Bathroom Issues

I have weird bathroom/privacy issues, too many to list. The one you need to know for this story, or maybe you don't and I just want to share, is that I always use stalls. Always. I think growing up I felt that using a urinal was something that had to be taught to me, like shaving and tying my shoes. It was never taught to me. I started off using stalls and, well, never looked back. This has lead to many awkward situations but...okay, that's getting into the other bathroom issues.


You all know I work at a place where comics runneth like water. They're everywhere. They're all over my desk, on conference tables, stacks all over the place. It's pretty awesome. So last Friday I was in the bathroom, which is usually home to a recent-ish issue of ToyFare or Anime Insider, doing a number one. Peeing. Yeah, I think number one is the universal phrase for that, right? Anyway. I'm peeing and I see that, in the trash bin next to the toilet, floating somewhat at the top over kleenexes, toilet paper, bathroom stuff, is a comic book. I've never seen an actual comic book in the bathroom. It's face down so I can see the back ad, which is an anti-smoking one. I notice, while peeing, that there is a little Twin Towers emblem with a red, white and blue ribbon around it. I instantly recognize this as the emblem that was on all of Marvel's comic books for the six months or so after September 11th. So I've identified the comic, while peeing, as a Marvel comic from late 2001. I then play a game in my head to see if I can guess which title it is. I think Avengers, or Uncanny X-Men until settling on Amazing Spider-Man. I figure I'll turn it over and check it out, before washing my hands. So, after peeing and zipping up, I gently pick the comic book out of the trashcan between my index finger and thumb.

It's an issue of Amazing Spider-Man all right.

It's #36.

The September 11th issue.

The newstand variant that is worth, I kid you not, $80 mint condition. It's also the only issue of JMS and John Romita Jr.'s run on Amazing Spider-Man that I don't have...because it's worth $80.

After freaking out for a second that someone not only took the September 11th issue (you know, the one where Spidey goes to Ground Zero just after the events and helps dig people out of the rubble) to read on the crapper, but they threw it away afterwards...I was faced with a big dilemma.

Do I really need this issue enough to take it, in it's far below average condition, out of the bathroom stall's trash can, into my hands, and into my home? I decided no, I did not, and put it in the larger trash can next to the sink. I sorta regretted it but, honestly, I didn't want to relate this story and then have people freak out when I took it. So yeah, I wanted it but was more worried about what people would think. Then I related these events to my teammates during a stretch-and-share exercise in practice on Sunday and they all flipped out that I didn't take it. So yeah, apparently taking the germ-infested $80 comic from the bathroom actually is the right thing to do.

Knowing that we get the trash taken out like, once a week, I went back on Monday and there it was...still in the big trashcan with a couple paper towels over it. I grabbed it, immediately bagged and boarded it, and brought it home. I've gone through the issue looking for...unsightly stains...and I found none. So, that's good. The issue's not in great shape, I could probably resell it for maybe...maybe $3-$5, but I now have the complete JMS/JRJR run.

And whoever this mystery co-worker is, this week they left the recently published guide to Ed Brubaker's Daredevil in the same trashcan in the stall. I passed that one over. I mean, if I'm going to dig a comic out of the trash, it has to be worth at least $25.



Two years ago yesterday I entered New York City (Brooklyn to be exact, Bensonhurst to be painfully honest) with hope in my heart and excitement in every step. At the time I was only coming up here for sixth months, any extension of that stay to be decided after I figured out whether or not I could live by myself in the big city. Believe it or not, New York City is a tad different from Murfreesboro, although New York state is nowhere near as civilized. I get scared up there, ya'll!

I've accomplished quite a bit since moving to New York...I think. Okay, yeah, I now have two entertainment institutions that helped form my opinion of comedy on my resume, so that's pretty awesome. It's quite weird to think about how much I owe to everyone at Late Show and them picking me to intern there two years ago. That opportunity, everything I've done, it all goes back to Late Show. If not for that internship, I have no idea how I would have made it up here. Sincere thanks go out to everyone there.

Two years ago tomorrow night I saw longform improv for the first time (thanks Ashley). It was Mother, Saturday night at 9:00, with Doug Moe, James Eason, Tara Copeland and Jon Daly. That was the four. Seeing that show completely blew my mind and caused me to go back, either by myself or with other interns (okay, just Jon and Ashley), quite often. I saw Mother regularly and eventually saw ASSSSCAT 3000 for the first time in mid-September. By October I had started going to see Death By Roo Roo by myself on a weekly basis. In retrospect, future classmates Beth and Phil were there too, as the intern and fellow audience member, respectively. I did this weekly, actually, and I would always be on the phone in line trying to explain to people why I saw this show every week.

My improv career started on October 15th, 2006, at 3:30 PM when I started my 101 class with Ari Voukydis. Now here I am, two years after seeing my first show. I guess now's as good a time as any to sort out what I've done and where I've come from.

101: Ari Voukydis - This was one of the reasons why my internship was so memorable. Not only was I furthering my career through a fantastic internship, I was taking matters into my own hands and taking a class in my spare time. I figured I was only in New York once and I should go for it while I could. I didn't know if I'd go to level 2 (because I didn't know if I'd still be in New York) and I didn't know what in the world I would use those skills for, but from that first class I knew it was something I was missing. Aside from going to ASSSSCAT a couple times after class, I didn't really hang out with many people from UCB. But it felt good to be a part of something, of a scene, especially being so new to the city. In between the end of my internship in December and the start of my 201 in February, I spent 5 or so nights a week at UCB, always seeing the same people but not talking.

I learned a lot from Ari that I still use to this day. I like to think that I'm pretty okay at object work and this is 100% Ari. I try to never let scenes be in just Improv Space, mainly because Ari did such a great job at making our scenes physical. That's stuck with me, on top of the solid job he did of introducing "Yes And" to me. Ari also boosted our egos by telling us how confident and advanced we were. I remember having game discussions in 101, which I don't know how often that happens. Ari wasn't at our graduation show. Bobby Moynihan filled in and I will never forget the congratulations he gave all of us after the show. He looked me square in the eye, smiling, and said "You were really good!" I'm glad that two of the most awesome guys at UCB were so encouraging and, of course, I had to go on to level 2.

201: Shannon O'Neill - I know I never felt as emotionally destroyed by 201 as others did, but I had a rough go of it sometimes. I don't so much remember what I learned in 201 as who I was learning it with. But if you're reading this far, you've already heard the countless Abe stories. 201 was influential since that's where I first met most everyone who would become Bad Data. My first ever practice group also happened in 201, at Matt Mayer's apartment in Hoboken. I learned a lot about character work in 201, I remember, or at least I tried to. My class show had a moving corpse in it...that really shouldn't have been moving. I did go to Under St. Mark's for the first time during 201, as well as the Magnet and PIT.

301: Shannon O'Neill - This started the very next day after my 201 ended. I know I focused a lot more on support work in 301, which is something that I really want to start focusing on more now. Plus, you know, there was more Abe and The Most Violent Harold In History in my 301 class. Bad Data formed during 301 and I was in and won my first ever Cage Match. Looking back at the lineup, I performed alongside people that would go on to become good friends and part of the thriving indie team community. Really, winning Cage Match during 301 was one of the highest highs I've had in improv. Golden Bullet Band for life.

202: Joe Wengert - This was an eye-opening class. I actually took notes in it that are back in my blog somewhere, if you click on the 202 tag. By the end of the four week class there were only 8 of us, so that last class was, as Joe said, "like Harold team practice." He was the first teacher to actually give all of us personalized notes and goals in front of every other classmate, and I highly appreciated that. And yes, sigh, we're holding improv dildos in that picture to commemorate the...the many improv dildos I introduced into the last Harold we did in the class.

401: Michael Delaney - Class is in session. This, actually, was the hardest class I've ever taken but not in a bad way. Delaney just doesn't let you pick anything to be the game, and he really forces you to your limit as a performer. But he also, at least in my class, really got to know us in a way. He would open up and spend the first ten minutes of every class just talking about his childhood or his son, or whatever came up. Still, I'll never forget the forty minute Harold I watched, or Old Timey Radio...it was great having class with Kim, Matt Mayer and Patrick though. Bad Data got a name and had their first show during this class, and I started interning at UCB.

501: Chris Gethard - Truly amazing. I don't know...I really don't know if I've had a teacher that really cared for us the way Gethard did. He took a personal involvement in making us better and also got great joy at seeing us succeed. Gethard did everything he could to make us uncomfortable (backwards Harolds, gibberish Harolds, etc) but it was exactly what all of us needed and so helpful. The level of trust I got in that class was pretty much a new thing and our second class show was phenomenal. I mean, I got to do a group game that started with "Okay all you Marvel superheroes, get in here!" Gethard also gave us all personal notes, which, man, is the exact same personal note I got in 201 and 401. I get game, I don't need to worry about that. I have to worry about my characters. System Error, the monthly show hosted by LD, TYR and Bad Data, started during my first 501. I haven't been able to make the last couple due to my current 501, but I like what System Error has become. It's always a fun, free time and Bad Data did some of their best shows there.

600: Porter Mason "The Documentary" - Probably, yeah, of any class I've taken, this one is the closest to my heart. I signed up for it to work on my characters after all the notes I had gotten from Gethard, Delaney and Shannon. In this class I learned how to stop freaking out, relax, and just take it slow and real. I've never been prouder of a show and never had more fun with a class. I mean, we kept doing it after class and did a show at UCB. Hopefully we'll keep going in some capacity because this form is so amazing and the people even moreso. Plus, Porter Mason as a teacher and coach was phenomenal. The notes he gave me really helped me out and he's also just a great guy that I can talk about X-Men with.

501: Shannon O'Neill - As awesome as my first 501 and the Doc were, this is it. I mean, okay, Gethard really improved my relationship with improv by being so compassionate and insightful. And yeah, the Doc form is so amazing and the team, coach, class, the shows, they were all such a blast. But this, this class has made the Harold exciting. Shannon splits the class up into teams and you stay with them throughout. Somehow, through doing organic Harolds, the 8 of us, most of whom have never performed together, have formed a truly cohesive unit. There is trust, admiration, camaraderie, and a real group mind that I've not felt before in a class. For 8 people tossed together randomly, we've come together in a great way, both halves. The class show last week (which I will now blog about) was the best thing I've ever done. All of us were on the same page and, man, there's no better feeling than having a good show (at least to me right now). That's why I do improv.

So here I am, seven classes and a handful of workshops later. What is my deal? I think I've become notorious for being hard on myself, which is in part because I think the world of my indie peers. Coming up with these people, with the generation that produced Fat Penguin and Stamp & Coin Club, getting to play monthly with LD + The Scientist and Thank You, Robot, I'm constantly surrounded by truly gifted young improvisers entering their prime. I am constantly trying to figure out where I fit in, but I think I realize that my low points come when I'm trying to figure this out. Most of the Doc was spent trying to justify my inclusion to myself. I have fun when I just don't care. I don't know if that's a good thing, but when I'm really cutting loose I feel great. I have to figure out how to connect that to doing good scene work, but I think Shannon's 501 and my practices with Bad Data and Iron Ruckus of late have been really helpful.

I think I'm finally figuring out where I fit in, which goes back to the notes Porter gave me a while back. I do have a goofy energy that is pretty infectious, and I know that when I'm committed and cutting loose, I get laughs. On the other hand, I really want to learn how to slow down and support more, get some range. I'm definitely an improviser that plays instinctively and through his emotions, so I need to harness that. I wish I had great notes and insights like my friend Ben does after two years, but I haven't taken notes regularly and I have a hard time remembering things. I'm going to change this, though. If I can remember, I'm going to start taking notes during every class and after practice. I just want to be all I can be!

Here's to two more years, am I right?