While endlessly scrolling Facebook, I saw an ad for an audition to become part of a Boston improvisational comedy theater troupe. I’ve always loved entertaining audiences through my writing and cartooning. Acting seemed like the next logical step.
I filled out the online application not really knowing what to expect. When I hit the submit button, my excitement was palpable. This could be the start of a new career (or at least a new newspaper column). I’m always looking for a chance to expand my audience.
I flipped through my photos looking for something I could use as a headshot. I wanted to stand out from the crowd. I found the perfect picture. It was taken by my six year old granddaughter who has picked up her father’s talent for photography. The photo was a close-up of my face looking through cardboard cut-out jail bars taken while my granddaughter and I were clowning around at a family dinner. The headshot would either catch the casting director’s eye or end up in the reject pile.
I resurrected my resume and added anything in my career I thought might relate to comedy theater. My writing experience certainly fit the bill. My newspaper columns will soon be available on Spotify as spoken word podcasts, so I added that to the list. A number of years ago, I was a weekly on-air call-in guest for Tufts University college radio station WMFO. On a whim I called into the show on a Friday morning while I was stuck in traffic commuting to Boston. My celebrity impersonations became a weekly gig for a few months. I learned about improv comedy as I was interviewed live on the radio as Tina Turner, Ty Pennington, Amy Winehouse, Anthony Hopkins and a variety of other celebrities who were in the news. I never thought those obscure phone calls from the early 2000’s would end up on my resume.
I also added the weekly news seminar I produced and hosted while working weekends at the Brightview Assisted Living facility in Woburn. Think “Weekend Update” for the senior set starring me in Chevy Chase mode. The Saturday morning crowd loved it. My newscasts were held in a state-of-the-art theatre room where I had access to a wall-sized television to display graphics and photos while I interpreted the weekly news in a fun and entertaining way. I admit it was a captive audience, but the seniors really seemed to enjoyed it. Next on my resume, I threw in a nod to the Everett High School Mystery Theater, a radio show broadcast on Warner Cable way back in the early 1970’s. I was the lead actor, writer and producer. (Shout out to my sound engineer Marie!) In retrospect, I had more entertainment industry experience than I thought.
The theater audition application asked responders to pick two roles to try out for. I chose “Butler” (boring) and “Washed up 80’s Rock Star” (which I thought I’d be perfect for). I rummaged through my closet, put on my silver suit jacket and my skinny red leather tie. I practiced some 80’s karaoke and headed out the door. The only thing I didn’t have was any real acting experience, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me.
Driving through the narrow streets of Somerville is always challenging even with GPS. They should change the name of that city to Labyrinth-ville (whoa, I’m on a comedy roll!). The audition venue was called The Green Room, a space for companies to host meetings and community events. Inside, it looked like a small comedy club. Seated in folding chairs were aspiring actors waiting their turn. Pairs of hopeful applicants were called to the front of the room to perform an improv scene selected by the director.
My improv partner, “Laurie”, whispered to me before the audition began.
“I’m so nervous. I’ve never done this before,” she said quietly.
I didn’t have the heart to tell her she was partnered with a total beginner as well. I thought I was better off paired with someone who was new to this as opposed to a veteran actor who might expose my own inexperience.
My off the cuff banter with the director before my scene began was funnier than any improv I came up with during the audition.
“I love your silver suit jacket,” the director said.
“Thank you. It’s an original,” I said.
“Oh, did you make it yourself?” he asked.
“No. I found it,” I answered as the patrons in the back of the room chuckled.
During the audition I did my best to portray a 1980’s washed up rock star (not much of a stretch) and Laurie played the part of a maid at a record release party. Duran Duran and Flock of Seagulls jokes ensued. I had fun basking in the limelight, if only for a few minutes.
I’m not sure if my improv comedy debut will lead to a part with this theater troupe, but I had fun checking off another item from my bucket list. The casting director had the funniest line of the night at the end of my performance:
“Thank you. Next!”