Thursday, October 12, 2006

Sketchy Rub

In my quest to become a Renaissance man non sequitur, I have embarked on yet another The Second City tutelage. For those of you who do not remember, or do not care, or both, earlier this year I enrolled in the first level of The Second City’s improv training program. That adventure proved to be too life threatening as I feared following in the footsteps of Chris Farley. Plus, improv makes me sweaty and sore, kind of like sex. So, I chose not to complete the other four levels of improv training and return to the comfort of staring at the wall in my family room to meditate. Even though there is a television set on that wall, with MTV airing on it twenty-four hours a day, it does not mean I was not meditating.

Who would have thought I would have become bored with Laguna Beach, Parental Control and Yo Mamma after seven short months? I needed some new terrain. I needed to find myself. I needed to spend the $260 I found in my son’s dresser before he discovered I had it. Joe Flaherty came to me in a dream and demanded that I call my friends at The Second City. He was clothed as a partially dressed Count Floyd, so I knew he was serious. I intended to enroll in their moonshine jug pottery class, but the only opening they had was in their Comedy Sketch Writing class. So I opted for that.

To prepare for the class, I watched all of Maury Amsterdam’s scenes from the old Dick Van Dyke Show. Or do you say Cock Van Lesbian? Either way works for me.

I was ten minutes late to the first class. The parking lot was full so I had to drive around a while until I was able to roll over a dead guy to park in his driveway. Mike, our reserved yet crafty and slightly crampy instructor, was not fazed by my tardiness. He introduced himself and asked me my name, to which I replied Maury Amsterdam, and I quickly made fun of the bald guy in the class, who happened to be him. I inflated the circle of seated students to create a spot for me diametrically opposed to Mike, except a little bit to the left, but I said diametrically opposed in an effort to show him who is boss – Carl Reiner.

The class consisted of one woman and seventeen men, who were all looking at the one woman with their mouths open. Even with faces agape, everyone had a look of grave concern. I thought I might have stumbled by accident into the obituary writing class instead of a comedy class. I asked the guy next to me which dead guy were we writing about? He said Maury Amsterdam. To lighten the mood, I tripped over an ottoman and Mary Tyler Moore tap danced on my face.

Mike was nice enough not to bore me by repeating the overview crap he had already presented to the rest of the class. He bored me enough with the twenty other minutes of overview he had not yet told. Eventually, we got to our first exercise, which was to interview a classmate and report back to the class how weird xe is. I was lucky enough to get to interview Kevin, a part-time college student, part-time bartender, and full time party dude. He had just gotten back from a week in the woods with a bunch of friends. He said he had to take some time to get away from all the drinking and having fun and naughty making. Good god, where the hell did I go wrong! My life sucks next to this guy! Kevin seems like a good guy and he made it a point to tell me he is not a spoiled asshole. Duly noted. He interviewed me, as well, and seemed impressed that I was not dead yet. We all told each other about each other. I don’t remember anybody’s name or anything about anybody. Well worth my son’s $260, so far.

Mike began to earn his money. He proceeded to teach us about character development. I will not get into the complex techniques required to build such in-depth characters, because I didn’t write them down and I forgot them all. I do remember that being a sketch writer legally allows you to be an eavesdropper, lurker, leerer and voyeur in order to build ideas for creating characters. I asked if it would be beneficial if we wore trench coats while we develop characters. Mike was impressed with my progressive thinking and gave me a gold star. He suggested we also wear the trench coats to class.

Mike is a great proponent of writing for writing sake. He declared that ninety percent of everything one writes will be crap. He must be familiar with this blog. Consequently, we should behoove ourselves to write as often as possible. To assist us in that quest, Mike introduced an exercise where we would write for twenty minutes in stream of consciousness mode, purging ourselves of all thoughts that come to mind. I am very familiar with this technique as it is what I use for Leper Pop articles. The theory is the more you write the more crap you’ll eliminate, kind of like a mental enema. He gave us twenty minutes to dislodge ourselves while he stepped out for a few bong hits.

Following is the fruit of my crap dislodging. As you can tell by reading this, I do not really need to be in this class, but it gives me something to do on Tuesday nights.

I’ve got to get me my own dumpster. This dumpster sharing is too familiar. I don’t like my garbage touching other people’s garbage. There are remnants of spit on garbage. That’s the last thing I want is my spit mingling with other people’s spit. It’s like making out with everyone in the entire building. I don’t want to make out with everyone in the building. I can’t even remember the last time I actually made out with anybody. Do people my age actually do that? Wait a minute, I do remember when it was. And who it was. I don’t want to remember that. Hard to believe I was that drunk and did not black out. Blacking out comes in handy sometimes. You can never depend on a good blackout. My power was out for three days last week. I felt like Annie Oakley. The cowgirl dress was a little tight in the waist. Thought the hat looked nice, though. I’ve never ridden a horse. A horse has never ridden me, either. So, we have a mutual respect for each other. I like to wave knowingly at horses because of it. They look at me like they have no clue what I’m doing. I know they know. They stand there chewing their cud like I don’t exist. Do horses chew cud? Cows do. What the hell is cud? Maybe I should open up a cud bar, where people can come in and chew cud from exotic places. Cows look pretty relaxed when chewing their cud. It’s probably good for the soul. I’ve never seen a cow have a nervous breakdown. I’ve never seen a human have a nervous breakdown, either. Maybe I’m just not paying close enough attention. The cud can be used for medicinal purposes as well as social. Pharmacies can create special cud sections to aid the mentally stressed. Where is the king of Walgreen’s when you need him? Or, is it a queen? Either way, I’ve never seen xe. There is a lot of stuff I haven’t experienced, apparently. I need to get out more, or at least out to more places like farms and Walgreen’s headquarters. Do headquarters have kneepads? Why wouldn’t they? The fact that I don’t know may not be a fact at all. The cream in the church cannot be investigated. There is no way to find the proper channel. Creating a mob is little different, or differs little, than undertaking a bamboo festival. The festival does not interrupt Tuesday. But, Tuesday sometimes impedes the livery driver. Still, munching seems like the best alternative, which brings us back to cud. Cud Munchers will be the name of the bar, although it may be more like a coffee house, depending on the clientele we attract.

We all felt a lot emptier after that. And a little not so fresh. Back to character development. To finish off the class, we played a little cluster exercise. As a class, we were to build three lists of ten items. I do not enjoy group exercises like these when it comes to writing. To me, writing is a personal and solitary task, and my brain doesn’t work so well when being felt up by others. I guess learning as a group is a little different than writing as a group, so I will check my whining at the door. Still, my brain wouldn’t cooperate.

First, Mike asked us to toss out ideas for types of jobs. All I could think to say was “armadillo”, which I offered three or four times while others were suggesting such occupations as policeman, architect, sheep dipper, proctologist and garbage man. Speaking of proctologist, this brings up another aspect of these group games that ruffles my pterylosae. Invariably, in these kinds of groups, there are always one or two people who can’t help but work a little blue. I’m not against working blue, but we are all aware that butts and crotches and everything associated with them and their uses are hilarious. Let’s try to be a little more creative, shall we? Nevertheless, we had to hear the likes of proctologist, OB-Gyn, sperm banks, sheep herder, breast exam, brain enema, and giant rubber dildo. We all know sperm banks are funny because guys are ejaculating in there, and what’s more funny than the look on a guy’s face when he is achieving spasmisitc bliss? Maybe Benny Hill is more funny, but that’s about it. My point is that we need to move beyond those kinds of things to find new hilariousness. Not that I’ve ever actually seen a man’s face when he was ejaculating.

Mike wrote down the first ten of our suggestions he knew how to spell. He then asked us to name examples of emotions. Again, “armadillo” was all I had, and I shouted it a few times, progressively louder each time. Others competed for hilarity with their inane proposals such as torpidity, languishness, gnarlish and tetchy, among the usual emotions, like pretty. Nobody was pretentious enough to suggest “ennui”. I was thankful for that.

Finally, Mike asked us to purge our thoughts about types of places.


Mike pretended to write it down to make me feel better. I don’t remember what everybody else said, since my last outburst caused me to fall to the floor and writhe. Before we moved on, Mike asked us to compile one more list - a list of the most common road kill in Texas. He did this for me and my armadillo obsession. Unfortunately, my mind was road kill at the time and could only produce, “Sea Urchin”. We didn’t use that list in the exercise, but Mike gave me a copy of it for home use.

We chose one item from each list and built a character and a scene out of them. Well, they did. I sat there and wondered if a sea urchin has ever been run over by a pick up truck in Texas. But, I did learn that characters need to have a “want” in a scene. That knowledge should come in handy. I wondered if sea urchins ever want to be run over by a pick up truck in Texas. I wonder if Will Ferrell could play a believable wanting sea urchin. Did Maury Amsterdam ever want Rose Marie? What about Millie? Most guys probably think she was a real goer in the sack since she seemed so dippy and naïve on the surface. They may think she unleashed herself in the bedroom as the sultry bush woman seething with tangles of lust that she really was. I don’t think so. I bet she and Jerry never even did it on Jerry’s dentist chair. Why keep your dentist office at your house if you and the little woman never do it on the dentist chair? What a despicable waste. It saddens me to consider it. I’m glad this class session is almost over. I don’t think I could learn anymore in this emotional state.

Before we could bolt out of class, Mike harnessed us with a homework assignment. I didn’t write it down, so I’m not sure what we are supposed to do. I’ll make a macramé flower pot holder this week and hand that in. He’ll probably admire my progressive thinking and assess it as a metaphor for being a peeping tom, which is the foundation for building multi-dimensional characters. I can tell I’m going to be Mike’s favorite student.


leplov said...

I had a boyfriend who had a stuffed armadillo. Not kidding. Maybe you should get one. It could be your muse.

Also, you've never seen a man's O face? That must be because you never in your life have watched porn. You are so pious. An inspiration really. I'm impressed.

Mike would be a fool not to make you teacher's pet. ;)

del said...

I want to make some kind of joke, but all I can say is I laughed really hard at your 20 minutes stream of consciousness writing exercise and I can't wait to read the rest of what you come up with.

What can I say, I'm a groupie, er, I mean fan. Yup. That's what I meant to say. I'm a fan of your writing.

Did Maury Amsterdam ever want Rose Marie? Puleeze, he was doin' it with Jerry. In the dentist chair. In front of a stuffed armadillo. And I think cud may have been involved. The secret "lost episodes" are floating around the internet somewhere... if you know where to look.

AMAI said...

Huzzah!! Yay Moist!! I just wanted to say I'm so glad you blogged about this. More lengthy commentary to come!!!

del said...

I’ll make a macramé flower pot holder
If Mike doesn't like it, I'm sure it would make a lovely Christmas present for someone, perhaps the the F'ers.

kristy said...

Dick Van Dyke Show. Or do you say Cock Van Lesbian? Either way works for me.

It took me a second to get this, but then I couldn't stop laughing. I agree with Del, the stream stuff was making me crack up.

I predict you will be teaching the class by the end of the semester and Mike will be sitting in the corner with a giant A cap on...

Leper Hopeful said...

I agree, that 20 min. stream of consciousness was freakin' genius.

And del...
If Mike doesn't like it, I'm sure it would make a lovely Christmas present for someone, perhaps the the F'ers.

Nice one - way to F them over.

AMAI said...

I loved this, Moist. The $260 from Rubson's drawer, missing some overview crap but unfortunately not all of it, interviewing Kevin (and the lament, very heartfelt too), the dumpster scene and the Cud Munchers name.

The big question is, are you going back? Now that you've blogged, you're pretty much obligated to return to class. It provides such marvellous material for the Blog.

I loved it. :)

keysunset said...

Very well done, darlin'! Hilarious stuff, Moist. I'm going to be re-reading this one over and over.


OK, I'm on my way by Cud Munchers for a "high test" hazelnut coffee, anybody want anything?

AMAI said...

Class tonight, Moist.

Did you get your homework done? If you forgot, then just grab a six-pack of beer and take that in. I'm sure it will work!!

Anonymous said...

Moron Amsterdam is more like it.

Sid F'er said...

Moron Amsterdam...

I thought that was actually funny.

del said...

That's the drugs talking.