It’s my birthday. Thank you, improv!

Sunday is my birthday. I turn 55 years old.

That is not a typo. It’s hard to believe, but it’s true.

In improv years, that makes me 104.

Even I am amazed I’ve been around that long, teaching and performing improv.

My life is not what I imagined it would be when I took my first improv class more than 34 years ago.

It’s actually better. I have gotten something I never had, something I never wanted, and that is a life.

A loving family.

A beautiful daughter, Betsy.

An amazing wife, Lauren.

A cat, Coco.

And I’m part of many supportive communities so I am no more than a phone call away from help.

So I would like to say thank you to improv for slowly teaching me what it means to say “Yes, And” in my life and stay out my own way so I could have a life larger than I ever imagined.

Thank you, improv, for showing me when I take my self too seriously, which is more than you think.

And most importantly, thank you to the people that I have worked with and met over the years, the friends I have made and the students I continue to get to work with.

A great scene in improv is one where we don’t know where it’s going to go. It’s equally parts scary and exciting, with some fun mixed in — not much different than my terrific life.

For those who knew me in the past, you’re probably like “What has happened to Jimmy? He used to be such a downer.”

He’s still there, but for today, and just like I have learned in improv, I decided to make the positive choice, and I have to say, it looks good on me.

I have one thing to ask you before you go, and that is in the comments section below if you could wish me a happy birthday, it would really help me with low self-esteem.

My greatest birthday gift

Friday is my birthday. I will be 53 years old. In improv, that makes me ancient. Each year I have the same birthday ritual: I go into a major depression. It usually stems from thinking about how I wish I was more successful, more famous, and have more money — like my friends that I started out with back in the ’90s do. It then ends up with me getting pissed off at God, yelling at him with a fist clenched to the sky saying, “Why haven’t I made it yet?” This is annual ritual is designed to make me feel crappy about myself, and so far it has never let me down.

But this year is different.

Yes, I still want all those things my friends have, but the desire isn’t as burning. I don’t feel as desperate. I think the one thing the podcast has taught me is that no amount of success will take away my low self-esteem, self-loathing and self-hatred. That is separate work from my art.

There’s no question that improv comedy has given me a way to express myself, but somewhere along the line I misused it as a way to validate myself. That is always dangerous, because you cannot fix your insides with something outside of yourself. Success, fame and money can’t fill that gaping whole inside me; it’s not possible.

Lately I feel more gratitude for the things I do have. Especially my family — my wife, Lauren; my daughter, Betsy; and my cat, Coco — and all the people around us who have given us so much love and support.

If you’ve been reading this blog on a somewhat regular basis, you have noticed that my own personal forecast has gone from cloudy with a chance of thunder to partly sunny. I owe that to my little joy machine, my daughter Betsy Jane. People say kids will change you, and after ten months, I am realizing they are right, and I am looking forward to even more changes in myself. Being a parent is the hardest, most demanding, most rewarding thing I have ever done. I still question our choice of having a kid, now more than ever since she has started to crawl and it’s hard to keep up with her at 53.

When I look back at my tiny little career, the things that I am the proudest of are the things I either created or were a part of that were built from scratch. I don’t why, but they have always been the most fulfilling and rewarding. I think about my first one man show, “I’m 27, I Still Live at Home and Sell Office Supplies,” or being part of Jazz Freddy, or starting the podcast Improv Nerd. All things created out of thin air, and now Betsy is on the list. She is my best creation yet.

So, happy birthday to Betsy’s father. She is the greatest gift he could have ever gotten.

Heat up your improv skills this summer at one of Jimmy Carrane’s Art of Slow Comedy Summer Intensives! Spots are still available for his weekend workshops on July 15-16, July 29-30 and Aug. 19-20. Sign up today!