Monthly Archives: June 2011

Day 118. Necessity is the Mother of Embarrassment

Sunday, June 19, 2011

I was desperately looking for a job, it had been several months. Now, they say that necessity is the mother of invention, but it is also the mother of embarrassment. I was in Springfield, having just recently moved there chasing Michelle. I was living in her parent’s basement while she lived somewhere else. Sounds awkward, doesn’t it? I was about to make it more so.

I saw a couple of job listings (in a physical paper, how quaint) for the position of reporter for a couple of the local news stations. I did not have any experience as a reporter, or being on television, but at that point I would apply for anything. The unique thing about applying for a television position is you have to have video of yourself being a reporter. Obviously, I did not have this. This did little to slow me down.

First, I wrote a news story. I chose to write about a local event called the Blues Society of the Ozarks Picnic and Jam. I had gone to it a couple of weeks before, and it is held in a wooded park where hillbilly blues is played and people bring food for a potluck.

Next, I got my 1980s VHS camcorder, I had bought in college from my uncle for $50.

My next task was to create a news studio in Michelle’s parent’s basement. I dragged a desk in front of a wall, set the camera on a small trash can, on a chair, on a table a few feet away. I grabbed a lamp and put it on the table and took the lamp shade off. Boom. News studio.

I put on a button down, blazer and tie and went to it. I pushed record, then scurried around behind the desk. I looked into the camera with a serious face and started in.

“Thanks Denise. Hey, those in the mood for some blues with their casserole gathered today at Ritter Springs Park for the annual Blues Society of the Ozarks Picnic and Jam. Participants were treated with music from the Trouser Kings and Life Ravine, but more than that, they were treated with food brought by those with more of a hand for cooking than a hand for guitar. All in all, it was a good time had by everyone. Whether there to enjoy the food, or there to enjoy the music, it’s safe to say, everyone enjoyed the jam.”

Then, I stood up, revealing I was wearing shorts below my blazer and tie, walked up to the camera and pushed the record button off.

I made a couple of duplicates by hooking up two VCRs, unfortunately leaving in my shorts revealing walk to the camera. I then put them in an envelope with a note saying, “I know this is not very good, so if you don’t want to hire me, at least you got a good laugh.”

I was not hired.

I did however, later, become friends with local TV reporters and always asked them to look and see if they could find it. They could not and I haven’t seen it since.

Today, I did a similar thing, only they wanted me to. Some auditions want you to videotape yourself, and send that in as your audition, especially if you are far away. So, today, I set up my flip video, put on a nice shirt, took the lampshade off a lamp, and proclaimed the script I memorized like I believed it in my soul. It was for a community college.

Here is the script:

“Retail. It’s everywhere and were talking about trillions of dollars a year. So who orders all this stuff? Who manages it? Well … What about you? You could earn a degree in Retail Merchandise Management. From product presentation, to buying and negotiation … Learn about this exciting field. Call Today!”

It shoots in Spokane, WA over one day and pays actual money. We’ll see. Hopefully, my pure passion for Retail Merchandise Management comes through in the video.

Other highlights of the day:

-I had my showcase show for my UCB Level 2 Intensive class. It was fun and felt a little clunky to me. It’s such a different, almost formulaic approach to improv that it has been a lot of learning, and I started the class just two weeks ago. It was fun to be in front of an audience, and I think I’ll stay in touch with a few people from the class.

-I took a great nap. I can sleep when Michelle is here.

Well, that’s the news. For Denise Hendrickson, I’m Jeff Houghton, hoping your tomorrow is just as great as your today. Good night.

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Day 117. My Plans for Murder

Saturday, June 18, 2011

I’ve decided that I intend to murder the dog next door.

This blog post will prove that the murder was premeditated, but I don’t care. I’m ready to do the time. Before you get angry at me, consider a few facts. One, I’m a dog lover. I love every dog out there, except that one. I have loved all the dogs I’ve ever been close to, Magic, Mugsy, Sammy, Lucy, Oreo, Skippy.

Two, this dog is the worst creature God ever made.

The houses here are pretty close together. I can often hear my neighbor having phone conversations when our windows are open. But, the difference between my neighbor and her dog is that she is not yelling every time she talks.

Pulling this murder off will take a lot of planning, because I’m pretty sure the dog has bugged my room, or has cameras in here. I’m certain he has a little control room that has a door that slides open as he approaches, allowing him to waddle up to a leather chair and check in on what I’m doing. The room is dark, only lit by the glow of his televisions. Between puffs of a cigar he watches the wall of monitors, waiting for the moment the closeup screen indicates that I’m deep into my REM sleep. He springs to action, trotting out to the window and starts barking as loud as he possibly can.

He does this at 8:30 every morning and every instance I take a nap.

My only choice is to murder him, but I can’t get too close, because I’m a wimp for cuteness.  Plus, I know he’s always one step ahead of me, so I’m afraid all the work would be for not. I feel like I’m Tom Cruise in the Firm, and the dog is Wilford Brimley. Hmmm…Wilford Brimley. Maybe the best option is for me to give the dog diabetes. New plan. I’m going to start throwing Mike and Ikes out of my window and into his window. He won’t be able to resist, no living creature can resist them.  He will eat the evidence of my actions, it’s the perfect crime. I’ll keep throwing them until he gets lethargic and his body is confused about how to regulate his insulin. He won’t be able to communicate like a human does, so he won’t get on good medicine, like a human would.  Slowly, but surely, he will bark no more. I will have given him the worst, Type 5, canine diabetes.

Remember, you have no knowledge of this blog post.

Today, Michelle and I walked down the street to this breakfast place we love called Blu Jam. Yummy. Then, we went down to the Beautiful Starbucks. I went and had a rehearsal with my improv class because our showcase is tomorrow. Then, Michelle and I went to see our friend Lee Ellen play some music at a coffee shop in Studio City.

Then, we came home, brushed our teeth, got ready for bed, slipped under the covers, shut our eyes, and heard the vile creature next door barking as loud as he can.

 

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Bonus Post! Craigslist: Wingwomen Wanted

Aaah, Craigslist, where legitimate items are for sale next to questionable, probably stolen items. Aaah, Craigslist, where legitimate job openings are posted next to job openings that may, or may not involve prostitution.

Craigslist is shady enough, but it is also a great place to look for jobs, as I spend much of my day doing. Ever since I learned that a “houseboy” job comes with expectations beyond free rent and help around the house, I’m very skeptical when it comes to job openings.

Below is my favorite one I have seen recently.

WINGWOMEN/WINGMEN WANTED

“I am an employer offering paid employment for the specific retail/wholesale position described below, which is a part-time position that will be four hours a week. There are no requirements for this job as far as gender, race, etc., and all applicants will be considered equally.

Wingwomen wanted! A wingwoman is a woman who goes into a social situation with the purpose of helping the guy or guys she is with meet women. This is actually an extremely easy and fun job, but many women find it so counter-intuitive that they simply cannot do it.

The role is a wingwoman is to:

-Relax, laugh, have a good time, and emanate a genuine, positive energy.
-Recognize that her presence alone and her silence are often all that are needed!
-Understand or be willing to learn the counter-intuitive principals of how men really attract women.

This is not about you expressing your opinion on relationships, dating, how you think dating should take place, or offering advice. What it is about is getting paid to have a great time doing the most fun, exciting, easy job you have ever done!

I am a classy professional who was part of a group in San Francisco that employed four part-time wingwomen. I have recently moved to LA, and am looking to hire two part-time wingwomen to join me at cocktail parties, nights out at the best lounges and clubs, charity events, and other Los Angeles happenings. My goal is to find a serious relationship with the right woman, and to have a lot of fun searching for her and meeting new people in the process.”

I feel hopeful that I (Jeff) could do this job because he says that there are no requirements for gender, even though it sounds like he really wants a woman. Who would make a better wingwoman than a married guy? I’m not competition, and I succeeded in dating once (got married). Why does he want two women? That would make him look super unavailable. I also feel like there might be prostitution involved in some way, so I’m a bit wary.

Anyway, this is what it is like sorting through job postings in LA.

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Day 116. It Takes Two

Friday, June 17, 2011

You know that feeling when you move away from your wife and you live in a room by yourself while you look for work and chase your dreams? Remember how exciting it is when she finally arrives for the summer, because she has summers off, because she is a school counselor at a junior high?

You can’t relate to that?

Well, let me tell you, it’s awesome.

I usually like to play things cool, and not get too high or too low, but I found myself getting really excited this week. Now, she is here! She helps bring my creative, nearly ADD, anxious mind some structure. I have all these things I need to catch up on, get a job, get writing things together, edit videos, etc, and I can already feel the relentless desire to accomplish those things yesterday wane. When you have an entire day to work with, and the next day looks the same, it is hard to give yourself made up deadlines.

With Michelle with me I can give myself real deadlines, so she doesn’t have to be at a Beautiful Starbucks the entirety of a day. Plus, I like to talk through everything, so it is so good to have her here. I can sort through the list in my mind.

Plus, I just really, really like her.

In fact, I may even love her. Don’t tell her though, we haven’t said it out loud yet. I haven’t found the right moment to bring it up.

I dressed up in a shirt and tie to pick her up at the airport to make it seem extra special, but, as I helped carry her luggage, I realized I just looked like her driver.

We got home and crashed pretty quickly. We were going to maybe go to a party, but that is a tall order when you’ve gotten in from a flight at 10 pm. We’ve started a list of things to be sure to get in while she’s here during this 6 week not quite vacationing, not quite residing, stint.

It’s just nice to have a striving partner, present with me.

 

 

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Day 115. I Need to Be, And Not to Do

Thursday, June 16, 2011

I’m not getting the response I want in stand up? That’s okay, I just want stand up to get me into acting, and really I’m an improviser.

Audition goes bad? That’s okay, stand up and improv are what I excel at.

Things are a bit of a struggle in improv? That’s okay, I have stand up, and I came here to act.

These are common thoughts that play out in my head. It’s like a constant process of quickly trying to justify and make difficult situations work mentally. I think these are the things we have to do when what we do defines who we are. What happens, though, when those things run out, or when they all aren’t going well? I think the process is exhausting and unsustainable. I think it’s false.

I used to work with junior high kids. In junior high, the kids are all trying to figure out who they are and where they fit in. Often, they will find that one thing and cling to it. I’m the basketball player, I’m the hot girl, I’m good at school, etc. If they can’t find a typical one, they’ll make one up, just to have something. You’ve seen it before, they don’t do a very good job of hiding it. They’re just trying so hard.

I think that we don’t ever lose that desire.

I think aging is often just figuring out how to mask it better.

I think it is still there for most people. This journey how here for me has been an opportunity to confront that. I didn’t have to confront it in my previous life, because, I wasn’t routinely setting myself up for rejection. What if I’m the funny guy, but there are others here who are just as funny, or more funny. What if some of those people also happen to be really good looking? I’m screwed.

I can either start the hard work of justifying and making it work mentally. I can convince myself, “It’s okay, that’s not really my thing, my thing is something else.” Or I can excuse myself from that mental game.

I want to excuse myself, but my ego says, “We have to keep fighting. Save me.” I have to ignore it.

I need to be, and not to do.

I think there is another way.

I thought of these things as I rode my bike to the subway and went downtown to get out of my immediate environment. As I mentioned before, I love downtown LA. I went to a coffee shop that was located in an alley. It felt like Prohibition, if Prohibition outlawed coffee. I got a free cookie, because I checked in with Yelp. Also, their sandwiches were half off.

While I was there, I submitted to the New York Comedy Festival for stand up. Why they hell not, right?

I realized that I had not actually been submitting for any roles on Actor’s Access because I hit “Complete Submission,” but not “Check Out,” afterwards. I had not got one audition through them and was beginning to wonder. I’m an idiot.

When I got home, I washed the sheets for Michelle’s sake. She cares about such thing. She will get here late Friday night!

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Day 114. I Shouldn’t Have Nice Things

Wednesday, June 16, 2011

My friend, JJ, and I lived together in college. We lived in an apartment that was built in the mid-1800s. It was on the second floor, above a corner grocery store that JJ’s grandpa owned. The place was great. It had original hardwood floors, French doors, big windows and black and white tiles in the kitchen. It was centrally located, so we could walk to anything we needed. Plus, JJ, got all his food free from downstairs. JJ is a good friend, so it was the perfect set up.

But, we shouldn’t be allowed to have nice things.

The place was probably clean for a total of 72 hours in the two years we lived there. It wasn’t that JJ was messy, or just that I was messy, it was that we were both messy together. It was a classic case of the whole being greater than the sum of it’s parts. Our rooms were piles of clothes. I used to buy clothes at Goodwill instead of doing laundry. The living room was the receptacle for used Jack’s Pizza circular pieces of cardboard. Our kitchen was perpetually filled with dirty dishes. Twice, we paid female friends $20 to clean our dishes, and we got a bargain. The guy who lived there before us left a gynecologist’s chair, complete with straps. This does not have anything to do with our messiness, but it’s crazy, right? We got rid of it before we moved in.

Every so often, we would hear from the grocery store management that we needed to clean because the odor was getting to be too much for their offices down the hall. To our other friends, I would blame JJ on the mess, and he would blame me. We were both right.

Michelle has cured me of such drastic mess for the most part. However, when she’s gone, I tend to head back in the direction of my bachelor days. I spent today folding clothes and cleaning up for her imminent arrival.

The truth is, I have some help these days.

There is a cleaning lady that comes on Friday mornings.

This is a totally foreign concept to me. A lady that comes and cleans your things?! What are the rules? At what point am I allowing her to do her job, and at what point am I taking advantage of her? At what point am I trying too hard, and at what point am I looking a gift horse in the mouth. I’ve been trying to figure it out. For a messy guy, this should be a God send, but it actually stresses me out. She is a very sweet Hispanic woman who speaks little English.

Here are my observations.

-I try to impress her too much. Shouldn’t the cleaning lady be the last person you want to impress?

-When I grew up, the cleaning lady was my mom before she just gave up on me succeeding in the clean life.

-Our conversation usually goes something like this:

Jeff: Hello

Cleaning Lady: Hello

Jeff: How are you?

Cleaning Lady: Good, how are you?

-In our heads, the same conversation goes like this:

Jeff: Hello

Cleaning Lady: You’re the bastard who can’t keep his room clean.

Jeff: How are you?

Cleaning Lady: I’m fine, but I won’t be in a few minutes when I have to wade through your various crumbs, hair, and cheap hair product. Oh, and I know about the stash of food under your bed.

Jeff: UUuuuuuggghhhhh. I’m trying to think of something else to say, but we literally have nothing else in common.

-I always have an urge to talk about Telemundo in our exchanges, since it is common ground.

-I spend way more time cleaning in a week because a cleaning lady comes, than I would ordinarily. Yikes, maybe in the end, I’m the cleaning lady.

-The two languages that need no words are love and pure disdain.

I can’t win when it comes to cleaning. I just shouldn’t have nice things.

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Day 113. Don’t Sound Creepy

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Today was Day 6 of my improv class, only 2 more to go. It was a really good class. The new things are starting to sink in, making it more fun and relaxing. After class, my new friend, Lisa, who went through the pain and agony of the game show with me last week, Facebooked me to invite me to go to the open mic at The Improv. It’s a lottery system, meaning you put your name in a hat and they select a certain number. I was not picked, but Lisa was so I stayed for awhile.

I then went to the Beautiful Starbucks at night for a rare night time appearance. It’s more laid back at night, the beauty of the clientele, more subdued. My friend Elsie, who has a blogging empire suggested to me to get a hold of other people blogging about the same topic, so I’ve been contacting other bloggers, just to say, ‘hey.’ I’ve met so many people in such a variety of ways here, I’m learning about how to do it well, and how not to.

I’ve tried to be as non creepy as possible when I send the bloggers a message. It’s difficult. Here are some samples of what I’ve said.

-”I’ve been monitoring you from a distance. I would like to get to know you more intimately. Hi, I’m Jeff.”

-”You look really pretty in your pictures, like a doll. I have lots of dolls. Hi, I’m Jeff.”

-”You need to clean the mildew from your shower tiles. Just kidding, I haven’t been in your shower yet. Hi, I’m Jeff.”

-”I looked up your blog and found your name. Did you know you can find someone’s address just from their name? Then, you can see their place on Google Maps. That’s crazy, right? Who would do that? FYI, French doors are easier to break into. Hi, I’m Jeff.”

-”If I can’t have you, no one can. Hi, I’m Jeff.”

-”We should meet up in real life. You can’t tell on the computer, but people tell me I’m a heavy breather in person. I say it’s because I have asthma. I don’t have asthma. Hi, I’m Jeff.”

-”You follow the Anthony Weiner stuff? Why would he do that over Twitter? That’s dumb and disgusting. What is your e-mail address? Hi, I’m Jeff.”

I’m banking on my creepiness subsiding when Michelle arrives. 2 days!

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Day 112. I’m Creating A New Late Night Talk Show

Monday, June 13, 2011

In April of 2006, I asked my friend, Jeff, who runs the Skinny Improv, if I could start a late night talk show. He said, “Sure.” I said, “Okay, I need to get married first.” I knew how much work it would be and I knew how much Michelle would kill me if I started it then. I got married in July and started the Mystery Hour in November of ’06. The first show featured Matt, who was the editor for a local magazine, and Doug, who was a lawyer running for state senate. I didn’t know if anyone would show up or not. But, a professor from Missouri State got wind of it and told his students they could get extra credit if they attended, since one of the guests was a candidate.

I sat backstage in a leaky ceilinged hallway watching people pour in. The show was nearly sold out. After an hour of low budget glory, the show was over. I was stoked. It was the most exhilarating/natural feeling things I had experienced. Writing a comedy show and then interviewing people could not have felt more natural to me. I was hooked. We had a show once a month until I moved this past February. Most of them were sold out. Most of them involved adult braces. It was never quite as exhilarating as the first time, but always as natural for me.

One of my many friend of a friend meetings when I first moved here included a good quote. Marc, the guy I was meeting with, said, “The successful actors I see out here aren’t the ones that are just going around to auditions, hoping to be chosen. The successful ones are the ones who are doing something on their own and making it happen.” Then, he vanished, in a puff of smoke.

The most natural feeling thing that I’ve done was hosting The Mystery Hour.  It was one of those things I could spend hours on without realizing it. When I was planning my move, I was throwing around different ideas of how I could pull one off here, because I’m pretty sure they don’t have open auditions for the 5 late night talk show host positions.

Well, on June 25th, I’m going to have my second premiere of a late night talk show. I’m doing it at my friend, Ross’s, loft apartment. It’s going to seat like 20. It will be intimate, for sure. I’m calling the show, That Guy From…It’s going to feature a guest that you will maybe recognize, but won’t know off the top of your head. It will be a guy you know from something, but you can’t put your finger on it, so you just call him, that guy from…(We will also have on females. That Girl From…). Yes, we will be filming it.

We’ll have a monologue, comedy bits, guests, and a musical guest.

I have a request out for my first guest, and already have a musical guest lined up. We’ll see how it goes, but I have to just start creating something on my own. We can fill up 20 seats, and we’ll go from there. We’re starting small.

I just need to get a hold of some professors.

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Day 111. This Time, I’m the Foreign Exchange Student

Sunday, June 12, 2011

My friend, Jeff, teases me about my love of foreign nationals.

He says I can sense their presence and will seek them out if they are nearby. He’s right. I feel comfortable saying it now, I love foreign nationals, or just anyone who has a story that is different from me. Maybe it’s because my dad is a college tennis coach and has always had foreign players on the team. Or, maybe, it started when my mom volunteered working to resettle Bosnians in the mid ’90s. Whatever it is, I love the diversity in LA. I love that sometimes when I’m in a crowded place and there is the loud din of conversation noise, that I will be genuinely surprised if I hear English spoken. I don’t know who is the foreigner here, them, or me.

Now, the most majestic foreign national of them all is the foreign exchange student. Everyone had at least one in high school. I bet as you read this, you can think of those people. They were like the school celebrity. I can remember Guillermo, Andrei, and Jeremy (?).They were always attached at the hip to the host family, and you always kind of wondered how that worked.

As I sit in my room, within the house I share with my friend’s parents, I realize that I am the foreign exchange student. I’m the one from far away living with a host family. I don’t really know the customs.

Here is a list of the similarities between myself and a foreign exchange student.

1) Foreign exchange student comes from a far off place with different customs

-I come from the Midwest, which is as familiar as the Middle East to a lot of people here.

2) Foreign exchange student at some point might say, “No, I’m from Austria, not Australia, they’re different. Violins, not kangaroos.”

-I have had to say, “No, I’m from Iowa, not Ohio, they’re different. Corn, not Cleveland.”

3) Foreign exchange student doesn’t quite dress right and wears dark socks with shorts.

-Without Michelle around, I dress wrong, and actually wear dark socks with shorts.

4) The host family will cook food that is new to the foreign exchange student.

-My host family uses things like vegetables, and cooks things “from scratch,” whatever that means.

5) Foreign exchange student is always good at soccer.

-I’m good at paper football.

6) Foreign exchange student always has way more hairy arms and chest than the normal guy.

-I have eleven hairs on my chest.

7) Foreign exchange student smells like B.O., or too much cologne.

-I smell like I fell asleep eating off-brand ‘Nilla Wafers in my bed.

8.) Foreign exchange student says things that are almost proper English. “I sit on phone and talk family.” No, honey, it’s, “I’m on the phone talking to my family.”

-I say, “See ya, I’m driving to the Valley, so I’m going to hop on Highway 110.” No, honey, it’s “I’m driving to the Valley, so I’m going to hop on THE 110.”

9) Foreign exchange student doesn’t have a car, so he’s always bumming a ride.

-I have a car, but it is foreign.

10) Foreign exchange student is always deemed ‘hot’ to the opposite sex.

-This has yet to happen.

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Day 110. Audition Anywhere

Saturday, June 11, 2011

I had an audition today. It was in North Hollywood, so I got in my car and drove. As I got closer I realized two things. One, this is in kind of a sketchy area. Two, this audition is just in someone’s residence. The chances are 50/50 on whether I get murdered or not. 

As I walked up, I realized the other people that live in sketchy areas, poor filmmakers. I was auditioning for the role of Reynolds. I sat in front of five guys in their twenties. The guy in the middle asked me what my impression of Reynolds was from the script. I made up some stuff (I’ve been working on my BS skills). I did the scene once, then they asked me to do it again, this time more laid back. In my mind I turned a baseball cap around on my head and did the scene again. I don’t know if it came across that I was more laid back since they couldn’t see my made up baseball cap that time. Then, I shook their hands and left.

I’ve learned that I have no idea on how to accurately guess if it went well during an audition. We’ll see.

I left there and got my oil changed by the nicest guy ever. I went and saw the movie Super 8 with Ross tonight. I really liked it, it was like Goonies and ET met up on the Lost island.

Side note. On Tuesday, I saw Blackberry Winter, which is the band that was featured in the movie, Winter’s Bone. One of the band members came on The Mystery Hour a few weeks ago and comped me a ticket. They are on a national tour and they are wonderful. Bluegrass is alive and well in Los Angeles.

That is all.

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