Jimmy Carrane at WBEZ

Go Ahead & Criticize Me

We all criticize others, mostly behind people’s backs. We rarely get caught, and the best part is it makes us feel better for about 90 seconds. Smoking crack lasts longer. When I am ripping on a show or a movie or actor I just saw, though the words may be different, the premise is always the same: “How dare they live their dream?”

Famous actors understand that being criticized is just part of their job. They accept that they are going to have just as many fans as they do critics.

The bigger and more successful you become, the more criticism you will receive. This is a fact. You can’t have one without the other. In fact, if you aren’t getting any criticism, your career probably isn’t going anywhere.

So remember, when your friends get jealous that you have gotten cast in a show or made a Harold team, take it as a compliment; it means you are succeeding. Criticism is an affirmation that you are on your way.

The problem is when you get it, it doesn’t feel that way. It’s painful, it stings, and it makes you want to quit.

Promoting yourself, asking people to come to your show, creating a new show or a new web series is vulnerable, and by putting yourself out there, you’re bound to risk getting criticism, which is why I have often avoided it. I have made some progress in that department, though I still I have a ways to go.

When I have new episodes of Improv Nerd or a new blog or a new class coming up, one of the ways I get the word out is with social media, which has become a somewhat safe way to promote yourself. I often post on improv Facebook groups, and one that I post on frequently is Chicago Improvisers Unite. Last weekend, a former student posted on the wall: “I am leaving this group due to the fact that it is nothing but Jimmy Carrane spam.”

I am not going to lie. I immediately felt shame. I felt hurt, I wanted to hide, I wanted to defend myself, I wanted to lash out, and I did not want to post on that wall again — all shame. I was a mess.

In the past, when I am embarrassed, I keep to myself – it’s called shame prevention. Thank God this doesn’t work anymore, so I broke my silence and told my wife, Lauren, while we were driving in our rental car to her parents’ house for Christmas on the winding roads of Pennsylvania.

My wife is smart and wise and she said “It’s a sign that you are putting yourself out there and getting bigger.” I did not what to hear that. I was enjoying sitting in the pool of shame; it’s always warm and comfortable this time of year. Then I called my friend, Darryl, and he basically said the same thing: “You are getting bigger.” Then I called my friend, Ryan, who is an actor, who said the same thing: “You are getting bigger.”

You can’t argue with the rule of threes here.

The real problem was not what the person posted on the wall. The real problem was me and being uncomfortable with becoming more successful. He was paying me a compliment, a huge one, and in all my shame and anger, I forgot to thank him. So I will now: Thank you, Mike Sandoval, because you see me as far more successful than I see myself, and for that I am truly grateful. I am on my way.

6 replies
  1. Vijay Bhargava
    Vijay Bhargava says:

    You are too wordy here! A quote that says the same thing.
    “When we quit thinking primarily about ourselves and our own self-preservation, we undergo a truly heroic transformation of consciousness.”
    ― Joseph Campbell

  2. Bird
    Bird says:

    Awesome post Jimmy! I tend to let other people’s criticisms get me down, but I love the idea of using their judgments and jealousy as indicators of my burgeoning success.

  3. Jim Gallanis
    Jim Gallanis says:

    Excellent blog Jimmy, most people, myself included, are their own worst critics (unless I really do suck) and realizing the commonality and the cause/effect befhind their emotions should help a lot of people get the same issues you are working through. Thank you.

  4. Mike Sandoval
    Mike Sandoval says:


    Happy Holidays, and I hope you and Lauren had a relaxing and great break.

    I hope you were able to read the entire thread of what was posted in Chicago Improvisers Unite. I posted early on in the discussion about how much I learned from Art of Slow Comedy + from one of your workshops.

    I recognize now how my joke was in poor taste. I really meant no harm by it. You guys do great work. I do online marketing for work and I know it’s very effective. I enjoy seeing your updates, and I often check my calendar to see if I can sign up for a class.

    I really thought people were getting the fact that it was a joke.There is, of course, “truth in comedy” but I never meant for it to be slighting. I figured people would ignore the comment. There is rarely engagement on posts in the group. I never meant to draw in the attention of improv greats like you, Susan Messing, or Angie McMahon.

    Please accept my deepest apologies.

  5. Greg Morelli
    Greg Morelli says:

    I love this post.

    I love seeing Mike Sandoval take a step back to share the intention behind his comment.

    But most of all, I love seeing Jimmy Carrane accept his awesomeness by admitting he’s “getting bigger.”

    The kind of people I long to work with are the kind of people others are jealous of for putting themselves out there, for taking the terrifying step of marrying your days and your dreams.

    I just signed up for one of the two remaining spots in your class, to back up my bullshit with dough ray me.

    See you in class, Champ. Go ahead, criticize me. Please!

  6. Jordan Weimer
    Jordan Weimer says:

    I felt a lingering shame after reading this until I got into writing this comment. Even though I deleted many iterations I’ve come to the conclusion that the writing is what helps me forget the shame. It’s the work and the enjoyment of chasing an idea or a moment that puts the feeling aside for a while. Sometimes for a couple moments it’s completely gone. Those aren’t always the best moments or necessarily something to strive for but they do let you get back to making more stuff. And, with time and the law of averages, something awesome seemingly magical arrives, the unexpected, the new. And, all that shame can do is wait for the moment work ceases and reflection begin. Then I want to delete this whole comment again.


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