Posts

Announcing My New One-Person Show, ‘World’s Greatest Dad(?)’

I have big news to share with you today. I am really excited to announce that my new autobiographical one-person show, World’s Greatest Dad(?), is going to be opening at Second City’s Judy’s Beat Lounge next month. The show will run on Saturdays at 6 p.m. from June 15 through July 20.

If you’ve been following my blogs for the last several years, you know that my dad died in March of 2016, just a few months before my daughter, Betsy, was born.

Being a father was never something I was really interested in doing. Since taking my first improv class back in the ’80s I wanted to become famous, because I want to be feel good about myself. I had a huge hole that I thought could only be filled by fame. But after having a child at 52, I realized that that hole could be filled from the love I got from my daughter.

In this show, I talk about my journey to becoming a father at 52 at the same time that my own father was dying, and through this roller coaster of life and death, I realize that you don’t have to be the “greatest” to be a good dad.

I’ve been working on bits and pieces of this show for a while now, putting it up at various storytelling performances, and I’ve really excited to share the entire piece in its entirety.

It’ll actually be the fifth one-man show I’ve ever done. My first show, “I’m 27 and I Still Live at Home and Sell Office Supplies,” was a runaway hit, opening at the Annoyance Theater in 1991 and running for more than a year-and-a-half. Since then, I’ve written and performed several others including “Since We Last Talked” (1994), “Dog Tales” (1999), and “Living in a Dwarf’s House” (2001).

But this will be the first one I’ve done in 18 years (can you believe that?), and I’m really excited to see what you think of it.

Tickets aren’t on sale yet, but check back soon here to see when they’re up. I’d love to see you there!

Want to make your two-person scenes really soar? Don’t miss Jimmy’s Advanced Two-Person Scene Tune-Up happening June 1. Only $89 when you register by May 18!

What I’ve Learned So Far as a Dad

As you know, a little over three months ago, Lauren and I had our first child, a beautiful baby girl named Betsy Jane Carrane. Being a parent is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I am a glad I did not know how hard this would be or I wouldn’t have done it. Lauren feels the same way.

Here are some of the things I have learned in the first three months of being a dad.

  1. You will learn how to really smile.
  2. You will question why you’ve been teaching people how to create fake objects out of the air.
  3. When she takes a long nap, you will miss her.
  4. You will grieve and forget your old life.
  5. 9 p.m. becomes the new midnight.
  6. You won’t have as much time to isolate and have suicidal thoughts.
  7. You cannot believe people have more than one kid.
  8. You will wish there was a store that sold sleep.
  9. You will be judgmental of other parents to make you feel good about what you are doing.
  10. You will start spelling words out in front of them, like S-E-X, F-U-C-K and T-R-U-M-P.
  11. There are times when she cries so uncontrollably that you will feel like wrapping her up in a dirty beach towel and dropping her off at the fire station. But there are other times, like when she smiles first thing in the morning when she wakes up, that you feel so much joy you will want to drop yourself off at the fire station.
  12. One of the parents will be “pro” letting them cry in the crib the other will be against.
  13. You’ll get excited when she farts.
  14. Babies ‘R’ Us is a vortex.
  15. Every device that rocks her to sleep has a warning label saying it’s dangerous for them to sleep in.

    Are you looking to take your improv to the next level? Sign up for Jimmy’s Art of Slow Comedy Level 2 class, starting Nov. 2 (you do not need to have taken Level 1 to sign up). The Early Bird Deadline ends Oct. 19!

I am new to grief

Grief is new to me. I really have not had that much experience with it in my life, up until now. I have had grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends die, but I have never experienced this level of grief before. It is confusing based on my relationship with my dad. He was not my “best friend,” and I cringe when other people say that, because for me it’s an unbelievable concept. To say “he raised me” would be generous. And I get annoyed when other people say, “He just did the best he could.” It may be true, but it feels like bullshit.

But he was my dad and I only had one. As it was explained to me by a wise old friend, there is a bond between a father and son. And this friend went on to say that even though his dad was abusive to him when he was growing up, it was still hard on him when he died. He missed his dad terribly. This is how I feel; though my Dad was not abusive, he was neglectful, which is a different side of the same coin.

I guess going through this is a rite of passage. The memorial for my Dad is happening at the end of this week, and by the end of June, I will become a father. At 51, I am coming of age. This is either pretty sad or pretty humorous, but not surprising, since I am a late bloomer.

Grief is not one emotion, but an umbrella of many. I have felt sadness, anger, fear and anxiety or combination of them. They are unpredictable and intense. There are also long stretches of time you want to be alone. Returning a phone call or reading the paper seems impossible. Sometimes you want to be around people and sometimes you want to kill them.

There are short patches of time where you are focused, like now, as I try to write this blog, but most of the time, I am not on the same frequency as the rest of the world. I am tuned out, flaky and annoyed. It’s been four weeks since he died, and I thought by this point I would be back to writing about improv, but as you can see, I’m not.

Some of my feelings don’t come up as easily. They are trapped deep down there, like those coal miners from Chile who were waiting to be rescued.

Others, like anger, come right to the surface, like when I’m in traffic or in line with the slow cashier at the CVS. And still others need to be tricked to come up, like sadness by watching Titanic with my wife where we both cried and I got a new appreciation for James Cameron.

However they come up, I am glad when they do because I feel better for the time being.

This Saturday is the memorial for my dad, and I am planning to speak at the service, and hopefully avoid the drama of my family. The last time I spoke to my brother about the eulogy, he wanted all of us five kids to speak no more than two minutes about our dad. That is impossible and crazy. When I talked to my dad about speaking at his funeral months ago he asked that I be funny and not portray him as a saint. I believe I can do at least one of those things.

God speed Dad, God speed. I miss you. Love your son.

Focusing on the Good

I have yet to have a student in one of my improv classes or workshops come up to me and say, “Hey, can you just point out the good stuff I do today?” Nope, it’s always the opposite: “Hey, can you please tell me the things I’m doing wrong? I can take it. You can go hard on me.” (By the way, I am never sure what that really means.)

As improvisers, me included, we are much more invested in what we are doing wrong than in what we are doing right. There is this misconception that if we solely focus on our weaknesses we will automatically improve. Not true. I am all in favor of working on your weaknesses, but not at the expense of ignoring your assets. Those assets are what help build our confidence and shape our voice — both key ingredients in succeeding in any art form.

I never really understood this until last week, when I met with my 80-year-old father, who is dying.

My dad knew that I had a lot of anger towards him, so he contacted me a couple of months ago and requested we meet. I was filled with resentments. I love the definition of resentments: It’s like taking poison and hoping the other person is going to die. And if that is true, at my rate I was going to die before my father, because they were killing me.

So, with a lot of help from people in my group therapy, I put a list together of the resentments I had towards him as well as things that I am grateful for that he gave me.

When we finally met, I brought my friend Matthew from group therapy because I was terrified. My dad was hooked up on oxygen and we sat in the living room, him in a chair on one side of the room and me on the couch on the other.

On the way over, I had asked Mathew whether I should read the “bad stuff” (aka the resentments) first, or start with the “good stuff” (the gratitudes). He came up with a genius idea: “Why not let your father decide?”

Before I began, I made my amends to my father for withholding these resentments, because I realized I had been holding onto them as a way to push him away. Then I asked my father, “Would you like me to read the good stuff first or the bad stuff?”

He knew his answer immediately: “Screw the good stuff,” he said. “That is all bullshit anyway. I want to know what I did wrong.”

As soon as he said that, I could completely relate. That is me. I am that insecure student who only wants to hear what they are doing wrong.

I read my list of resentments. It was actually easier than I thought. My father was matter of fact. “You’re right, all those things are true,” he said.

This is where it gets good. Then Mathew asked me, “Would you like to read the good stuff, for yourself?” I thought for second, and then I said “Yes, yes I would.”

I began reading the list off of the notebook paper, and I my throat got tighter and my eye lids felt heavy. Tears started to swell and I began to cry as I read each and every one of the good things on that list.

My dad did give me a lot – he taught me to love reading and writing, he was always supportive of my career, he paid for improv and acting classes when I first started out, he gave me the performance gene that I have today, and he was always proud of my accomplishments. Reading those attributes, I could see myself in my Dad in a way I could never see before. For years, I had ignored all of my Dad’s gifts, which meant I was also ignoring my own.

I cannot think of anything more transformative in my life than this experience. Before meeting with my Dad I had felt stuck, blocked and creatively constipated. No matter how hard I pushed, nothing came out. Afterwards, ideas are flowing freely again, like a running faucet that cannot be turned off. I’m lighter and more confident and willing to be a little more honest and take more risks, which only helps my work.

It was clear I had not been acknowledging my good qualities at all. And I suddenly realized that if I want to have a bigger improv career and a better life that I must continue this work of embracing the things the things that are good about me.

Since improv is such a personal art form, whatever is affecting us in our every day lives can have a huge impact on our stage life without us even knowing it. In my case, I learned it in reverse order. Would you expect anything less from me?