It’s been 4 months since I moved to Chicago with great expectations of immersing in the scene via the big three comedy institutions. But as of late, I’ve been writing and performing more stand up and solo sketches than I ever imagined I would. My focus has completely shifted.
Chicago’s scene consists of a ton of young, talented performers whose paths of success have been paved by famous people’s tracks by getting on a Harold Team, then Second City Mainstage, then SNL. And then what? Maybe a movie. And then what? Maybe more money - and then WHAT??
After spending some time here , I realized that most people simply want some vague idea of fame: the Ultimate Validation. But it’s just not enough.
A lot of folks out here ask the same questions: “What classes are you taking? What level are you in? What team are you on?” As if simply going through the motions will magically transform you into Scott Adsit or Tina Fey. Sure Tim Robinson, my current comedy hero, went trough all the same steps but what we need to understand is that those steps were taken to develop his POV - which led him to produce his own work which led SNL to want him in this season’s cast.
Because most people don’t understand what they really want, it’s easy to fall into the traps of comparing yourself to others and feeling “ahead” or “behind” the curve. The truth of the matter is is that the curve is not real. The path laid out is an imaginary roadmap that we perceive in order to help build a context around the scariest unknown in life: The Future.
It’s important to clearly define your end game and put your head down and work. And just do YOU, not your version of somebody else. After diving in head first here, I realized that all of this nonsense comes down to me getting up every night and telling my story, which is constantly evolving. For me, life is too erratic and fucked up for me to experience it alone. I get on stage so I can feel connected to other human beings, to understand that I’m not alone. All the fame and possible fortune eventually leads back to this - the more people I can reach the better.
I’m reminded of the Robert Frost poem, but instead of choosing the road less traveled, I choose to pave a tertiary road, one no one’s walked yet. Be the first or be the best, leave the roads traveled for the rest. Below is an excerpt from Will Hines who talks about improv and its end game:
“I think a career in improv has seriously diminishing returns for stuff that translates into a paying job. At first, it can connect you to a network of like-minded people, and help you develop your voice and your confidence. And then after some amount of time, you’ve met the people you’re going to meet and your voice is as developed as it’s going to and you should get rid of all that time you’re spending in rehearsal and write your own stuff.” - Will Hines, UCBT NY