What’s Next?

Recently Saturday Night Live hired two very talented, hard-working and funny cast members from Chicago: Chris Redd and Luke Null.

When Chris Redd got hired, he had moved to LA and was getting parts in movies and TV shows and had even done his own stand-up special, so he was already getting noticed. But Luke had more of a Cinderella story: He got hired from a showcase at iO Chicago.

Although many people in the Chicago improv community are happy for both Chris and Luke, when something like this happens, it also tends to cause people to feel sad and depressed and wonder if they should just give up on improv altogether.

For those of you in the Chicago improv community who also auditioned for SNL in that same showcase, or those who simply knew Chris or Luke from around town, I want to let you know that just because you didn’t get the gig doesn’t mean you don’t have talent. It maybe be cliche, but everyone has a different path.

This is a concept that has taken me decades to understand. For 25 years I would be jealous whenever one of my friends got big-time success, or really any kind of success. It would make me question my own career path. I would ask myself: “What’s next for me? Where’s mine? What am I doing wrong?”

If you’ve been doing the same thing lately, I have something important to tell you: You have done nothing wrong. Just because someone else succeeded doesn’t mean you won’t.

You are wonderful, and special and unique. Honor that like you would your choices on stage and listen up: Your career path will not look like someone else’s. The hardest lesson to learn is to stay in your own lane in the pool. We think that we “should” want what other people in our improv community want, or we should get what other people get, and if we don’t there is something wrong with us.

There is nothing wrong with you.

Following other people dreams for me has always ended in a nightmare because I never got to find out what I really wanted. There was a long list of things I was “supposed” to want because that is what my friends wanted. Then when my friends got a writing gig on a network late night talk show or big role in a movie, I felt despair. “What am I doing with my life?” I’d moan.

This was crazy. I was crazy. The only thing that really worked for me was when I did the next right thing. The thing that was right in front of me. And those have been the times in my life where I have been the most creative and felt a sense of purpose. For me, it has been these times of despair and self-doubt that have lead me to write another one-man show, or write a book or create a podcast.

If you truly believe you are an artist like I do, these times of self-doubt are golden opportunities that can help your art and your vision for yourself evolve into something new.

These times of questioning are important times of growth. It’s like in adolescence when your voice changes. It sounds awkward at first, but eventually it gets richer and deeper. Asking yourself “What is next for me?” is both a scary and exciting place to be for an artist, but the change will be good.

And that is where I am today. I really don’t know what is next for me. I am afraid that being married with a baby at 53 is different than when I as 27 and living at home and selling office supplies. Back then, I turned my experience into a hit show, but now I wonder, what am I meant to do next?

At least today I know that all I need to do is stay in my own lane, because if I don’t I will drown to death. I just have to trust and do the next thing right in front of me. And I can truly be happy for other people’s success because I know I am on my own path.

Are you an experienced improviser looking for a new approach? Check out Jimmy’s Art of Slow Comedy Level 3 class, starting Oct. 25, which ends with a performance for family and friends. Early bird special ends Oct. 14!