’m always inspired by your words and internally cheering you on, and deeply appreciative of the effort it must take you to share as you do. Thank you for that generosity. I strive to be more like you! Now go get em, tiger!

  26. Meghan
    Meghan says:

    I find that we are going through similar ups and downs and that is why sometimes when you blog posts, its like yes I know that feeling!

    I have to make a speech this week for my Big Girl Job that is not theater related and reading through this blog made me realize that my mom always said, well Stewart Little said and she copied, but she would say…

    “You’re good enough, you’re smart enough and gosh darn it people like you.”

    People like you, Jimmy.

    “Do your best and forget the rest” – Tony Horton (He gets me to work out in the mornings so that is saying something.)


  27. BEN
    BEN says:

    I’m jealous of you. Who’s sicker — you or me?

    Have a blast. I know that internal death squad in the brain. Tell it to F off. Like the guy in “A Beautiful Mind.” There they are, hanging on the corner, talking shit to you, and you see them, and they want you go with them, but you just keep on walking, because you’re brave and you’ve got an HP that’s got your back.
    Here’s what I’m trying to do, and doing with periodic success: I’m going with rigorous honesty. And the Death Squad only tells lies. I’m learning to give up the payoffs of believing the lies. Let our hero be Alfred E. Newman: “What, me worry?”

  28. Sally Smallwood
    Sally Smallwood says:

    You ARE a great writer! (Whether you believe it or not does not change that truth…but I hope you’re starting to believe it.)

    I found affirmations really work when you do these things:

    1. Write them out by hand. (Typing doesn’t count; there’s something about writing longhand that connects us with the words.)

    2. Say them out loud. I say mine while walking. If passing strangers think I’m a nutbar, so what? (Presumably they’d think you’re a nutbar just for walking, period, in LA.) 😆

    3. Keep them in sight. Put them on Post-it notes on your bathroom mirror, your home office, the ‘fridge…wherever you’ll see them each day.

    My favourite affirmation is: “All I need is within me now.”

    Try it. You’ll find it’s always true.

    One more thing: Every time you post, teach, or do an interview, you give the rest of us a gift. Thank you.

  29. Wayne
    Wayne says:

    Jimmy, I haven’t seen you in 10 years. Yet, I find myself speaking about your past performances often. I’m still blown away all these years later. I never was able to take a class with you, but you did coach my team a few times and you were always amazing and insightful. I’m in awe of your talent.

  30. Dee La Belle
    Dee La Belle says:

    First of all, Jimmy. When I saw you had a new blog, I was so excited, because I needed a Jimmy-Laugh today. Your last blog had me muffling giggles at my desk at work.
    I so relate to all of your stuff. The insecurities can make people like us insane. I am going to tell you something that I have been practicing in my life lately from an article I read about Hugh Jackman. He has terrible abandonment issues, which has made him very insecure. He was told by Tony Robbins to name that part of him. Embrace him, don’t reject him. That part of him is now named “Charlie” and Charlie is the insecure part of him who watches him so closely and he is so hard on him that he helps him do his best work. So my advice is to own and name that part of you. Even if you don’t like that part of you, everyone else loves him. He is more human than any of those L.A people. And one more thing: You are so lucky to be a guy. Imagine if you felt like this and had PMS? You’d be suicidal!

  31. Kim Buck
    Kim Buck says:

    Because you know what it’s like to feel “less than,” you can recognize it in others and help them to see that it’s OK. You have wonderful empathy and you make your students feel safe and successful. If you were a narcissistic douche, you would suck at teaching and interviewing.

    A little something from my dear, departed spiritual teacher:
    “At the bottom of the superiority/inferiority “oscillatio” lies an addiction to intensity – it is a defense against feeling meaningless”…W. Brugh Joy, M.D.

  32. Jimmy Carrane
    Jimmy Carrane says:

    I want to thanks everyone for all your kind words, support and affirmations. The trip to LA was successful, very successful. I wanted to express my gratitude to all of you. I really enjoy writing this blog and reading your comments. Fondly-Jimmy

  33. john
    john says:

    I ‘ve taken your class many times. I read your blog. I’ve met young improv people who read your blog but have not the courage yet to take your class. You’ve made a spot for yourself in the world.

  34. Frank R
    Frank R says:


    The Higher Power has an incredible plan for you.

    You deserve this plan and its outcome because you are good, and loving, and kind, and smart, and FUNNY.

    You just have to go with it.

    I wish you peace,


  35. Pat Shay
    Pat Shay says:

    Uhm, Jimmy?
    You’re one of the all-time great improvisers and instructors. If I’m making a list of my ten favorite people to watch improvise, you’re on it. And when I say that, keep in mind that I’ve been at this game nearly twenty years, in both Chicago and New York.

    And as a teacher? After you finished working with us, for the next six months, Dancers went on a run that I would still consider to be the most consistently great improvising I’ve ever done.

    When I offered my first class in New York, it was very much based on the principles I had come to value in working with you. Considering that that class eventually became the basis for Level 2 at the PIT, I can honestly say that I’ve spent the last decade trying to teach people to play like Jimmy Carrane – to get, as you told me once “out of our heads and into our bodies”.

    So there. Now go to LA and be a star. And when you’re done, can you come to New York? I miss you.

  36. DJ Wood
    DJ Wood says:

    Breathe. Be calm. Be humble. Have fun. It’s easy to doubt oneself but the easy thing to do isn’t rewarding. Go out there and kick butt man :~)

  37. Katherine Zwick
    Katherine Zwick says:

    Love it, Jimmy!

    We act “as if” basically all the time, right? But, as you’re pointing out, and as I know to be true — we can also choose the “as if” to focus on. Do I focus on the “I’m not good enough,” *as if* that’s true? Or do I focus on the “I’m totally awesome” as if THAT’S true?

    I’ve experienced you as hilarious, present, warm, irreverent, and inspiring. You’ve inspired me in the few times we’ve interacted to be proud of having a big personality (which I do) rather than ashamed of it. That’s huge! (And big!) (Personality!) You have always struck me as a successful person. Maybe that’s how I define “success.” And maybe it’s as if you are already successful. 🙂 Hope L.A. was full of joy and learning.

  38. Greg C
    Greg C says:

    You inspire people you don’t know
    People who don’t know where you are
    Tell people who you are
    And they know they have somewhere to go

  39. Brittany B
    Brittany B says:

    Thank you for sharing your struggles and thoughts. You remind me to be present and honest. I am cheering for you!

    “Happiness is a how, not a what. A skill, not a thing.” Samuel Johnson


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