Ba-Dum. Ching...?

Comedy is profitable. It's true. Everyone wants something different from their entertainment, and everyone's sense of humor is uniquely calibrated to some extent, but I think we can all agree that everyone feels better after a good laugh, and few people actively seek to avoid a situation in which they might be tempted toward laughter. It is possibly the most socially acceptable form of catharsis, ranking right up there with the sneeze as a fairly uncontrollable expression of release. Sure, there are "inappropriate" laughs galore, but we're generally pretty forgiving even of these . . . especially in situations in which social pressure to be moral is at a minimum. As a result, comedy is very bankable.

I have mainstream comedy (Define my terms? Heck no -- let's keep this as subjective as possible.) on my mind lately owing to several factors, not the least of which is that the next ACTion Collective event is devoted to comic two-hander scenes. You better hang on with both hands: It's going to be a crazy one. As a result, I've been gathering one-liners and dialogue-based comic scenes from a variety of different traditions, and it's got me thinking both about how important comedy is to business, and how much the two have intrinsically in common. Don't agree? How many major television studios have banked on trained actors for sitcoms, and how many have banked on up-and-coming stand-up comedians? Your honor, the defense rests. Bitterly.

Both comedy and business are modeled on a fairly direct interchange, one related to profit. For one it's money and the other, laughs, and in both cases if you're not growing then you're in trouble. As I read through comic dialogue from the recent past all the way back to the 17th century, I'm struck by how little has changed in all that time. The individual lines have gotten shorter (unless part of the joke is about how long someone speaks) and of course the phrasing has changed, but the rhythms and effects are frankly standard. Particularly looking at two-person scenes, in which communication is really broken down to some pretty basic, ping-pong dynamics. (Hacky-sack would be a better analogy [parenthetically].) A couple of people bat something around until a certain synergy is reached, which results, we hope, in some payoff.

Is this all that different from tragedy and non-profit organizations? (Not that I'm relating the one to the other, mind. [That's for a separate 'blog post {parenthetically}.]) Is tragedy not interested in profit of a different tender, and organizations in payoff in less materialistic ways? Certainly. And then again, no. It's less accountable with these forms, more subjective, and the structures are more complex. We can tie all sorts of genres and business models into this, but there's something about commercial business and comedy that goes naturally hand-in-hand. If for no other reason than because funny makes money.

Certainly that proves true in my own life, because I'm outrageously wealthy. Wait . . .. It does relate, in some way. I just had it. Damn. Oh well . . .

OH RIGHT. I mean to say, in terms of the jobs I've attained. See, in this context, the work is its own payment; which may be why I'm not - parenthetically - outrageously wealthy. Huh. Oh well, I'll figure that all out tomorrow. The point is, I think that the comedies I've been in outweigh anything else by a ratio of something like 5:1. It's what the people want, and I am more marketable as someone who can repeatedly fall on my ass than I am as someone who can make you think of your mother/father/first girl-and-or-boyfriend with a twinge of heretofore unacknowledged regret. Them's the breaks, kid.

Fortunately for us, comedy is a hell of a lot of fun to do, usually. Business, too, if you can get in the right mindset. Lately I've been trying to perceive my money-making as a night of comedy. Thus far "farce" might be a better term, but I'm slowly edging toward"parody," in hopes of eventually hitting "satire" and am confident that -- someday -- I'll have them rolling in the aisles over pure, profitable comedy.

Organ I zatioN

Lately I've been paying some attention to things like the collaboration, productivity, administration and general logistical aspects of work. By "work," in this context, I mean any effort geared toward a specific goal. But I also mean my day job. So, rehearsing a play, yes, revising a short story, yes, and figuring out how to order toner cartridges with great efficiency: yes. This is part of my newish strategy of looking at my life as more interrelated than disparate, but that perspective is also coming pretty naturally to me just now. Recently I've had to take on extra responsibilities at el jobbo del day, due to the laying off of others who were far more experienced at said extra responsibilities, and this has been a drain on my time and energy for other ventures. However, it has also yielded some surprising rewards ("not more money--that's just what he'd


us to do...") and the main of these has been a discovery that I'm really rather interested in questions of leadership, organization and procedure.

Last summer I obsessed for a while over a Flash game called

Fantastic Contraption

. The gist of the game is to use common elements to engineer a machine to achieve some transportation goal. I was not especially clever at it, but got a great sense of accomplishment from overcoming successive failures until the goal was reached. In a sense, it was reminiscent of a good, difficult rehearsal, in which I try everything and become more and more dedicated to solving a problem the more failures I experience. In a rehearsal process, there's a philosophy of which I'm a fan that says that there are no bad acting choices; not really. Only good, or better. (Or, as I believe to be grammatically better: gooderer.) The idea being continual improvement in effectiveness, not to mention nurturing an environment in which people can be free to experiment creatively, without fear. It creates constantly improving solutions, and really big mistakes -- the kind from which you learn more, and quicker.

Of course, when it comes to most office work, big mistakes are terrifying things. They involve large sums of money, or people's legal statuses, etc. Yet it seems to me that there is too significant a dichotomy between those who keep their heads down and follow procedure, and those who innovate within an office environment. Is all that negative reinforcement directed toward getting people in line with procedure helping, or in fact hampering the work process? I'm not trying to make a sweeping statement here (horribly inefficient: sweeping) about the rules of the theatre lending insight into the process of the office. The current flows both ways. Much of the administrative structure in an office makes better sense and allows better allocation of resources than your typical theatre process does, and it's ridiculous to argue that structure can't apply to artistic endeavors. Structure is, of itself, an artistic endeavor.

There's been a lot of discussion recently on new forms of organization in corporate America and -- almost as though


been reading this here 'blog -- the comparative value/cost of multitasking and single-focus effort, amongst other process notions. I don't claim to have a significant contribution to make to these debates (though multitasking is




) but every so often I'm excited by the idea of getting things done in a new way. It's oddly satisfying to me, at my day job, when I feel I've made even the smallest change that helps the whole contraption move better. Such ideas for change usually come about because I'm sitting still, thinking about the situation, and unafraid. It's a state that reminds me of the moment-to-moment pauses in my writing process. Does a conventional work environment allow for much of this? I'd say not. I'd also say, it ought to.

The funny thing is, I'm good about gradually organizing things at el jobbo del day, but in my life -- not so much. The first explanation that springs to mind is laziness, the second, lack of motivation (read: money). Yet I question these responses, precisely because they spring to mind. They're motivated by an energy similar to what administrators typically imagine will motivate their employees, stress, and I wonder what the response might be after a little time taken to sit quietly and mull over the situation. In fact, perhaps it's difficult to do this in the rest of my life because I relent to the stress more outside of the office, rather than carving out those moments to ruminate on it all.

Managing others is a skill; managing yourself is a hard-won talent.

A Room of One's Own

I'm getting to be a bit discouraged in my hopes of revising



Writing the above is something like saying aloud, "I wish I sang more," instead of singing it.

And the impulse here is to explain myself, to offer reasons and excuses for why more writing hasn't gotten done, but those would just be excuses and not get me anywhere. I could also spend some time discussing the ins and outs of my psyche as it relates to this work (lucky you!) in the hopes of working out some pat answer to the question of why revision is so difficult for me. But where would that get me, but to pat-land, an area noted for its stultifying effect on progress? No, something else needs to happen here. I started this post because I wanted to warm-up my writing brain a bit, without getting distracted into another project, one what is fresh, and new, and thereby relatively problem-free.

The title of this post of course refers to Virginia Woolfe. In trying to address a lecture regarding "women and fiction," she can offer only this minor-point opinion:

"[A] woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction; and that, as you will see, leaves the great problem of the true nature of woman and the true nature of fiction unsolved."


a pretty brilliant essay

, and I'm grateful to whatever college-level English professor assigned it to me. I am not the world's biggest fan of Virginia Woolfe -- I could have spat in the eye of whoever assigned me

Mrs. Dalloway

to read -- but I can't deny that she was very intelligent, and very, very good at writing. Although in this essay Woolfe is writing specifically about the problems presented to female writers of her day and age, it resonates for me. I don't have a whole lot in common with the women of 1928 and I don't mean to suggest that I do, but I identify with the day-to-day struggles involved in creating a space within which one can expound and expand one's creative life.

By "space," I mean both environmental and plain ol' mental. One of the 'blogs I've been enjoying a lot lately is


. They've had a segment for a little while now that showcases particularly beautiful and, for the most part, home, "workspaces." Every so often, a photograph of a really appealing place to sit and write drops into my Google Reader subscription bay, and I stare at it, longingly. After I've wiped away the tears and drool, I return to the reality of my cubicle, or my corner of our one-bedroom apartment's main space, and recommence paying bills or emailing potential

In Bocca al Lupo

students or whatever else it is I'm doing that isn't revising my script. Most of the work I've done on


has come in spurts of free time coinciding with some inspiration. Now, you can write a first draft that way, eventually. Turns out that doesn't work so well for revision. No, with revision, you have to sit there and acknowledge what you've done and accept -- nay, seek out! -- every little thing that's wrong with it.

I have probably psyched myself out in more ways than one with this. I've spent a lot of time ruminating, and not a lot of time just doing, and that can easily lead to a declension of momentum. One gets to the point at which one can see nothing but problems, and one never intended to write the durn thing in the first durn place. That's all rubbish. I get really rather T-O'd with myself for that kind of stinking thinking but, like most thoughts of that nature, it's tough to defeat when it really gets going. Such thoughts are like classic Romero zombies. You would THINK that they'd be easy enough to defeat, what with the shambling and the non-tool-using intelligence, but before you know it, and probably because you underestimated the S.o.B.s, you're trapped in a rickety old house without your shotgun and your constipated brother's there starting to twitch and crave "b-b-bran...". Psychologically speaking, of course.

Huh. A zombie


(in the tradition of

Pride and Prejudice


. It's time, I think.

Anyway, my point is merely that grappling with revision is a bit reminiscent to me of what it's like to be in rehearsal, and just...not...GETTING IT. There's the problem(s), right there, right in front of you, and you just keep trying different things until at long last something fells like less of a total failure. Then you try some more. It's a weird place to be, because you need the desire (and resulting frustration) to some degree to keep you motivated, but you also need to let that go entirely to get anywhere. That's part of the silent magic of a rehearsal room. It's the place to make mistake, after mistake, after mistake, a place of unspoken agreement that everyone there is going to repeatedly fail, spectacularly, for the chance to make one or two moments of bright, shiny truth -- diamonds formed from compressed failure. That's what it's like at its best, anyway. Occasionally you get a director who's only interested in seeing immediate final product. Just like sometimes you get drafted into a senseless war, or are hit by a semi truck. Just like that.

Creating a space of time, thought, feeling and, of course, SPACE for writing is essential. Money helps with that. Not just in buying a nice desk and affording supplies, but in creating a lifestyle that allows some niche into which we can squeeze ourselves, and expand, until it swells into enough space to move around in. Money might have fixed up that rickety, zombie-at-baying house of ours. Money is good and essential, yet money can never replace the will and ability to make a little mental room of one's own.

'Sno Doubt

We don't have "snow days" here in New York. They don't shut this city down for nothing (short of disaster and/or east-coast-consuming power failure). This morning they actually closed the NYC schools, yet we privileged adults are still at work. It is not so, in my home town of Fairfax, Virginia. They love to close there. You could argue that it's a car-culture thing, and it is, but it's also that

they love to close there

. They close on weather prediction, sometimes.

Wife Megan

sees this as a sensible policy, but I fluctuate in my opinion. I like that New York doesn't shut down for snow, that we keep on truckin'. I'd like it better still if my work day was a little more theatre-y, but there you have it.

Today, however, I shake my fist at New York's resilience in the face of the inclement. Durn you, NYC! Durn you right straight to heliotropic heck.

I caught myself a cold over the weekend, when Friends Mark and Lori were up for a short visit on their way to skiing. It's not a bad one, but I nursed the heliotrope from it yesterday (and by "nursed," I of course mean "sat on the couch eating whatever and watching the entire LoR trilogy on the TBSes") in the hopes that it would be banished today. It's better, but not banished, and the snowy commute seems an added burden, in spite of my tremendous snow boots. Would that it were banished. ("Yet, banished?!")

It seems to me that I have been sick numerous times in the past nine months. Every year,

Actors' Equity

offers free flu shots, and I didn't go this year, so I can't help but wonder whether things might've been different this time around had I opted in on that. Also, there is a noted tendency for we actors to come down with something after ending a long and/or strenuous production process, as I just have. It's like one's system says, "Oh, we're done bouncing around and shouting every night promptly at 8:00? Great. I'ma take a lil' breather now; see you in a week or so." You can add to that the circumstance wherein I astoundingly overestimated the temperature on Saturday (Friday was so warm!) and had my first purging acupuncture appointment in two-and-a-half months. There are, in short (too late), numerous reasons why I might be saddled with a cold right about now.

HOWEVER. However. When I get sick/injured with great frequency, I can't help but recall something a therapist once advised: If you find yourself getting hurt a lot, consider the possibility that it's your psyche trying to get you to pay attention. This therapist used as an example shaving cuts. This may sound a bit nutty to some, but think of a computer, if it seems too far-fetched. When I start having a problem loading a particular program, I always consider it a possibility that something else may be gummed up, and that this is merely symptomatic. Our brains are pretty complex little computers, even without considering emotion (ha ha), and I believe the same possibility exists for we humans, we all-too-humans. So I'm contemplating the possibility that something underlying or over-reaching may be going on for me here. At any rate, it can't hurt to ponder.

Certainly returning to el day jobo has been a stress factor for me, so my default explanation is that I'm unhappy with my work situation and the relative lack of acting therein. Ah, but I caught cold during


as well. Prior to that I got ill in the fall, toward the end of September. And in between, there have been various physical aggravations and minor injuries. If my theory is to be believed, then whatever's aggravating me has been doing so -- on and off -- for nearly six months now. Perhaps it's money, that old bugaboo. Certainly those stresses mount daily. If it's a problem with myself, it's feeling a bit unanchored, or uncertain, I think. (See?) I started a daily record of little details from my day at the new year, and it grows spottier and spottier. I haven't used it at all from the end of the


run. I'll give it a shot again.

The snow has given me pause to contemplate this as much as the ill health and virtually abandoned office, so there's a silver lining to all this white wash. Conclusion? None. Yet. But I'll mention one other thing -- I finally looked at upcoming NYC auditions today. Perhaps it is the work, somehow. Or perhaps it is frustration with myself for not getting out there more . . .

Reversals of Fortune

Firstly: Over 30,000 page loads! Yay! That is all.


I am beginning to see how the economic crisis will affect me, and others of my ilk. At first, there was a supreme comfort in watching all these richies lose their marbles over watching digital numerals descend. Now, I'm aware that the uber-richies aren't going to feel a thing and perhaps, relatively speaking, I should feel some remorse for the less-than-uber. But I must say, when you're as far down on the fiscal ladder as I, it's difficult to make such distinctions in perspective. (That ended up being a dastardly interwoven, imagistic pun, didn't it?) So I have felt largely schadenfreude, an emotion that is not very common for me. It's completely insensible, too, since I know that rich people aren't rich in spite of me. They aren't keeping money from me, so any resentment I feel is purely self-inflicted. Still and all: Ha-ha.

For some time, it felt as though I had won some terrible lottery that I didn't know I was playing. My lifestyle seemed to defy every pitfall of this downturn, this recession/depression, and in ways very specific to my personal choices. For example, I have an IRA, no 401k. That money is safe, and those who've been making more are now losing out. Another example is my lack of home ownership, car or otherwise asset-enhanced merchandise. It seemed as though I could look at my semi-vagrant, actor lifestyle and say, "Hey buddy, you've actually been sensible. Your frugality and emphasis on the moment was the real safe path. The reckless jokers are actually all these market gamblers and careerists. Here: Here's a pat on your acupunctured back for you." I could recline in my cheap chair and regard the concept of trickle-down economics as an irrelevant, elitist concept from the Reagan 80s.

Alack, it is not so. We're all in this together, as I've known somewhere in the back all along, and on the horizon I can now see the incoming storm. It's in the seemingly little things, like public transportation and food prices, that the first painful slights will appear for we "starving artists." These little things are actually monumentally important -- they're what we spend our little money on. The health insurance I just jumped on due to my newly married status will now not be free. Perhaps most awaking is the fact of the Electric Theatre Company's imminent collapse. Like many (if not most) small regional theatres, ETC is always hovering on the brink of inviability, to the extent that one ceases to notice. But this time around, I couldn't help but see how tight it was all getting. I felt, for the first time, like a strain on the theatre. It was almost an it-or-me scenario in terms of money, and I of course had to choose me.

Though I can't help but be reminded of the Chinese parable of heaven and hell, wherein both places have an elaborate dinner for everyone, but provide only three-foot chopsticks with which to eat. Hell is where they frustratedly starve, heaven where they know to feed one another. Maybe our table has been deprived of its entree, but I still feel the key to getting through this will be to help each other out as much as possible. So I ate some expenses on the theatre's behalf, and I contributed some to their funds, all the while insisting on timely paychecks. Balance in all things. Hopefully some good will come out of this; the bankers and investors will learn to balance too, and the artists will become more focused, more motivated, more true. Hopefully. And in the meantime, some sacrifice and suffering. Some unexpected joy, too.