Friday, December 24, 2004

24 hours of improv

Upon a very old recommendation from Jan’s lj, and because I adore both Jeff Tweedy and the Second City, I took a day off work and stayed mostly awake for Letters to Santa , the 24-hour improv endurance test at the e.t.c. theater that ran on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. Not to make it even more difficult to get tickets next year, but everyone should go to this next year. It’s a benefit for an organization (run by Heather Whinna, who made a very nice Christian-rock documentary earlier this year) that picks out letters kids have written to Santa and sent through Chicago post offices. Good cause, good music, good comedy, good time.

Due to my sleep schedule still being completely fucked up from this event, my memories are a bit scattered. This is roughly what I remember:

7:30 pm, Tuesday: I show up an hour before it’s supposed to start; this is a foolishly late time to be showing up for any event featuring Jeff Tweedy. For my folly, I’m relegated to the back of the room for the first few hours. Most of the VC’ers (, the Wilco message board I frequent) are up front, but Rosie and the rest of the B family end up toward the back, also.

8:50 pm: I remember that I once decided T.J. Jagodowski, a really great performer who was a mainstage SC performer for most of my college career, is a cross between an angry leprechaun and my father. This still holds true. Joe Canale, another performer, looks like my uncle, which may explain why I cheered so loudly for the several groin injuries he sustained through the night.

10:00ish pm: Tweedy plays. It’s the first time I’ve seen him solo, and it’s very quiet, very lovely, and very different from the current configuration of Wilco. Much to my delight, he brings up both Sally Timms and Jon Langford for guest spots. At the end of the set, a few Jeff-related items are auctioned off, including a personal concert for 20. A fairly large collection of VC folks (including fellow ironwomen Brianne and Gina) manage to put up a winning bid of $9,000, and then most of them rush off to find ATMs. They’re followed by a good portion of the rest of the crowd. Rosie and I rush up to the front, and we’re rejoined by Gina and Brianne after they finish liquidating their life savings.

1:00ish am, Wednesday: I get pulled up onstage to portray Tony’s “fucking whore sister” from Tony ‘n’ Tina’s Wedding. I don’t really do much on stage, as I am the only person in the Chicagoland area who’s never seen the show. The performers get me off stage with merciful speed. I heart Sally Timms and Jon Langford.

1:00ish am: Things start getting blue. I cover 17-year-old Rosie’s ears a good deal for the next several hours. Kelly Hogan can belt like none other.

3:00ish am: Rosie and I are both fading. To stay awake, we decide to pick a pretend improv boyfriend. She immediately picks a fetching performer who looks like Jake Gyllenhaal but had already left. I reserve my decision until later in the day.

3:30ish am: Pretend boyfriends can only keep a girl awake so long, and I start doing the “fall asleep, head falls forward, feel like I’m falling, head snaps up, repeat” motion. We are made to do various activities through the night, including “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” and a jog through the backstage area. The number of stayers eventually drops to 12 or 15.

Jesus Christ it’s latish am: Andy Cobb, another of the performers, corrects himself on a mispronunciation of my name. He jumps ahead in the pretend improv boyfriend race.

What the hell was I smoking when I decided to do this am: Animatronic dog humps dead guy's face. Man with animatronic dog looks like Mr. Void. Everything seems unreal, and I can't figure out if it should be that way or not. We get to the point where the performers aren't just improvising, they're pretending to be other performers improvising. It's interesting, and pretty entertaining at some points, but there's only so much "I'm going to pretend to be Mick Napier pretending to be a pirate" that I can take before I start chanting "don't take the brown acid" to myself.

7:00ish am: A respite--BABY IMPROV! Joe Canale’s daughter Sofia shows up and does some scenes. This is most amazing because she can’t be more than 3. I believe it is during her time onstage the groin injuries begin.

8:00 am: Rosie’s dad Lou drops by to see how we’re faring before going in to work. I run down to a Starbucks that’s in the same building and come to the horrifying realization that it’s light outside.

9:00ish am: A scene is staged where the terms “Brown University” and “academic rigor” are used in the same sentence. Gina (also a UChicagoan) and I both bust out laughing very loudly, not realizing that we’re the only two people to find this to be one of the funniest jokes of the night.

10:00ish am: Steve Albini shows up to get interviewed and harassed mildly by Heather Whinna, who is also his gf. I have my only snack of the day, a handful of Rosie’s trail mix. I move beyond hunger, I move beyond sleepiness, I move beyond any concept of the passage of time, and I move to a place where I’m that annoying girl at the show who shouts out the only slightly workable suggestions for scenes. Why nobody threw a shoe at me or begged for my silence, I don’t know.

3:00 pm: Billy Corgan does depressing, slowed-down, minor-key renditions of Frosty the Snowman, Silver Bells, and Jingle Bells. He then cuts out without saying much. It is the best Billy Corgan show ever.

5:15ish pm: Rosie gets pulled up on stage to do a scene. At some point, she is supposed to use another of the performers, Pete Grosz, as her life raft. She never really climbs on him, probably because her dad is directly in front of her. As cool and calm as Lou B is, I really wish he’d yelled “Get away from my daughter, you old pervert” and rushed the stage.

5:30ish pm: Kid rock! But in a good way. The Blisters play. Heather comes up and talks about the charity. She starts crying a little bit, and it’s very touching. Andy Cobb gets her a tissue, and earns extra bonus points in the pretend improv boyfriend race.

7:00 pm: Robbie Fulks! A brilliant set by him, including the old holiday chestnut “God Isn’t Real”, as requested by my angry leprechaun father. He does a rap about the dead people from 2004. There’s a Derrida joke. I crack up. Andy Cobb cracks up. I declare to Rosie that Andy Cobb is my fake improv boyfriend for the day, but note that Robbie Fulks is the overall winner of the fake boyfriend contest.

8:30 pm: Done! I really can’t remember this. Rosie, Gina, Brianne, and I all managed to make it, and we get invited up on stage, where I hide in the back. Lou B is kind enough to cart my deranged carcass home. I pass out in bed with my shoes on. Make mental note to see more bloody improv since I live blocks from IO and the Playground.

Prolix, prolix, nothing a pair of scissors won't fix...

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Holiday fun.

I sang Christmas songs adapted with details about the pension firm I work for, in front of almost the entire pension firm, this Friday at the Christmas luncheon. (I keep trying to call it the holiday luncheon, but since I work for Christian organization, it's really all about baby Jesus.) I ended up sitting next to the person who is functionally our CEO, though under a different name. Then I went boozing with some of the folks (Methodist organization, so no alcohol at the party), and discovered that, among the people I work with, almost everyone I can stand is in the 40-55 range. Huh. At least they can afford to treat me to Belvedere on the rocks.

I also finished voice lessons at the Old Town School this week. I want to start guitar soon, but I think I'll wait until the second session of next year so I can (a) volunteer enough to get the class for free, and (b) take Spanish lessons so that I can do that entire graduating from college thing.

Now on to the holiday shopping spectacular; I tried this year to buy as much as I could from local stores, and to avoid downtown shopping like the damned plague. I didn't quite succeed, but I got close...

I'm keeping it to family here, because apart from Collin, I don't buy much. I need to get something for my trainer, and maybe little things for folks like Tyler or Emmie (to whom I owe a backlog of several years of Xmas and Bday gifts, rather daunting), but the major gifts are familial. So, to the rundown of how much I supported big chains this holiday season...

1. Mom. She's getting a big healthy-eating basket o'fun in my ongoing attempt, post-bypass surgery, to get her to eat some fucking vegetables. Thus, I got her a vegetable grilling basket from Bloodbath & Beyond, since she still grills like mad. In addition, I went to The Spice House (feautured on Good Eats!) and got her two salt-free seasoning gift backs, the American Regional and the International. Hope she likes lemon pepper, because she's got three different kinds now. I also headed north to the Southport Grocery and Cafe to get her fancy olive oil and balsamic vinegar, grapeseed and canola oil-based grilling and saute sauces, another veggie rub, and a Vosages chocolate bar, because she needs a little indulgence.

2. Grandma. Independent bath and body crap tends to be EXPENSIVE, so I crapped out and got her an Origins Lavendar and Vanilla gift set, along with some saffron from The Spice House.

3. Drew, brother, 21. He said he wanted posters, booze, or music, so I got him three posters from Beyond the Wall (Boondock Saints, his favorite movie; Trainspotting, the movie I think should be his favorite movie; and some wildly inappropriate beer, weed, and sex poster, because he'll love it). Then I got him The Streets' latest album at Reckless, because really, it's better than Insane Clown Posse, which is what he listens to these days. I decided not to get him booze, but I may hit the Crate and Barrel and get him some roly shot glasses, because he will also love that.

4. Christian, nerdy cousin, 14. Got him what I've been wanting for ages, a neighborhood map of Chicago, from 57th Street Books, and a book on great philosophers from Seminary. I plan on wrapping one of these gifts in a piece of wrapping paper that has the London mass transit map on it, which he'll take as a bonus gift.

5. Annie, cooler cousin, 12. She loves lip gloss. I've gotten her lip gloss for the last two years. I can get cooler lip gloss than she can in Oklahoma. So... lip gloss globes from Sephora it is. I tried to branch out with comics, so she's getting a copy of Persepolis from 57th Street Books, and the first trade paperback of Hopeless Savages (thanks, Dan) that I picked up in Evanston at Comix Revolution.

6. Jonah, youngest cousin, 5 1/2. I'm glad Mom told me he likes dinosaurs, because all his parents had to tell me is that he liked Batman and Spiderman, and... ick. So I ran over to Unabridged Books (you can see the gay porn mags from the childrens' section; I love it) and got the Eyewitness series book on dinosaurs. I also got him Neil Gaiman's The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish. I hope I didn't just get it for him becuase Neil Gaiman is cool. Guess we'll see if he starts crying on Christmas when he reads it...

So ho-frickin-ho-ho-ho, now all I have to do is get this stuff wrapped. Now I can go to the gym and clean this week... unless I decide to just sleep and watch Gilmore Girl repeats, which is a distinct possibility.

Prolix, prolix, nothing a pair of scissors won't fix...