One Thing Leads to Another

The summer I created, the main event of that year was my comedy troupe’s trip to Los Angeles to perform at the HBO Workspace for an Aspen Comedy Festival audition. That was six years ago. I can’t believe it’s been that long already. We rehearsed constantly, and I wrote about those exciting days of hope and dreams as I found the footing of this website. I remember I was too nervous to even use the letters “HBO.”

I wrote then:

I’m going to Hollywood in a couple of weeks to perform/audition for a cable company (sounds like “ItchKnee, Yo”). My troupe is going and we are putting on a little show for them. That’s how some people refer to it. The “little show.” Like I’m still in the third grade and my mom is making me a costume of a giant milk carton. I guess it’s hard to explain what it means when it looks like we’re scrounging together all this money to go and we’re hoping that they notice us. That makes it look like a “little show.” That and the show is only 45 minutes long.

In any event, I’m terribly nervous. Just a few of us from the troupe are going, representin’ as a whole.

I want to keep telling myself that this is just another audition, and I should keep myself in check and not to sweat it and everything, but I really feel that if I lived on the West Coast, it would be easier for me to think of this as just an audition, but since each of us is paying, like, a thousand dollars to go perform for 45 minutes, it really ups the personal stakes.

Then, one week later (don’t get whiplash from the old pop culture references, and check out my eerie white tiger prediction):

I’m leaving tomorrow. On a jet plane. Going back to Cali. I’m fitting all the cliches in here that I can.

And posting my list of big fears:

I will miss the plane.
The plane will go down in the Grand Canyon.
The plane will go down where John Denver’s plane went down, and I will become a John Denver statistic and the subject of various conspiracy theory web pages.
I will miss my connecting plane.
I will get lost in LAX.
My boyfriend will kill me before the flight is over from all of my endless chatter about “well, what if…?” “Are you sure we…?” “Did you remember to….?”
No one will pick me up.
No one will pick me up and it’s because they meant not to pick me up.
No one will pick me up and when I call them I hear them laughing in the background telling me no one is there although they shouldn’t have an answering machine in a hotel room.
I will get lost in Los Angeles.
I will be the palest person there.
I will be the shortest person there.
The hotel will have an outhouse.
I’ve forgotten all my props/costumes/lines.
I will have forgotten all my underwear.
All I can find is some other girl’s underwear.
My luggage gets switched.
The only thing open is “Arby’s.”
I’m attacked by white tigers.
I can’t find my troupe.
We get to the theatre and we say, “We’re performing here tonight.” and they say, “You don’t look like Air Supply, but okay.”
The show is a disaster. No one calls us back.
The show is a complete success. No one calls us back.
We get called back to perform on “Barney.”
We get a guest spot on “The Magic Hour.”
I look for my lost contact for an hour before I remember
I have 20/20 vision.
I get random, unpredictable, uncontrollable vomiting in front of any person of any importance (bellmen included).
Someone mistakes me for Carol Channing.
My parents find a way to the show, traveling thousands of miles to sit next to Mr. Big Head Honcho(s) and say “I’ve been telling her to stay with computers for years, but she won’t listen. I’m sorry about this. I’ll make sure she’s grounded when we get home.” And then they call my landlord and get me grounded.
We forget our own names.
We lose members of the troupe during the performance.
No one laughs.
No one laughs.
No one laughs.
Someone’s doing that nervous coughing audiences do.
We’re the ones doing the nervous coughing.
I lose my voice.
I lose my vision.
I turn into a sheep. (these things keep me up at night, okay?)
I’m doing the wrong show.
I’m on the wrong stage.
I’m wearing scuba gear.
I’m wearing Richard Gere.
My teeth fall out.
No one notices my teeth have fallen out.
I trip and fall off the stage.
I get so nervous I pee.
I get lost in the theatre bathroom.
I get locked inside the prop closet.
I notice my name is on a list for “reserved seating.”
I lose all my money.
I wake up with “Comedy Sux” tattooed on my wrist.
I wake up in a drive-in movie parking lot in Tuscon.
I forget that I have a show.
I sleep through the show.
I talk on the phone with my parents instead of going to the show.
For some reason the show is canceled so I can have a wedding to some guy I’ve never met but has promised me a “nice sitcom.”
I get famous and lose it all in a strange scandal.
That scandal involves all of my teeth falling out.
Sharks swim on land and take me away to their watery lair.

Six years can pass, but the fears pretty much stay the same.

On the second day we found a small dumpster outside a theatre filled with headshots and resumes. I wanted to save all of them. Wipe the food and coffee of their smiles and perfect hair and find a better place for them to rest. Not because I wanted better karma, but because I wanted to take care of my fellow entertainers…there was something about seeing so many hopes and dreams at the bottom of a trash bin that was too spooky for words. I only hope that when someone finds my headshot they don’t use it for a coaster.

I mean, that’s my head, man.
– August 11, 1998

The keyboard broke during our dress rehearsal, hours before the show, and while the musician went off in search of a replacement, we tried to soothe our frantic nerves by visiting a nearby psychic.

The psychic said I was too uptight, that I needed to relax, and all I could think was, “Ohmigod, you can tell how tense I am from looking at me? That can’t be good. I’d better do something about that. What should I do? Maybe I’ll make a list of things that I could do to calm down and then I’ll prioritize them in ways that I think could possibly help me fastest and then I’ll officially become a member of the mind body soul network and pay my dues and spend $25 a pop on an e-mail telling me that my problems are all in my head.”

And then I realized that I was sucking on one of her tarot cards. She asked me to put it down.

I gave her five bucks and thanked her for her insight.

She also told me that I hadn’t found my husband yet, that my soulmate was out there, and that very good things were going to happen to me because of Los Angeles. She said I was going to be very happy someday. She also said the keyboard was going to work just fine.

The keyboard was flawless. It miraculously started working again half an hour before the show.

I just celebrated my three-year anniversary with stee.

And yesterday we found out that our show at the Comedy Central Workspace, formerly the HBO Workspace, is completely sold out.

In 1998 we were begging people to attend this free show. We met strangers in bars and promised them things we couldn’t really deliver. We went to Barney’s Beanery, and I met Cynthia Szigeti, the woman who one year later told me I had to get out of Austin and move to Los Angeles. “You just have to,” she said. Two years later she became a cast member of Call Us Crazy: The Anne Heche Monologues.

I’m pretty nervous about the show next week, because Liz and I have done something that leaves us with very few excuses if it doesn’t work. Normally when you see a friend’s show, you can blame your shitty time on the script, the director, the other crap actors in the show, or the fact that only your friend’s one scene was worth watching. We have my favorite director that I’ve been working with since I was eighteen. Liz and I wrote the whole thing (except for the song by the gifted Brothers Blau) and we’re on stage the entire time. Not only that, we’re reading some pretty personal stuff. All of which means if it fails, it’s completely our fault. Nobody to blame.

And so to that I say, “Shit, man. It’s free. Calm down.”

The show is not only sold out, it’s oversold, so if you’re one of the lucky who got a reservation make sure you get there early enough because it’s first come first serve at that place. We’re hoping the early enthusiasm means they’ll give us an additional date, but it wouldn’t be for a few weeks.

The show was inspired by the old “Dear So and So” letters from I was telling Liz about these pages and pages of forum threads we used to fill here to celebrities and inanimate objects.

So my life is a little bit like I’ve gone back in time, recently. I’m working a job while hustling freelance gigs while working on a comedy show for the same LA audition and I’m hardly home and I’m bone tired and I’m really excited and happy to be doing what I love. I said to Jessica, “This feels like college again.” And she said, “Well, welcome back to my world. I never left it.”

I keep thinking it’s about to calm down, as the night job ends this week and the show goes up next week, but then I am very busy finishing up this draft of Why Girls Are Weird, going to a couple of film festivals (I’ll be speaking at the “Women Making Film” panel at this one), a wedding and an attempt to visit the King and Queen of Cheese. That’s nothing new for me either, going out of town every other weekend.

Where am I going with this trip down memory lane? I don’t know. I was making my coffee this morning thinking about how I’m working very hard this week to be in the same place I was busting ass to be six years ago, but the audience came much more easily this time. I suppose the work was just as hard, and probably more challenging and scary this time around, but the goal is still the same. I’m still hoping for another door to open, another opportunity to present itself. I try to make sure one thing leads to another.

This time I’m not so worried about the city eating me alive.

Currently Reading:


  • Henry’s List of Wrongs, by John Scott Shepherd. Actually, I skimmed the last half. It was almost all dialogue, so it read like a screenplay. I got it without needing the length.

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