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.