Jimmy Carrane teaching

Warning: Resentments are toxic to your career

If you want to kill your improv career, make sure to have resentments. Lots and lots of resentments, toward all kinds of people, places and institutions.

If your Harold team gets broken up and they don’t put you on another team, or you audition for something and don’t get cast, do what I’ve done and say: “Fuck them! I am never going to step in that theater again.”

You can lie to yourself with your self-righteous anger, believing you got screwed. But the truth is you felt hurt, disappointed, shame, and sadness — but you don’t want to go there, because it’s too painful. And you have no interest in looking at your part in the situation because you are having too much fun blaming, being a victim and not taking any responsibility for what happened. Instead, not knowing it, you’re closing the door on future opportunities by cutting them out of your life for good.

I have been doing this my whole improv career. There has not been an improv group or show or theater or place that I have taught at that I have not left without a resentment(s). It usually boils to down how I was treated or paid or how they did not give me what a wanted.

And I am embarrassed to say that at 50 years old, I am finally realizing how much my resentments and self-righteous attitude have gotten in the way of my success. I know some of you are going to be surprised by what I am about to say: I am pretty successful, but I could have been even more successful if I had not let those stupid resentments pile up over the years. I get it that I am truly powerless over them, but it does not make things any easier. Anytime my pride got bruised, I made the damage worse for myself, thinking I was protecting myself. Liar.

If any you’ve ever thought, “Why isn’t Jimmy even bigger?” I will tell you it’s because of all of the resentments.
Looking back at my career, the one regret I have is holding on to them for so damn long. Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t let them all go yet, but I am starting to get in touch with how they killed my career and my relationships and realizing that when I cut people, places and institutions out of my life out of anger, nothing good happens to me.

I am sad about it and I wish I could give you some quick fix or some sage wisdom that you’ve come to except from me, but the best I can do in this situation is what my older brother, Bobby, used to say to me in high school: “I don’t want you to make the same mistakes as I did.” And I have made many, and today I realize that the only one I hurt is myself.

People have told me that “Having a resentment is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies.” If that’s true, I have drunk so much poison over the years that it has become toxic to me and has made me immune from being even more successful. I may still be alive, but it has killed parts of my career. The good news I am late bloomer and I still have time left to change.

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15 replies
  1. Rebecca Bradford
    Rebecca Bradford says:

    This is very interesting, Jimmy. It’s sounds as if you were in a 12-Step meeting discussing resentments. Your next topics might be character defects, inventories and making amends to those we have harmed. There’s a ton more to choose from…

  2. Sarah Noll Wilson
    Sarah Noll Wilson says:

    I continue to appreciate your willingness to show your belly in these posts. Your vulnerability is valuable not only to your own personal journey but for others (improvers and non improvers alike). It can be difficult to lean into these thought and moments but when you can wholly be with the core it can be both humbling and liberating. Thank you sir!

  3. Katrina Morris
    Katrina Morris says:

    I’ve only just found you (and the whole larger improv world) at the age of 43! I feel like I’ve missed out on so much. But I also feel like I have SO much to look forward to and to learn and enjoy. My resentments are toward myself and not having taken chances when I was younger and now not having the courage to drop everything and move and study seriously. But I’m not 20. That’s the reality. I may never end up with a real career to speak of, but if you’ll let me join your late bloomers club, I promise not to let my resentment toward myself get in the way of my growth in improv! BTW, I am LOVING your interviews, your book and your blog posts. I hope to at least make it to Chicago one day to take one of your workshops!

  4. Greg Morelli
    Greg Morelli says:

    50 is a great place to start. 50 is the only place to start.

    You’re no longer caught-up in chasing a result. Craft becomes living instead of intellectual. Resentments become distant tragedies, fitting neatly into Woody Allen’s Formula.

    Comedy = Resentments + Time

  5. Bill Davis
    Bill Davis says:

    So guilty of this, especially the “not wanting to go there” because it’s painful and the fun of blame, said the 47-year-old who yearns for the spotlight. The 12th-step jab may be accurate, but does it matter where insight comes from? That being said, Rebecca, you should’ve used an Oxford Comma in your second-to-last sentence, as well as left an additional space before beginning the ellipses in your final half-sentence. I will never read anything you write again.

  6. Laura Hugg
    Laura Hugg says:

    You are not alone in letting resentments poison your life; I have done this too. I am happy for you to experience relief from them and your world getting bigger and brighter! Thanks for sharing!

  7. joseph bennett
    joseph bennett says:

    Thank you for another great post, Jimmy. This reminds me of the work I do called ‘changing the preposition’ Shifting from talking myself ‘out’ of something – the audition, the party, the connection – to talking myself ‘into’ something – showing up, taking a chance, playing bigger. Thanks for who you are and who you are becoming, Jimmy!

  8. m. czerwenka
    m. czerwenka says:

    Thanks for that good read! The quote about drinking poison really had me laughing so hard… It sums it up so well. I wish you all the best with learning to let go… It’s also a challenge that i have accepted, yet are not through with. Tough one, sometimes.

  9. Margot
    Margot says:

    Thanks so much! Again, you are reading my toxic thoughts! Resentment from Latin – Re to repeat and Sentir to feel. To re-experience a feeling that was crummy the first time yet I continue to experience it again and again – is that insanity?
    I spent two hours with my therapist today and one entire hour devoted to my resentment at team member! Luckily she helped me see that underlying all my resentments is Fear . Thank you for your honesty.


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