2010: The year I lived with every family member possible

In the middle of my freak out last week over where the heck I’m going to live after July 1, my dad called with an idea. He suggested I ask my brother and sister-in-law if I could live with them for the summer.

It was a simple solution had been there the whole time, or at the very least, an option I’d never considered. I was really skeptical that they’d go for it; they were probably pretty used to having their house to themselves and, oh yeah, their infant. Just the same, I e-mailed Owen later that day and tried to sell the idea as best I could. I said I could pay rent and help out with the mortgage and watch Hannah if they wanted to go on a date night or go to the store. On Monday morning, he e-mailed back and said they were open to the idea, and added he and I could carpool! (We work within a mile of each other).

The idea of my rent, water, gas, internet and electric bills being rolled into one check is very appealing. Sharing the apartment and its costs with Brandon was just right for my budget; we split rent/water down the middle, I paid gas, he paid electric and internet. We used to alternate who paid for groceries, even. I’ve been able to pay all these utilities on my own, but it’s made saving difficult. Not to mention some car repairs and a plane ticket from California I dropped cash on recently. So, that’s what this summer will be about: saving, as well as making plans for the future.

Come the fall, I’ll need to either be ready to make some big changes or be willing to commit to signing another lease in the Short North somewhere with a roommate.

In other news, I’ve been doing the “30 Day Shred” DVD every day, except for Friday and Saturday. I should have done it Saturday, but I was lazy. However, maybe a second rest day the first week wasn’t such a bad idea. I’ve done it every day since then, so that’s 7 work outs in 9 days.

I contributed to a brainstorming session tonight for Shadowbox; they’re trying to come up with common Halloween candy and costumes that their evangelist character could deem evil and unholy. That was fun to play around with.

Writer FAIL

So, last week I submitted those two ideas I mentioned, and later, a third idea for a video segment (the fake iPhone commercials). All three of these ideas seemed to go over not terribly with the writers who commented, so I decided to take the initiative to write a first draft of my Twilight sketch. I posted it Thursday night and felt really good about myself. I’d written a sketch, by God. On Friday, no one had commented on it but I could see a couple had viewed it. I checked back over the weekend and got my first sketch criticism.

They said they’d tell me when my ideas, jokes and drafts sucked, and boy, did they. I’m not gonna lie, even though I was prepared for it, it still smarted. My heart plummeted when I read the feedback; my draft didn’t have enough jokes, and the one joke I was most proud of was deemed a desperate attempt at shock value and unfit for the stage. Can you imagine me writing something so offensive it’s not stage appropriate?

I know I got too cocky, too early on. I also didn’t try hard enough, and at the very same time, I tried far too hard. I should have sat on my draft for a couple days rather than immediately posting it, and I should have been much more thoughtful about it. I shouldn’t have tried to live up to the other female writers’ reputation for writing the most offensive jokes, because that’s not my natural writer’s voice. I’m just beginning to worry that my natural writer’s voice might not have the sense of humor I imagined.

The thing is, this is the hard part. This is where I take what I wrote and completely re-do it and make it better. This is what they said would happen. This is the part where I move forward and try harder and write better jokes. This is where I plead to my writer’s group later tonight to let me bounce some lines off of them.

Also, I failed miserably at my weekend experiment to not spend any more than fifty bucks. I blame Mozart’s, but really I blame my overwhelming desire to drop everything and run to Target when I realize I’ve lost my sunglasses and also pick up a new pair of shorts while I’m there. I still know I’ve got enough cash to survive a weekend in Chicago, but I can’t help but have traumatic flashbacks to the Colorado trip when I unwittingly placed a non-budgeted $150 deposit on a bike I borrowed for two days. Vacations are the times when a credit card might come in handy.

Brace yourself

I just submitted two sketch ideas to the Shadowbox online forum – a more generalized version of “The Hills” parody I described to my dad, and a sketch making fun of “Twilight.” It’s for the Halloween show, after all. It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be, and I am feeling better about it all than I was 48 hours ago.

The day after my interview/confirmation of insanity, I was sent my personal login information for the writers’ team forum, where they share basic sketch ideas, outlines and drafts. There, the other writers will read, comment and give direction for an idea and the original writer (or another writer, if so inclined) will go from there and take the next step. I was encouraged to take other people’s ideas and work from them if I felt like I had a good direction to take it in.

On Friday after work, I pored over the sketch ideas already posted. I had mixed feelings about them as a whole; some, I thought to myself, were out of my league but there were some I felt I could have written and hopefully even improved on. This made me feel a little better, as if I was being told maybe I could belong to this team after all. Hours after I was accepted for this internship, my confidence took a nose dive and I began wondering what I had been thinking by even daring to ask for a role. My dad told me I don’t take criticism well, to which I snapped, “YES I DO”. Just kidding. I actually said in a whiny voice, “I think I’ve gotten better about that…”

I think he may be thinking of the time he once politely questioned my decision to major in journalism, when at the time I was hardly a news junkie. I accused him of saying I was simply not smart enough to be a reporter and promptly burst into tears in a canoe in the middle of a lake. It’s true – at that moment in my life, I was not terrible receptive to constructive criticism. However, to be fair, being judged by our parents, whom most strive hardest in their whole lives to appease, feels far worse than being criticized by anyone else on the planet. And besides, that was years ago. And look how far that journalism degree got me! …Oh, wait.

But, back to today. Confidence slightly restored, I resigned myself to submitting at least two ideas, since the head writer had e-mailed and requested two outlines by the end of this coming week. Much like in college, when I couldn’t *possibly* write a boring paper when my half of the room was dirty (remember when you were confined to/responsible for only half of a room?), I couldn’t bring myself to submit any sketch ideas with a sink full of dishes. That is why I am announcing this pitiful accomplishment at 10 p.m. on Sunday night. This has been my weekend.

Well, the rest of my weekend has mostly been made up of me talking to other people about how very excited I am to have the chance to show my stuff as a sketch comedy writer – there was little sketch comedy writing involved until very recently. I went to a going-away party for a couple Muskingum friends who are moving out of state in two weeks. There were lots of people there, only four of whom I knew prior to, but I really enjoyed meeting all those new people last night and talking to them. Seth and Amy have cultivated a pretty awesome circle of friends in their time in Columbus. I am sure they are sad to leave them for the time being.

Today, I picked up Owen and Jamie at the airport and ended up spending a good part of the day with Owen. Sadly, Jamie had to head to her hometown because her uncle passed away while they were on vacation, which they were afraid might happen. Owen picked up their cat, which I watched while they were away, and he bought me pizza for my cat-watching troubles. (Of which there were none.)

The weekend’s gone by way too fast, as usual, but I’ve got plenty going on this week. Aside from trying to convey sketch premises as non-idiotic ideas, I’ll be shooting more footage for the Summit Workshop on Tuesday and doing a wedding related video on Thursday. Bonus: I get to see B.C. and Christina as a result of Thursday’s plans. Hooray!

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.

The Classic Cinema Society

I don’t think I’ve blogged about this yet, and that really surprises me since I tend to document most details of my life for all the Internet to see here.

Not every Friday, but most Fridays, a very special and extremely exclusive club meets to take in a classic film. That is to say, Rachel invites Eileen and me over to watch old movies. So far, we’ve watched:

  • “High Society”
  • “Rear Window”
  • “Wait Until Dark”
  • “Ninotchka”
  • “Laura”

Aaaaand last week we watched some crazy musical we agreed looked like two movies smooshed into one. I can’t remember the title. Am I forgetting any? Rachel and I also watched “Whip It” one night when Eileen couldn’t make it, and once we took the club to the Drexel to see “The Ghost Writer.” But more often than not, we meet at Rachel’s and eat dinner together and catch up on how our weeks went, followed by an old movie. Rachel has an awesome array of classic movies and old movie star posters and memorabilia. She’s always adding to the collection too, and she’s running out of room on her DVD shelves.

“I had to rearrange the genres recently and at that time Ryan had to let me know that ‘Midnight Cowboy’ is in fact NOT a western,” she said.

Last Friday I had the Flip Cam I got to borrow for my social media training, and I asked the ladies if they minded terribly if I shot some test video. They were both good sports, and were even more so when I asked if I could put the footage on my blog. And they each agreed AFTER viewing it. Below, see the CCS members try to select a movie from Rachel’s DVR.

I think we should do fake, snarky reviews of all the films we watch and have a series on YouTube. We could sit around looking pompous, drinking brandy and speak all indignantly about “cinema today, oh goodness!” …I have too much time on my hands.

Eileen and Rachel know much, much more than I do about old movies and they can gossip together about dead movie stars while I try hard to learn names and faces. It’s like my very own history of film class, really.

Tomorrow, while Eileen toils away on her masters thesis and portfolio, Rachel and I will be taking a field trip to the Shadowbox Cabaret. This is something I’ve been keeping quiet about, but I’m too excited to keep it in anymore. After the show tomorrow, I will speak with the head guy at Shadowbox about the possibility of an internship. Remember that sketch comedy writing workshop I raved about? He’s one of those guys. I e-mailed him a couple weeks ago to ask if the Cabaret ever takes on (unpaid) interns, because I would love to be a part of the production. He offered me two free tickets (for attending the workshop) and said to talk to him after the show. Tomorrow night I’ll set up a time with him to discuss about how, and where, I might fit in among the team at Shadowbox. I really hope I get to do it; if I really want to write comedy, the Shadowbox is absolutely the best place in Ohio I could learn. So, more on that soon, I hope. Wish me luck.