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11 Things I’m Grateful For This Year

This week seems like a good time to talk about gratitude since Thanksgiving is tomorrow.

Gratitude it a one of the most powerful over-the-counter drugs on the market today. In fact, it works so well in my life that I stop taking it.

When I do remember to sit down and come up with a list of the things I am grateful for, it scares me because the effects are so potent.

A couple of weeks ago, I got up in the morning and before I even had breakfast, I felt like the sky was falling, and I was in fear about my career and about money. I left like my life was over and I wanted to die.

I called my wise friend, Lou, who suggested I make a list of the things I was grateful for. I was in enough pain to do what he said, and by the afternoon, I was feeling a lot better — and the funny thing is the balance in my checking account was still the same and I still was not on the cover of Entertainment Weekly.

My outside had not changed one bit, but my inside had changed a lot. I was in a good mood. The sun was shining, as much as it can do in November in Chicago.

So if you’re feeling a bit down during the holidays, or any time of the year, try focusing on what you are grateful for. It can really help.

That being said, I wanted to share with you some things I am really grateful for this year. (These are not in any particular order… just so Lauren knows why she isn’t at the top of the list).

  1. World’s Greatest Dad(?)
    After 18 years since my last one-person show, I finally put up another one. I opened it in July and then ran it again in November (my last show is this Saturday), and both times it played to sold-out crowds most nights. I’ve received a lot of great press and had the chance to see friends I have not seen in years. I also really enjoyed the creative process, and it was so much fun to be back doing it again. But one-person shows are never really created by one person, and I am most grateful for all of the people who helped me with the show along the way.
  1. Lauren
    Lauren is a great partner and a great mom, and my favorite part of the day is at night when we lay in bed and talk about our day. Not only do I learn a lot from Lauren, but she also keeps me on track in my life and my career. I love her so much.
  1. Our bed
    It the baby bear of mattresses — not too hard and not too soft, but just right. I only wish I could sleep on it more.
  1. My students
    I am blessed in this department. I love teaching improv, I think a lot more than I realize. And I love my students. They are some of the kindest, most talented and thoughtful people, and I really learn a lot from them. Right now, I have really wonderful Level 2 Class that are all so bright and have blended so well as a group, that I’m going to miss teaching tonight because of Thanksgiving.
  2. Coco, our cat
    I never thought I could love a cat. I never thought a cat could love me. I mean, I was actually mean to our cat growing up. But Coco can’t get enough of me, lying on my stomach and purring until she kills me with her kitty love.
  1. Betsy, our daughter
    She is now over three and even though I have not gotten a solid eight hours of sleep since she was born, on most days, this kid brings me a lot of joy. She has helped me on those morning where I have felt depressed and didn’t want to get out of bed. I’m like, “Ugh, I need to get up and make breakfast for her,” and before I know it, I’ve completely forgotten that I was hating myself a couple of hours earlier.
  1. Lauren’s parents
    They have been very generous to us over the years and I like being part of a German family, which is much different than my family of origin. I actually look forward to spending Christmas in Pennsylvania, where along with the turkey, they serve this thing called “filling” instead of stuffing. (It’s a Pennsylvania Dutch thing).
  1. My friends
    I have a great group of friends that I can call and ask for their help. And here is the best part — 80% of the time I take some form of it, and because of it, my life has gotten bigger.
  2. Netflix
    Between “Stranger Things,” “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee,” and the comedy specials and documentaries, and since it’s on my computer and is portable, Netflix is just plain awesome. How can they give you all of this great content for only $8.99 per month? I don’t know, but I’m very grateful.
  3. Teaching improv at Betsy’s preschool
    They call me Mr. Carrane.  They struggle with even the most basic of games. Their attention span is about 14 minutes. They have no expectations. They don’t care how they are doing or if they are going to be on SNL. And when I leave, I feel like I am on a pink cloud.
  4. My Kindle
    Another product that I came late to the party to. I love books. I love going and supporting bookstores. But lately, I haven’t had the time to browse through a regular bookstore, so Kindle has been a savior. I love that you can get a sample of books before you buy them and that they are cheaper then buying them new. I also feel it good for the environment.

What are you grateful for this year? I’d love to hear in the comments below.

Being Grateful for Where I Am

Next week is Thanksgiving, and I think the older I get the more I am starting to understand gratitude.

When I started out doing improv in my 20s, I was so obsessed about becoming famous. So much so that it took all the fun out of it and affected my relationships. Fame was my higher power.

When friends of mine who I started out together in Chicago got success, I could not be happy for them. I took it personally, and went into a deep depression and was convinced I must be doing something wrong.

By the time I was in my 50s, my anger had turned into bitterness and jealousy, and I was ashamed to admit it, afraid what you would think of me.

It affected my marriage, too. Lauren would get annoyed about me about not being grateful for the things that were right in front of me, including our relationship. My life had never been better, and I could not see it.

Then Betsy was born, and after about six months, after we decided to keep her, things started to change. Before Betsy was born, other fathers would say to me: “Just wait. After she is born, she will change you.” I didn’t know what they meant. But they were right. It happened gradually.

I can’t even put the change into words, but the long and short of it is fatherhood did change me, for the better.

I am happier. Even Lauren noticed I can be easier to be around. She has said, “You don’t seem so obsessed with fame since Betsy was born.”

Thank God. I am not perfect. My desire to become famous still comes back occasionally, but today, I am far more grateful for what I have than I was in years past, and I am no closer to being famous. I would say that is progress.

Have a happy Thanksgiving.

Gift yourself a gift this holiday season. Sign up for Jimmy’s Two-Person Scene Tune-Up, happening Dec. 30! Only $79 if you register by Dec. 14. Sign up today!

3 Tips for Increasing Your Gratitude

I don’t say this enough and that is “Thank you.” Next to “Yes and…,” thank you can be two of the most powerful words. Instead of being grateful, I am usually busy comparing myself to others, which just makes me feel worse.

But being grateful and saying thank you for what I do have right now can not only change your thinking, it can also set you up to be able to take it in even more good things in the future. Although I still have a lot more work to do on this, here are three tips for increasing gratitude in your life:

1. Write out a gratitude list
Oprah did this and she’s done alright. Write out a list of the five or 10 things you are grateful for every day, from the little stuff to the big stuff, like having good eyesight, going to lunch with a friend, etc. It doesn’t matter what the things are, just as long as you write them down.

2. Start E-mails and Conversations with Thank You
Starting all e-mails and conversations, especially difficult ones, with a thank you, is one of the most powerful ways of having better relationships with people. You will not believe how it changes your tone. Start by saying something like, “Thanks for getting back to me,” or “Thanks for your interest in class,” or “Thanks for your hilarious e-mail,” before you respond with anything negative.

3. Take a compliment
When you get compliment after a show, after a class or at your day job, say THANK YOU, and nothing else. No excuses, no justifications, no “Oh, the other people in the group are just as talented,” no bullshit. Just THANK YOU. I don’t care how many times you need to say this to prevent the other shit that usually follows. And if you are really advanced at this, try to actually mean it. That takes time, and I am still working on it.

And now, I would like to thank you for reading my blog, listening to Improv Nerd, and taking my Art of Slow Comedy Workshop or classes this year. I also want to thank all the people who have helped me over this year, from every intern we have had; to my wife, Lauren; to my producer, Ben Capraro; to the good people at Stage 773. Thank you also to all of the cities I went to this year to do Improv Nerd and teach: Huge Theater in Minneapolis, Improv Boston, Voodoo Comedy Playhouse in Denver, and Backline Improv Theater in Omaha. Thank you to Matt Besser at the UCB and James Grace at IO West for letting us do the show in Los Angeles, Miles Stroth for letting me teach a workshop in LA, and to Dustin at Feralaudio.com for recording the shows in LA and hosting Improv Nerd on his network. I could not have done any of this without all of you, and I am truly grateful.