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5 Tools for Dealing with Shame

As you know, shame is one of my favorite things to write about, since I have so much of it on daily basis. I’m pretty sure I’ve had shame all of my life, but it wasn’t until I started to taking improv classes in my late teens that I started to really start to feel it.

Unfortunately I didn’t know what it was until 25 years later.

The most common form of shame that most of us are all familiar with is when we do a show, an audition, or even a class and we do something that is embarrassing. For example, maybe we’re in a play or scene study class and we forget a line or a whole section of a scene. In improv, it could be that we felt we didn’t do as well as we thought we should have on a particular night. Or in an audition, we got nervous and it didn’t go as well as it had when we practiced it at home in front of the mirror.

When we go to that place of shame, we often think if we quit, we won’t ever have to feel that emotion any more. That is a bold face lie that our shame tells us.

Shame is a hump we can all get over. I know, because I have felt it often, but luckily, I have learned some tools along the way that help lessen those horrible feelings of shame and make it go away more quickly.

Here are five tools I have picked up along the way that I have found helpful with dealing with shame:

  1. Name It
    One of the best ways to overcome a bought of shame is to name it. Call it what it is: shame. It is a feeling as intense as they come, but remember, it’s just a feeling. It won’t kill you, although the stories it will tell you, like “I’m not good enough. I fucked up, therefore I should die,” might. These messages will take you down fast unless you can tell some trusted friends that you are feeling shame because of XYZ that happened in your show, class or audition. Be prepared you may feel post-shame shame for admitting something shameful to your friend. It will dissipate, and I have found that it much less painful then keeping the original shame all to myself.
  2. Don’t Medicate it
    You cannot drink shame away. You cannot drug it away. You cannot overeat it away. You think by doing any of these things you will avoid feeling it, but it won’t work. Just because you get some temporary relief from your shame doesn’t mean the shame has gone away. It’ll just come back later, like when you wake up the next day, and with a vengeance.
  3. Remember That It’s Part Your Process
    One of the best ways to overcome a shame attack is to recognize that shame is part of the creative process, especially if you are taking risks and getting outside of your comfort zone. I have felt shame after a bad show and have also felt shame when I am taking chances and my career is getting bigger. I used to tell myself that if I was going to be really successful in the arts I needed to never have fear and never feel shame. I know today that is impossible. Instead, I accept that shame is going to come up when I am growing.
  4. Focus on what you did right
    Even in the worst shows, you are learning. Before you take the baseball bat out to start beating yourself with it, focus on the things you did right. If you are having a hard time doing that, focus on your past successes, that good show or scene you did a couple weeks ago. I guarantee that when you can train yourself to start looking for the good, the shame you feel will lessen.
  5. Get Professional Help
    Without therapy and my many recovery programs that I go to on a weekly basis, I would not be able to get out of bed, let alone write, perform and teach. I cannot tell you how many times I have brought the shame I was feeling about something in a show to my group therapy and gotten a tremendous amount of help with it. By talking about it with someone outside of improv, I am often able to gain some perspective and not be so hard on myself.This holiday season, give yourself the gift of good improv! Sign up for Jimmy’s Two-Person Scene Tune Up on Dec. 30. Only $79 if you register by Dec. 14!

I need your help with my shame

As you know, one of my favorite topics to talk about is shame, especially how it affects improvising and performing.

Nobody has done more research on the topic or is filled with more of it than I am. That make me an expert on the subject.

In all seriousness, it is killing me. Shame is the number one leading cause of death to artists.

If you don’t know what shame is, you certainly know what it feels like. It’s the feeling of embarrassment when you bomb in a show in front of your co-workers that you invited, and the next morning, you feel so humiliated you call in sick.

Shame is as powerful as drugs and alcohol. It’s a mood altering substance.

For years, I thought for years the best way to deal with shame was to avoid situations where it may come up. But that is impossible in the arts.

In improv you often hear, “There are no mistakes.” I’ve found that people aren’t really afraid of making mistakes; they’re afraid of the feelings that come from thinking they made a mistake, and 90 percent of the time, that feeling is shame.

I want to discuss three types of shame that I continue to suffer from, in the hope that you can identify with me and share with me some of the ways you have overcome them.

  1. Performance shame
    This is the most common type of shame for improvisers. You do a show and it doesn’t go well so you feel terrible. You may have said something during the show you wish you could take back. You may have made a move that nobody on your team picked up. You took a risk and did a new character and it bombed.
    Then you feel stupid and embarrassed in front of a paying audience.After the show, you beat yourself up. When you get home, you keep going over and over in your head what you “should” have done differently.That night you get no sleep. You convince yourself your improv career is over. When you wake up, you feel like you want to die. But you can’t, because your two-year-old daughter comes into your bedroom to wake you up and wants to have breakfast. (A true story)

    I am pretty sure anyone reading this blog is pretty familiar with this kind of shame. It’s the common variety.

  2. The Buzz Kill
    The second type of shame is more tricky — it’s called The Buzz Kill. It is more sneaky and subtle and leaves no fingerprints.With this type of shame, you actually have a great show, class or rehearsal and you have such good time and really enjoy yourself that you find something wrong about your life or about the show to ruin it.Most of the time, the thing you start to obsess about has nothing to do with the show (since it went well). Maybe you got charged a $10 service fee from you bank for an overdraft, or someone sent you a snarky e-mail, and one of these things makes you feel shame.

    I can take little stuff like that to feel shame about. Why do I do that? Because I have hard time taking in good.

    I know it sounds crazy. That’s because I am pretty crazy.

    And yes, it looks, sounds and tastes like self-sabotage, but once you bite into the jelly doughnut, it’s not filled with strawberry filling, it’s filled with shame.

    I can’t tell you how many times I have had incredible shows and leave the theater feeling elated, walking on air with peace in my heart. I am one with the world and my place in it. Then 30 minutes later, on my drive home from the theater, I find the tiniest little thing to kill the joy. By the time I am walk through the front door I feel like a loser. This 100 percent self-induced.

  1. Real-Time Stage Shame
    The third type of shame is the deadliest shame of all. And this is where I need your help. It’s called Real-Time Stage Shame.Unlike performance shame, it does not wait until after the show to try to kill you. It does it while you are on stage performing in real time.When this happens, everything stops. You go into a black hole. Your brain shuts down and your mouth goes dry. Words can’t be formed into sentences. You pray an anvil drops from the sky to puts you out of your pain.

    Sometimes you bounce back. Most of the time you don’t.

    Not only has this happened to me, I have seen it with my students in classes and workshops. God help us all.

    How to Get Over Shame
    There has to be a cure. Or at least some tools to get our emotional car unstuck from the mud.

    This is where you come in. If you have experience with any of these types of shame and you have any tips or tricks to get out of them, please share them in the comments portion below and we will run them in an upcoming blog. Think of all the people you can help, including me.

Looking to take your improv performances from good to great? Sign up for Jimmy’s next Art of Slow Comedy Level 3 class, starting Sept. 5. Sign up by Aug. 22 to save $30! 

What a Toddler Taught Me About Rejection

As actors and improvisers, we deal with rejection on a regular basis. And even though I’ve been improvising and auditioning for a really long time, it’s still hard to not to take rejection personally, because I am still looking for outside things to put a big stamp of approval on my forehead.

When I audition for something and I don’t get it, I say to myself that I am loser and I want to blame the script; the director; the reader; the casting director; my wife, Lauren; our cat, Coco; the traffic; the economy; the state of Illinois; and the state of the world for me not getting the part. Really, I am angry and full of shame, but I mask it as blame. Blame is drug I use to medicate my real feelings, which are hurt and sadness.

Last week my daughter, Betsy, turned two years old. She is now in the “I only want Mommy for everything” stage. I only want Mama to put me in my high chair, get me my yogurt, change my diaper. “No Dada, only Mama.” The other day she got so angry at me in the kitchen when I tried to pick her up that she started physically pushing my legs and saying “No, Mama! No, Mama!”

If I am honest about my feelings, I felt a little angry, but mostly hurt and sad. I talked about how I was feeling with Lauren, some of my friends, in group therapy and in every 12-step program in the state of Illinois.

But no matter how much I talked about it, it still stung, and what I found interesting is that I did not blame her for “making” me feel angry and hurt. And even more surprising, I had compassion for myself, unlike how I typically feel after I fail an audition. Oh believe me, I still had my feelings. In fact, I still have some left over from a week ago, but I realize Betsy has nothing to with my feelings, and I also realize I didn’t do anything wrong. It’s really hard to take rejection personally coming from a toddler.

What I finally realized was that my feelings were not about Betsy. They were about the rejection I have experienced in the past. For me, it was rejection lite, all the taste of rejection without the shame.

This was something totally something new for me. Could I have my feelings of hurt, sadness and anger and not make it anyone’s fault, especially mine? Could my two-year-old daughter actually be teaching me something about rejection in my career? That if I don’t get something, there is a 99 percent chance it is not about me or my talent. And that I don’t have to take rejection personally and use it to berate myself for living.

If I’m right about this, my daughter is lucky, because I won’t have to waste so much time blaming others when things don’t go right, and that means she’s going to have a lot more time to play with her Dad.

This summer, give yourself the gift of great scene work! Sign up for one of Jimmy’s Summer Intensives, happening July 14-15, July 28-29 and Aug. 11-12. Sign up today!

What the Cubs Taught Me About Improv

If you haven’t heard by now, last week, after 108 years, the Chicago Cubs finally won a World Series title. Pretty incredible, especially for me who has been a Cubs fan my whole life.

But if you have been reading this blog with any sort of regularity, you know that a celebration of any kind doesn’t come easy for me, and this one was no exception.

As I stood in the kitchen with my wife, Lauren, nervously listening to the radio as Cubs legendary broadcaster Pat Hughes made the last call of the World Series, I jumped up and down with joy. But in less than two minutes, I was already replaying the moves the Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon had made during the game. Moves that I did not understand. Moves that I thought were mistakes. What the fuck was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I be excited? They won, something they had not done since 1908.

That did not matter. My head took over. Why did he pull his starting pitcher so early? Why did he pull his middle reliever so early? Why did he put his closer in so early after the guy had pitched a ton of innings the night before?

It was as if I was ignoring the results. They won the World Fucking Series. The real question is why couldn’t I enjoy it?

The simple answer is this is what I do.

I do this in my life and certainly in my performing, especially if a show has gone well. Instead of feeling excited, or even joy, after a good scene or a good show, I would rather pick it apart, replacing excitement with my drug of choice: shame.

I did this again last Sunday night at Second City where John Hildreth and I were celebrating our five-year anniversary of our show, Jimmy and Johnnie. A pretty big accomplishment. So big that after the show we had a little party to celebrate.

But, you know me, I’m not good at celebrating and feeling joy. Instead, I need to find some shame so I can medicate those feelings. So, during the show I did a character that was not very PC by today’s improv standards. The young audience gasped a couple of times, and I got the hit of shame that I needed. Surprisingly, during the show, I was able to let it go as we moved on to the next scene, knowing I would have plenty of time to pulverize myself about it afterwards, which is just what I did. Despite the fact that it was a good show overall, I used this character choice to beat myself up by replaying it in my head for the next 48 hours.

I often have guests on Improv Nerd who say they don’t analyze or even remember what they did after they improvise a scene. I am not sure if that’s really true or if all of these guests are lying to me. If they actually don’t analyze their scenes after a show, I am impressed. I not only remember every moment, especially the bad ones, but I like to beat myself up about all the moves I think I should have made or not made.

And that is excatly what I did when the Cubs won the World Series. I went right into picking-it-apart mode so I wouldn’t have to feel the excitement or the joy of them winning. Instead I decided to bask in the shame, like a bath of cold, dirty water.

We think as improvisers it’s our duty to dissect every move we make after a show or class, because we think it will make us better. But sometimes it just makes us miserable. I am not saying don’t ever analyze your scenes; that would be unrealistic. Instead, just try to do less of it. Since I obviously I don’t know how to do less of it, I would love your help. In the comments portion below, can you tell me how you celebrate your successes without dissecting them to death? Thanks.

The risk of taking risks

You hear this all the time in your improv classes – you need to take more risks on stage. But what improv teachers forget to tell you is that when you take risks, you’re going to feel feelings: anger, sadness, anxiety, fear, shame and, in rare cases, joy. This is a by-product of taking risks, and the quicker you accept this, the quicker you will increase your chances of taking more of them in your life and on stage.

If you take a risk and feel shame afterwards, like “Oh man, I went too far,” don’t assume that means you did something wrong. You will feel uncomfortable because you did something different, not because it was necessarily “bad.”

In fact, the one thing I can tell you for sure is if you are taking risks, you are always succeeding, even if it may not feel like it, because it’s the practice of taking them that really counts, not the results.

Last Sunday I was interviewing Lyndsay Hailey for Improv Nerd. She was so honest and revealing, talking about sensitive subjects like being sexually abused when she was a kid, her adrenal fatigue syndrome and her dating struggles. Lyndsay was taking huge risks, and if she knew it or not, she was inspiring me to join her. That’s how it works.

Towards the end of the interview, I asked her about her current boyfriend, and she started to answer the question and then interrupted herself and said “He’s in the audience.” So I asked him to come up on stage. The audience gasped, and the message in my head was, “You are going too far.” But I lucked out that he also was an improviser, and I’m sure he appreciated the extra stage time.

“What’s going on with the relationship?” I asked. The audience gave me an even louder gasp than first one, and I think: “Shit, why didn’t I play it safe?”

Everyone in the audience was uncomfortable, including me. I got the sense from her boyfriend’s answer that he was ambivalent about his relationship with Lyndsay. So I asked him if they had sex too soon in the relationship. At this point, my producer, Ben Capraro, was so uncomfortable he had to leave the room.

I was lost at sea. Lyndsay’s boyfriend diffused the situation with a joke, and then she said she was grateful her boyfriend had been around while she was uncovering her past with sexual abuse. Finally I felt like could see land in the distance, thank god, and I focused back on Lyndsay for the rest of the interview.

When I got off stage I felt excited. The show was everything I had envisioned Improv Nerd to be: vulnerable, real, edgy. It certainly was a different show than I normally do, and I didn’t get the usual “Great show!” comments I have come to expect from the audience, and because of that, I was confused.

On the ride home, my wife, Lauren, said “I bet you’re high from the show?”

“Actually, I’m not,” I said, like a little league right fielder who dropped the routine fly ball to lose the championship game.

I was filled with fear, shame, sadness and anxiety. I began second guessing my instinct to bring Lyndsay’s boyfriend up on stage. Never trust your feelings in this case. You could be feeling them for a million reasons, and one of them might be that it actually paid off. You cannot measure your risks by whether or not they “succeed,” only by the frequency that you take them.

Sometimes risks do not pay off immediately, and sometimes the results of taking a risk come weeks later, in another show or another audition, or in your life.

The important thing is to keep taking them, and you’ll know that if you are having feelings afterward, you’ve hit gold.

Acting as if I'm a success

Acting As If I’m A Success

Jimmy CarraneI am leaving this Sunday to go to LA with my wife. I’m going to be doing three live Improv Nerd shows with three amazing guests: Andy Richter, Matt Besser and Beer Shark Mice. I am also teaching a workshop next Saturday, which shockingly sold out in about 24 hours.

Most people would be excited, right? Great guests, a few days in the sun, a chance to take my show to the next level. But I am not like most people. I am terrified.

LA is a city that intimidates me. It’s a place where “I feel less than,” not good enough, even more so than I normally do in Chicago. I moved there for five weeks in my early 30s and auditioned for some shows, and I came back flat broke and un-famous with my tail between my legs.

People I started out with, on the other hand, moved to LA and made it big. Pat Finn is on a show on Nickelodeon, Neil Flynn is on “The Middle,” Dave Koechner is filming Anchor Man 2.

So now I’m going back there, feeling exposed and stupid. I mean, how can a person who teaches improv compare himself to people who have successful careers in TV and film?

The problem is I can’t. If I do, it only makes me feel worse, but I can’t stop. It’s like a compulsion to cut yourself or eat so much cheese and caramel corn until you want to throw up.

I don’t know if you know this about me, but I have terrible habit of “comparing my insides with everybody’s outsides.” That’s why I love to play low status characters in improv scenes because that’s what I’ve done my whole life.

My wife, Lauren, is constantly saying I’m a great teacher and a great interviewer, telling me people respect me and that I help people, but those affirmations are wasted on me.

So, my therapist gave me this crazy-ass experiment to try. Instead of saying I am not good enough, I am a piece of shit… my usual schtick, when I go to LA I am going to “act as if” I am successful. And to make matters worse he told me to write a blog with affirmations in it.

I really don’t know if it will work, or how long it will last, or if when I finish writing this, I will black this out like my drunken Christmas Eve of 1982. But I am willing to try something different.

I am also going to ask you to help me prepare for this trip. If you have affirmations or compliments, please pass them on by writing in the comments section. I will be checking my blog addictively while I am on the trip.

OK, I am stalling. I dread writing these. I feel uncomfortable. As you know from my last blog, I am more comfortable with the dark side of myself… Fuck it, here I go.

1. I have a beautiful, loving and supporting wife who is going on the trip with me. (Yes, I am lucky).

2. I am a great improv teacher. (I believe this one).

3. I am fucking great interviewer. (I believe this one, too).

4. I am great writer and I get great response from these blog pieces. (I feel like I am stretching it, but I’m not lying yet.)

5. I have a great sense of humor. I am great improviser. (This one is hard to say. I kind of believe it, and I am putting it down.)

6. I have three wonderful guest lined up. (Fine, let’s move on.)

7. In the past year and a half, we have interviewed some real A list people for the Improv Nerd podcast, and it has grown in popularity and have built up tons of fans from across the world. (True, and I feel I am try to sell you something.)

8. My friends the Finns are throwing a party for me and my wife in LA. (I am feeling tired and want to quit.)

9. I make my living as Improv teacher. (I feel sadness.)

10. I have great friends. (More sadness)

 

Please, if you would like to add to list please feel to do so. I need your help.

Bad shows still suck

Jimmy Carrane and John Hildreth in Improv NerdBad Shows Still Suck

After more than 25 years of doing improv shows, the one thing I can tell you is a bad show still sucks, almost as bad as when I first started.

Oh boy, I had one on Sunday, working with two really talented improvisers I respect, John Hildreth and Rachael Mason, which makes it worse. I left the show feeling awful, like I had exposed to them how truly awful an improviser I am.

The messages in my head go from productive to suicidal: “I was tentative. I was scared. I was too plot-heavy. I had no emotional response. I was too verbal. I could have committed more. I sucked. I hate myself. I want to die. I want to kill myself.”

This is not an exaggeration. These messages are on a continuous loop that won’t stop. Which leads to an awful night’s sleep, waking up remembering the specific scenes and reliving the shame.

Over the last few days, when I am not replaying the scenes in my head, I am imagining ways I can take my life. The irony is I am surrounded by love: a beautiful wife and a new kitten all in the same bed. And despite that, I’m still miserable; nothing can help me at this point.

My wife tries to help, but when you are that far down in the hole of self-pity, it’s really a waste of time. She said something that I imagine I would say to my students: “You have to have the bad shows to appreciate the good ones.”

Of course I could not hear that, the same way I could not hear what my good friend and improviser Bill Boehler said on the phone the other night: “You learn more from the bad shows.”

I was too busy wanting to kill myself, questioning my existence, and listing the ways I still suck.

It’s a form of self-mutilation. Instead of cutting myself with a sharp instrument, I do it with the voices in my head. The bleeding is internal, the pain is excruciating, and the messages continue.

“You suck. You have been doing improv for over 20 years. You teach this stuff? You are a fraud.”

I had students in the audience on Sunday, and now I am embarrassed to go into the classroom. Maybe I am not the best improviser in the world, but I thought I was a great teacher, and now that is all gone in one show. One terrible show.

And the more I think about this the more I want to die.

I wish I had more hope to offer about how to get through a bad improv show. I wish I could tell newbie improvisers that it gets better over the years. But I am sorry to say that suffering after a bad show is still very much part of my process. I guess there is hope that I’m still here to talk about it. If any of you figure out how to get through a bad show, let me know. You may be saving a life or two.

Go ahead, promote yourself

Go Ahead, Promote Yourself

Improv Nerd comedy podcast at Stage 773One of the hardest things for me to do is to ask people to come to my improv shows. I have been performing on a regular basis for more than 20 years and it’s still difficult. I tell myself “Oh, they don’t really care,” or “Why would they come see me?”

You may be performing at one of the big improv theaters where the crowds seem to come in by themselves, so if that is the case you can stop reading. But for those brave people who go off on your own and start something from the ground up, this is for you.

We are performers and we need an audience. Let’s be honest: If there’s no audience, it’s a rehearsal.

Audiences don’t just show up by themselves. And just because you post an event about your show on Facebook doesn’t mean they’re going to come. To get an audience, you have to ask people to come.

Asking people to come to your show is important because it’s about letting myself be seen, it’s about getting support and it’s about telling the universe, “Guess what? I am serious about what I am doing here; I am legit.”

I grew up in a family where you could not express yourself, where you were supposed to play small and hide. Self-expression did not exist. It was about being invisible, not being a burden — you would not dare ask for what you needed.

When I was a kid and I had a baseball game or a show, I would discourage my parents from coming. If they did surprise me and show up, I would feel sick. I’d get a pit in my stomach and want them to leave. I couldn’t take in the support and I didn’t want to be seen in life, so I certainly did not want to be seen on stage. I did my best to keep my worlds separate.

Now that I’m in my late 40s, this how I still look at things: Asking someone to come to my show would be a burden, because I am burden. Welcome to my world.

So when I started doing Improv Nerd, a comedy podcast and live show, I relied heavily on public relations, Facebook and posters to get the word out about the show. I got some incredible press on the show, and I thought this was enough to pack the house.

It wasn’t. It never is, because promoting is an inside job. You have to believe in yourself; the words have to come out of your mouth. Instead, I was hiding behind Facebook and putting off the inevitable, that dirty little word called self-promotion.

I can tell myself all sorts of lies about self-promotion: that people will think I am a jerk, or that I am bragging, or my favorite one, all I want to do is show up and play. But really by avoiding self-promotion, all I want to do is continue to hide.

This season, my wife, Lauren, encouraged me to do the scariest thing possible, which was to promote myself by telling my friends about Improv Nerd, in person. I was afraid to ask, but I knew this would help me grow.

So I started to ask people — my students, my friends — and every time, when I pulled a post card out of my pocket, I thought I was having stroke. I would stammer a little, my voice would go softer and my heart would beat harder, and I’d say “Hey, I’d love it if you could come to my show. I could use the support.”

And here is the painful part: People actually came. I was filled with lots of gratitude and wanted to run away all at the same time.

These were the feelings that I had been avoiding since childhood. It’s still really uncomfortable for me, and I don’t do it perfectly, but I feel like I have started.

Oh, by the way, my last performance of Improv Nerd this season is this Sunday at 5 pm at Stage 773, and I would love it if you could come. I could use the support.

Overcoming performance shame

Jimmy Carrane and Matt HovdeOne of the best acting tips I ever got was from Del Close, one of my early improv teachers, who used to say “follow the fear.” How I interpret that when I am on stage improvising is if you’re standing in the back line doing a Harold, Montage or an Armando and you feel afraid to go out there and edit or start a scene, then use that fear as a signal that you need to go out there. Most of the time, you end up doing a better scene than when you wait to feel comfortable to go out there. What I have learned is fear is an emotion — it is energy, and that energy will infuse the scene.

I have discovered another emotion that I use as a signal and that is shame. Shame is that horrible feeling you have after a so-called bad show where you want to crawl into hole and die. The messages in your head go something like this: “I am piece of shit,” “Why I am doing this?” “I am loser,” “I am quitting,” “I need to kill myself,” or any combination. I have been plagued with shame my whole life, and nothing intensifies this feeling more than performing. It can feel like a public flogging. Though shame is uncomfortable, like fear it can be used as signal, both on and off stage.

This happened to me the other night when I was recording an episode of Improv Nerd, a comedy podcast and live show. Both my parents and my future in-laws were in the audience, and we had just come from dinner where the parents had met each other for the first time.

At the show, I started with a short monologue about my fear of what my in-laws think of me. “I am old, bald and I am not that funny….”

If that wasn’t enough, during the interview portion of the show I said: “I come from a dysfunctional family. Isn’t that right Mom and Dad?”

My Dad: “I thought we were perfect.”

Nice laugh.

Me: “So there was a lot of denial in my house.”

Another nice laugh.

Suddenly, I was filled with shame and the messages filled my head — and that was only in the first five minutes of a 60-minute show.

By some miracle, I got through the show, but afterwards I avoided my future in-laws. Then I saw my parents cornering my guest, Matt Hovde, and my Mom apologized, saying we were “just a little dysfunctional.”

Now I really wanted to kill myself. I felt vulnerable, like I had done something wrong. I wish I could tell you the feeling went away immediately as Lauren and I drove home from Second City, but it did not. I had a lousy night’s sleep and woke up the next morning having to eat breakfast with my future in-laws at some swanky downtown hotel. Though I was still hung over from the shame from the night before, and wearing two different kind of shoes, I felt more comfortable and confident around Lauren’s parents, where usually I’m scared and on edge. Something had changed. Could it have been the monologue from the night before?

I had taken a risk, and it  was paying off in my life.

After talking to people about it, I found some relief. I learned that when I feel shame, I have taken a risk. I have pushed myself and my art in a very honest direction, outside of my comfort zone.

Shame is like fear. It’s not good or bad — it’s simply an emotion. If you feel it on stage, use it as a signal that you’re being vulnerable and heading in the right direction. So I if you are going to follow fear, you might as well as embrace the shame, too. Know that you didn’t do anything wrong; actually, you did something spectacular.