KEEP SAYING YES, AND…
When I started taking improv classes in Chicago in the late ’80s and early ’90s the goal was simple: study with Del Close at the Improv Olympic, get hired by Second City and then get on Saturday Night Live.
The path was narrow. Anyone who even thought about teaching, directing or producing had given up on their dream. Twenty years later, I make most of my living as an improv teacher and corporate trainer. It’s my gift, according to my wife, but I don’t want to hear that. I think I should be a famous comedy TV star.
This weekend, I am co-producing The Four Star Comedy Fest with Ben Capraro at Navy Pier. I first met Ben when I hired him as an intern for the Improv Nerd comedy podcast, and then he became the show’s producer. He is filled with a lot of energy and passion for improv, and he told me about this idea about bringing improv to downtown. It was his idea, and he wanted to know if I wanted to join.
I may not be the best initiator in scenes, but I know how to support and say “Yes, and.” So with this project, I kept saying yes, just to see where it would go, which is not my nature in life. Normally, I have a tiny, narrow view of what I am supposed to do and not do in my career, which is the opposite of improvising; it’s called controlling.
As my wife keeps reminding me, do what’s in front of you. Well, co-producing was in front of me, so I decided to do it, even though it wasn’t part of my vision.
And it turns out, I’m really glad I did. It has been hours and hours of work for months, but being on the other side of the production wall has made me appreciate all of the hard work producers I’ve worked with before have done, and has made me want to treat the performers the way I would like to be treated. And it’s taught me trust the process, because mistakes happen and you just have to go with the flow.
Plus, I’ve gotten the chance to do some really amazing things. I got to step onto the field at Wrigley when Cook County Social Club threw out the first pitch against the Cardinals, I got to go with Tim Kazurinsky to the WGN morning show when he was promoting the festival, and I got to be on Rick Kogan’s show, Afternoon Shift.
Will this lead me to a big TV part or more students in my improv classes? Who knows. What I do know is that I don’t know all the answers, and I don’t even know what’s good for me. So I might as well just keep saying yes.