Moving up in the world

I can’t believe my luck. What would life be like right now if I’d blown off a Saturday workshop on sketch comedy writing? I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t be nearly this awesome.

I had my interview with the guys from the Shadowbox Cabaret yesterday after work. I drove to Easton (only took a half hour from Polaris, and in rush hour traffic at that). They sat me down and told me the ugly truth: working as a writer for Shadowbox is not easy. They run a tight ship on a rigid schedule and they simply don’t have time to be nice. They are going to tell me that my ideas suck, my scripts suck, my jokes suck and I suck. And I’ll have to brush it off and come up with something better. And then something better than that, and better and better until someone says, okay, I can think we can cast this thing. And that takes weeks. And it doesn’t happen a lot. I might never see one of my original ideas hit the stage.

I’m not gonna lie, my heart sank a little when I was told that, because already I’d had visions of inviting friends and family to come see a show containing a sketch that I came up with. But that’s the vanity talking. A sketch is no one’s sketch, it is everyone’s sketch. This double-edged sword, they pointed out, means I now get a share of the credit and the blame for what’s on stage at Shadowbox from this day forth.

Steve, the founder of Shadowbox, said the musical portion of the show is completely different from what we write.

“For one thing, the songs are already written, and they’re already hits,” he pointed out.

Shadowbox shows generally do a sketch followed by a song performance, followed by another sketch and so on. They also have some video segments in there, and I actually have a video series idea to share. But iPhone ad parodies might be overdone, sigh… We’ll see.

After the terrifying terms of my possible internship were laid out, completely without sugarcoat, Steve said with a laugh, “So how does all that sound?”

I laughed, too.

“Ummm… a little scary,” I admitted. “But, I still wanna do it.”

“Okay,” he said, and welcomed me to the family. I grinned like an idiot for several minutes.

The trouble is, no one at Shadowbox has seen anything I’ve ever written. I brought along a few sketch ideas I came up with last week but I’m glad I didn’t show them to anyone on the spot because I know no one was about to trouble themselves to cover their dismay at what they’d just done in giving me a chance. Also, the thing about comedy at Shadowbox is that it’s for everyone; they have no idea who’s going to come through the door on any given night so their humor has to have a wide appeal. I was explaining a sketch idea I had to my dad, a parody of “The Hills,” and when he admitted he wasn’t sure who Heidi Montag is, I said, “Okay, maybe this isn’t going to work.”

We have to write sketches about things everyone knows, characters everyone can relate to. And for a show that’s months down the road. Your topics are limited, your time is finite. Plus, it’s hard to write a Ted Strickland/John Kasich sketch in May for a show in October when we have no way of knowing what’s going to take place in state politics between now and then.

And in the next few days, I am going to have to develop the thick skin of Kenneth the Page and the independence and motivation of Liz Lemon, and, oh my God, I’m going to have to stop making “30 Rock” references before I start spending any actual time with these people.

The other cool thing about this chance of a lifetime is, the more Shadowbox succeeds, the more it can grow. The more money coming in, the more staff they can hire. I guess what I am trying to say is, give to the Shadowbox! Give and give and give! Pay tithe to church of local comedy. Donate generously here.

If I don’t suck at sketch comedy writing and stick with this, I could work at my dream job one day. Basically I was told it will be rough and painful and frustrating but if I live to survive it, I will come out a great writer on the other side. This makes me feel a strange combination of ill and elated. We’ll see which wins me over in the end.

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