I have always loved comedy. I grew up imitating Lucille Ball, Lily Tomlin and Carol Burnett. They were my heroes. I loved TV and movies. I was sure I was going to be an actress. I'd be discovered, and be one of the most hardworking character actresses out there.
I mean, my friends thought I was hilarious. I could make my mom laugh until she cried (and she was a hard audience). I could do voices. I could do characters. I was fearless. Well, unless you were an audience, a person I thought was funnier than me, or if you were a teacher or improvisor that truly was fearless. Then I was a puddle of insecurity, and truthfully, not very funny at all.
My little voice of insecurity constantly told me I would never be as good as the others. They were just tolerating me because I was nice. I didn't have the drive or commitment. When your little voice repeats itself enough, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Don't get me wrong. I wasn't horrifically bad, but I wasn't giving myself the freedom to let loose and "do it." I was my own worst enemy.
For a good part of my 20s and 30s, I leaned in to several improv organizations in Chicago. I went through the whole Second City Training Center. I did the ImprovOlympic (IO), and even studied with Del Close. One time, when I shaking in my boots my friend James told me, "I'm not letting you off that stage until you convince me you're comfortable up there. I'm not kidding, you're not leaving until your comfortable." It took 20 minutes. The longest 20 minutes in my life!
Doing improv at the Annoyance made me finally feel secure...somewhat. So I leaned in further. I had co-written a musical about a mother/daughter country group and their first tour after "Momma" goes into remission. It was called, "The Chiggers: Momma's in Remission Tour." It was a show that put me front and center. Maybe I wasn't the best improviser or the best singer... but I did that whole show with true conviction, and I was damn proud of it. It got selected to go to the Edmonton Comedy Festival.
After that triumph, I finally had it: the courage to direct a show. I directed "He's On To Something," a silly musical, and it felt wonderful. After my second show, I even won an Annoyance "Duckie" award for Best Director. And the best part was, I finally knew I was funny. I didn't doubt it. I had leaned all the way in to comedy and to the laughter coming from the audience.
My little voice telling me I couldn't was finally silenced.