I moved to L.A. to make people laugh.
After I graduated from college and finished my student teaching, I had to figure out what I wanted to do “next.” I knew I wanted to find a teaching job, but where? And what else? My mom asked me what I wanted to do, and what I was good at. I said, “Sometimes I think all I’m good at is making people laugh.”
When I was a kid, I loved to “perform” – I did impersonations of people all the time – one of the earliest was Lily Tomlin’s Edith Anne character. I also did shows at retreats we went to, and constantly walked around doing different accents. Reading a story to kids turned into a smorgasbord of voices and accents – as if I was doing a one-woman table read. We discussed what that meant, and it led to me look for a job in Los Angeles and take acting classes. That was the plan.
Laughter introduced me to a fantastic mentor.
I took an improv class through the UCLA Extension during my first year teaching. It was held in one of the buildings in Universal Citywalk. I was terrified. I had no idea what to expect. My teacher’s name was Cynthia, and she taught me so much! Always say yes. That was the first rule. (Honestly? It’s a good rule for life in general.) I took a few classes from Cynthia. I went to a continuing class of hers at a theater on La Cienega that had different people rotating in and out. It was terrifying and exhilarating at the same time. One thing she always told me when I froze on stage was “Spit it the $@&* out!” and something would inevitably come out of my mouth and the scene would continue. The foundations she taught me in improv class helped me to be more confident – not just in stage, but in life.
She encouraged me to take classes at the Groundlings and told me about her former student, Lisa. Lisa ended up being my teacher in the beginning class, and talked with me personally about how I could improve. (She was only there a few weeks. Apparently she got a job on a tv show that became ridiculously popular and ended up running for ten years.) I stayed at the Groundlings for 2 sessions and learned a lot before moving on to become a Studio Guide at Universal Studios.
The Groundlings, where so many comedic actors got their start.
Laughter got me a great, fun job.
Part of what got me the gig at Universal was my background in improv. The two people in charge of hiring the day I went in for the cattle call circled the Groundlings on my application. Not to mention, being able to improvise and think on my feet helped during the interview portion, and when I had to go up in front of the group and talk about something until they told me to wrap it up.
My first day on the job, with the monster.
I loved working at Universal! I got to “perform” in front of large groups of people several times a day, meet great people who had similar interests to me, and got great opportunities to perform in showcases and take workshops with acting teachers. It was at Universal where I joined an Improv group called “On the Spot.” We performed every Friday at The Wild Side Theatre in North Hollywood, had shows at local colleges and hotels, and overall had a blast. We tried to do fun, interesting things to change up the show each week, and I LOVED getting a good laugh from the crowds! (Side note – my group performed an hour before the group that my husband performed with. We never met the whole time we were performing there.)
Laughter gave me a steady teaching job
I took a year off from teaching and went back to school to clear my credential. During that time, I started working at Universal Studios, this time in the VIP office. I used to book VIP tours for various people and groups – and got to meet celebrities. (I also worked with some great people that year up in that office!)Once I finished my credential, I went to a job fair with my roommate, who was also looking for a teaching job. I passed my resumes around to several school districts, and hoped I’d get a call.
When the call came from Penny from the Fairgrove Academy of Visual and Performing Arts, I couldn’t believe it! All my acting, comedy, and other performing experience was bringing me to a job I’d dreamed of. I got to teach AND share my passion for performing. It was amazing! I taught improv games, how to write and perform a monologue, and how to Swing Dance to the kids in the performing arts elective, as well as pilot a fantastic theater program in my classroom where we put on plays all the time! I even got to perform in some of the big shows we did.
Doing the “Kindergarten Conga” with a fellow teacher and all the kids.
Laughter gave me a family.
After my performing days with “On the Spot” were done, I went back to Cynthia’s classes. This time, she was teaching at the Acme Comedy Theater. I took an intermediate class, and then a writing class, with her. It was in the writing class where I met my husband. In that class I learned that I wasn’t very good at writing comedy. When I collaborated with others for a scene it worked better, but when it came to monologues, I was pretty abysmal.
The Acme Theater
Wayne and I started dating right after the class ended. One year later we were engaged. One year after that we were married. He started performing improv at Comedy Sportz Los Angeles around the time we started dating, and continued to do so until after we had our first child and it got increasingly harder to be gone 2 nights a week. I had stopped performing by that point, though I ran the box office for Comedy Sportz for a few years, and helped teach the first Comedy Kidz Camp with James, the director of Comedy Sportz L.A. That was such a fun time, and I still love introducing kids to new, fun games.
My crazy family, captured by Rebecca Little
Laughter bonds us together
Years later, we have 3 kids who we’ve introduced to the world of improv. I taught them games like “What are you doing?” years ago. We took them to a few Comedy Sportz shows last summer, and the kids got the comedy bug! Instead of “Family Game Night” we have “Family Improv Night.” Wayne has modified the game “Five Things” so that we each get a chance to leave the room and have to guess. The kids each have their own version of gibberish (though I’m still admittedly not good at it). The kids love playing the various improv games, and even though Wayne and I are pretty rusty, it’s so much fun to just PLAY.
My girls, doing improv on Thanksgiving.
I may not be performing any comedy for audiences anymore, but I’m spreading the comedy bug to my own kids as well as the kids I teach. Maybe one of these days I can do something more, but for now, I’m happy to spread laughter bits at a time.