11 April 2015. Columbus, OH
I looked around the room at the 30+ people playing the warm up Kitty in the Corner. Everyone participating was at least 18 years old and having an incredibly fun time.
I was the oldest person in that room (by just a few weeks). I was also one of the reasons they were in that room to begin with.
I was in Columbus, OH, having returned for the 8th Floor Alumni Weekend. The 8th Floor, an improv comedy group me and 5 other friends started while at The Ohio State University, was still going strong. One of the many traditions, along with others like music making you lose control and unique birthday celebrations, was that every year there was a reunion weekend where as many of the groups’ alumni return for socializing, practicing, and performing.
As one of the founders, I try to return as often as I can, not just to see old friends and group members, but to also to check in on the group.
This was the 11th year of the group’s existence as the premier improv comedy group on Ohio State’s campus, and while we never really imagined it getting this big, we selfishly wanted the group to survive as long as possible. After all, it’s part of the legacy we’ve left at OSU.
The whole thing started while playing Halo (the video game). My best friend wanted to start an improv group… so we did. We started as 6 friends practicing in the basement of Residence Halls. By the time I graduated 2 years later, we were a cast of 16 performing twice a week at a black box theater on South Campus.
After the founders left is when the group really took off. Some very smart people came into the group and got them performing at Freshmen Orientation. Immediately every on campus knew who the group was. Now, 11 years later, it was one of the established things to do on campus, with shows selling out 150+ seat auditoriums.
Tonight was about celebrating that history. In just a few minutes we’d head upstairs to the theater in the Union, where we’d do long-form sets as teams mixed of all generations of the group.
But for the moment, kitty was in the corner, and he went that way.
31 March 2015. New York, NY
“Who was the best teacher you’ve ever had?”
The question was posed to me as part of an interview. I was sitting in the The Flatiron School’s headquarters in New York. They were about to embark on a massive initiative to teach high school students how to code in 6 cities around the US during the summer; I was going to see how I could help.
I regularly lead for The Flatiron School’s adult programs. I help the students in their immersive programs learn how to communicate the skills they are learning so they can network, interview, and talk with colleagues more effectively.
And I’m a big believer in teaching kids to program. Even if they never become a developer, learning to program is learning a strategic way to thinking. It’s like improv, I think everyone should do it regardless of vocation or occupation.
Due to my passion for programming and my new nomadic life style, we were seeing how I might be involved. Unfortunately based on my schedule I wasn’t able to do much, but it still left me with this interesting question, “Who was the best teacher I’ve ever had?”
I’ve been very fortunate to have some incredible teachers in my life. Mrs. Kinney, my 5th and 6th grade teacher in middle school taught me it wasn’t enough to just be smart, you had to work hard as well. Mrs. Sherman, my 7 grade English teacher taught me to have high expectations for myself. Mr. Ferris, my 12th grade Theory of Knowledge teacher taught me to be inquisitive about the world.
But the best teacher I’ve ever had was my brother, David.
My mom likes to say the reason I did so well academically was that David, 2 years older than me, would come home and teach me everything that he learned in school.
And it was true, David always liked to share new things with me, though they weren’t always things he learned in school. It seemed that if David ran out of things to teach, he would just start making things up.
I’d then go spouting it off as fact and would learn that it was just fiction. As it turns out, there is no such thing as a “take off” bird. Birds typically don’t need to run on the ground for long distances in order to get enough speed to fly, nor do they come in and hit the group running when landing, like an animalistic airplane.
But whether what he taught was fact or fiction, he was very good at it.
Given my brother’s passion and skill for teaching, it’s no surprise that he’s now a professor at Texas A&M, where he consistently ranks as one of the top professors in the Communication department.
Here’s to hoping he’s just sticking to the facts with his students though.
I had the privilege of speaking at TEDxOhioStateUniversity in February of this year. The video is finally available online:
First and foremost, I have to thank Katie for leaving me an amazing comment on my blog. If even half of what she says is true, then I know that all the time and effort I put into comedy is well worth it. Comments like that make me feel so fortunate to even be able to perform in front of people, so thank you, Katie, and everyone else who has shown their support.
Now that I’ve slept and had some time to think about the entire weekend, I suppose it’s time to reflect on the two shows this past weekend.
Fred Leeds Show
I already reviewed the Fred Leeds show, but I still think it’s important to talk about the show’s significance. I only knew Fred Leeds for a short period of time (I had the honor of performing with him in my first show as a Smarty Pants member), but I knew him long enough to know that he was an amazing man.
Before I met Fred, I was actually afraid of getting older. I felt like I had to accomplish everything I really wanted to do before I hit 50, otherwise it would never get done. But the fact that Fred was still performing at the age of 70, and the energy and charisma that he had, assured me that life isn’t over as you get older.
So here’s to Fred, an amazing improviser, and even better person. I hope that we did him proud at his First Annual Comedy Rocks show, I know he was watching the whole thing.
The 8th Floor Send Off Show
What’s amazing about this past weekend is that I had the opportunity to perform in not one, but two incredible shows. Saturday’s Send-Off Show was one that I will remember forever.
The show started with the video that Moran, Nate and I spent a good deal of time on; it depicted a day of reflection for us as we prepared for our final performance with The 8th Floor.
After the video ended (suitably on Jay-Z’s December 4th’s ending lyrics “If you can’t respect that, you’re whole perspective is whack, maybe you’ll love me when I fade to black”), I started the show off recapping the history of The 8th Floor. I thought it was important to share with the audience what all The 8th Floor has gone through and accomplished in the past 3 years.
With all of the sentimental stuff out of the way, we started the improv off with “First Line, Last Line.” Every now and then, as an improviser, you have a scene where it seems like every line out of the player’s mouths gets a laugh. “First Line, Last Line” was one such scene for us.
The rest of the first half of the show went well, though it lasted longer than we had planned. “Home Shopping Network” was of course filled with loads of energy, with Nate and I nearly sweeping Moran and Lindsey (after they had talked so much trash…) We had planned for a 90 minute show, but by the time we reached intermission, it had already been over an hour.
As a result, we shortened the intermission break and went into our “Ambassador Tasty” skit, followed immediately by Chain Death Murder. We played a few more solid games, and then reached our final two games of our final show: “Most Dangerous” and “Pendulum.”
For those of you who don’t know, “Most Dangerous” is a game where the players play barefooted and blind folded, with around 100 live mousetraps set up on stage.
Needless to say, it’s a painful game. I was so fortunate as to have a mousetrap snap directly on my big toe, where it remained for the rest of that game. I’m not sure what it is, but people love seeing us get hurt…
It was then time for the last game. “Swinging Pendulum of Death.” When we thought about how to close, “Pendulum” seemed like the natural end, for the game ends with all three characters dead. When Kyle called the game over, I was officially done performing with The 8th Floor.
A Standing Ovation
And then it happened. I don’t know if it was because our show was so good (I thought it was great), or because of what we were able to help start (it’s been a long, but amazing 3 years), or what, but Moran, Nate and I (and the 8th Floor) received a standing ovation (our first).
I was speechless, and still am when I think about it. But just like Katie’s comments, that reaction from the crowd reaffirmed everything we had put into the group. All of the late nights, long practices, miles driven, expenses paid, (and on and on) was validated and worth it.
So again, I can’t say it enough. Thank you everyone for your support, both this past weekend, and in the three years that The 8th Floor and myself have been performing.
And I suppose that means it’s now time to move on and focus on the future. Luckily I am already able to perform with another hilarious group, and already have a full weekend of performances and events this weekend. As a side note, I will be making DVDs of the Send-Off Show here in the (hopefully near) future. If you’d like a copy, let me know and I’ll get one to you.
Thanks again, to family, friends, strangers, and of course The 8th Floor.