Kill them first.
I want to thank everyone who’s been so kind in the wake of our announcement about this Comedy Central opportunity. The messages, comments, blog posts, and emails have all been insanely nice and it means the world to me to see them all. It’s very motivating and makes me want to get this thing right even more than I already did.
With that in mind, I feel like I wanted to just put my motivation out there publicly. This is for a few reasons. First off, I’ve always felt so strongly connected to the fans of this show and feel like they are a huge part of the process. People are already posting suggestions for the pilot on our message board over at the main web site unsolicited, and I think that’s the best. I read them all. Also, I think it’s interesting to let you guys see my thought process - I have a chip on my shoulder and often think about why and this should show that off. Mostly though, I feel like I put this out into the world it will force me to live and die by it a bit more - declare something publicly and you are accountable for it.
So why are we doing this? Why take this thing we love and change it? What motivates that?
"You don’t improvise. You act without a script."
I’m not gonna lie, I’ve served some real douchebags in my time. Any seasoned server like myself has had experience with a variety of self-entitled morons in this bustling metropolis. I’ve served insecure women who have openly discussed the realness of my breasts. I’ve had men ask me to sit on their laps for photo-ops to send to their wives. I’ve served both men and women who think it’s ok to get my attention by hitting me. Some people are idiots. This is not news.
I’m immediately on the defense with these people, obviously, and bristle at any sort of personal question they may ask me, especially about acting. I suppose it’s pretty clear that I’m an actor-type, and the fact that I’m a walking cliche waiting tables is just bonus evidence. I usually brush off their questions with a stock comment about it being a tough business and offer them another round. I have no desire to let these people into my life, and I keep them at a distance. The walls are up.
Once in a while, though, some of my guests surprise me. They’re kind and appreciative, they’ll offer me a seat and a drink, they treat me like a new friend. They’ll compliment me in a sincere fashion by telling me that I’m doing a great job. They say thank you. They won’t ask me what my ethnicity is as a segue to talk about my body (PS: I’m not Brazilian but that would be cool). I love these people. I love working for these people. I will literally do anything to make them happy as long as they are my guests. They make my job incredibly easy and, dare I say, rewarding.
Sometimes guests like this, unbeknownst to them, help me. They’ll unintentionally say something that I need to hear, desperately, to keep pushing in my horrible and wonderful career of acting. Last night I met a cool guy who’s brother is a fairly prominent actor. His boisterous friend nudged him, “Give her some advice, she’s a nice girl.” A little embarrassed, this is what the cool guy had to say:
"Just…be persistent. It’s one of the loneliest, most brutal things you could ever want to do, but, you know, just keep going. Keep pushing, and eventually you’ll get to the place you want to be. Be persistent."
It was the word “loneliest” that got me. It is lonely. In a city of 9 million people and hundreds of thousands of fellow actors, writers, directors, and other show biz people, the struggle to create and produce and maintain a sense of individuality as an artist can be quite isolating. It’s the type of thing that most actors feel but can’t really share. It’s internal, and it’s yours.
Before I could stop myself, I admitted something to him that is very personal. “I just get so tired sometimes. Like…so tired.”
When you make the choice to pursue acting, nobody tells you about the exhaustion. Sure, they say that it’s tough and time management is key and you have to take care of your body because eight shows a week is killer, but nobody really articulates the fatigue. The consistent, pulsing ache in your muscles and your breath and your feet and your voice that you push to the very recesses of your mind because the moment you acknowledge it you’ve been defeated, you’ll collapse for sure. It’s the weariness you feel behind the chipper “Hi, I’m Megan!” in the audition room and at your tables and at a bar after a reading or a show, because you’re networking networking networking it never stops, you’ve always got to be on. It’s the 5 to 6 shifts a week on your feet, screaming over loud music, hustling for tips, literally hustling on a bad night because young suits never tip and there’s never enough money on their debit cards but they’re trying to be cool so they drink more and just don’t tip you. It’s the panic you feel when you first open your eyes and jesus it takes you 30 seconds to remember what day it is, the GODDAMN DAY OF THE WEEK and even then you’re not sure until you check your phone, which you pretty much sleep with and is the most intimate relationship you’re able to maintain at the moment. The Facebook feed of baby after baby after baby after wedding after wedding wedding after engagement after engagement after engagement and your friends’ kids SO MANY HAVE KIDS and family you never see, vacations you just don’t take. It’s the saying no to the food you’re craving because you actually have to work out to maintain your weight and whenever you binge an audition on film always seems to pop up the next day. The willpower to do cardio AND conditioning when you closed the night before and didn’t get home until 3am. It’s the exhaustion. Nobody warns you about the exhaustion.
"I just get so tired sometimes." It’s a loaded statement, what I tell this stranger. My walls are down. I’m completely vulnerable. What’s wrong with me? Why did I just say that?
He looks a me, and nods, understanding. He gets it. All of it. “I know. I know you do. But you’ve got to keep going. Just be persistent.”
Once in a while, my guests surprise me, and I am revived.
The moment there is any silence whatsoever.
I’d also recommend doing it once the audience’s attention is fully invested in another character — you gotta pull focus at just the right moment so everyone pays attention to YOU.
OK so, here’s a thing I’ve learned having done a fair bit of musicianing on stage…maybe it’s one of those secrets that nobody wants to let the world know but…
So I was playing a show once and I was talking with the sound guy and I said, as a joke, “Deathly Hallows is my last song so, after that, I’ll just drop the mic and I’m done.”
And then he was like “Sure, just make sure to hold the mic up so I see you’re about to drop it and I’ll cut it.”
I was like “Dude, no, I would never mess with your equipment like that.” And he was all “Seriously, they’re designed to get dropped now, the only problem is if you drop it while it’s still on, it’ll make a godawful loud noise and maybe even mess up the speakers, so you have to hold it up so I see you’re about to drop it.”
So, when you see people hold the mic out and then just drop it, it looks like they’re all IDGAF but really they’re all “Hey, sound guy, please cut the mic so that these people don’t all die bleeding out of their ears.”
You know what mics aren’t designed to be dropped? The ones you see at comedy clubs, bars, comedy theatres, black box stages, and any place that buys a $100 Shure SM58.
Yes, if your stage guy or girl is fast, they can mute it. But you’re still going to risk denting the hell out of the mic, loosing the connection between the mic and the cable (which will eventually cause it to cut out just by touching the connection), or just plain breaking the damn thing. I’ve had to replace a lot of mic and mic covers over the years due to performers dropping, throwing, or tossing their mics.
If you drop a mic on a UCB stage, I will talk to you about it. I will try not to be mad, I will try not to yell, but I will be steaming that you attempted to damage property I am in charge of.
I do, indeed, give a fuck.
Upright Citizens Brigade, New York.