Happiness

draft_lens9869081module88838141photo_1268076723Charlie_Brown_SnoopyIt’s a movie star interview staple. He or she is asked by the interviewer when they knew they wanted to be an actor. He or she mines his or her personal history and shares a memory of being in a school play or talent show, how they made the whole school laugh or cry or both and from that moment on, “I KNEW that’s what I wanted to do with my life!”. 

 Of course, it is not only the successful actors that have that memory. This town is full of lost souls trying to chase that high, relive that moment, at 8 or 9 or 10, when they stood on a stage and felt the entire world loved them. 

 The irony that my first great success at anything was my title role in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown is not lost on me. Playing a hapless failure came naturally for me. Still does. It was 5th grade and I’m sure not more than 500 people saw my star turn, but even today, that high that came at the end, where the entire cast closed the show with Happiness, well, is probably the happiest I have ever been in my entire life.  

I’ve written about my many failed auditions in the last two years or so. It’s been nearly three years since the last time I booked a job. I’ve been lucky enough to have an agent sending me out more regularly than I deserve and yet, nothing.  In every audition, I second guess every choice I make because it feels like every choice I’ve made in the last three years is the wrong one. 

Last week, my friend Michael, because he cares, asked me what I was doing creatively. I told him that I had all but stopped writing and storytelling. It’s been years since I’ve been cast in a play. He asked me how I might be able to think outside the box a little, create my own platform.

I cut him off. “I don’t really want to discuss this. I can’t. I am stuck and I wish I knew what to do to unstick myself, but I don’t. That’s what I’d hoped to do with the blog. But the blog has just ended up being a failure just like everything else I have attempted.”

“We can change the subject,” Michael offered. And we did. We talked about what we were going to have for dinner and then the play we looked forward to attending. 

A couple of days ago, I deactivated my Facebook account. Maybe you are more evolved or just more successful than me, but of late, Facebook has become nothing more than another reminder of all my failures, too. I’d post a picture or a blog post and only get a couple likes. Does one exist if no one clicks like on their FB status update? It should be noted that the only person who noticed my disappearance was my Mother.

I’ve tried acting and sketch comedy and improv and standup and storytelling and writing and blog writing and most depressing of all, social media, to get the world to notice me, validate me. And for the most part, none of it has worked.  

So, the good news is, this is the last time I will bemoan my life on this aptly named platform I created almost two years ago. I am hanging up my keyboard, so to speak.

I came and I tried and I failed. 

I’m going to step away from the social media. Read some books, catch up on Empire. I’m going to feel sorry for myself for awhile and then we’ll see. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I’m done with this blog, but I’m not done. After all, I am Charlie Brown and the eternally comforting thing about Charlie Brown is that no matter how many times he’s down, he is never truly out. 

Thank you to all who read my story!

Paying For It

joan-rivers-dead-31It’s not what you think. Well, it’s a little bit what you think. For months now, I have been captivated by the “boost” feature on my Easily Crestfallen Facebook page. My page is nothing to brag about, just a little bit over 100 followers. Sometimes I go weeks without posting on it or I’ll post an old picture of Joan Rivers or Meryl Streep and Facebook will tell me, “6 people saw your post.” wow.

But every time I am on my Easily Crestfallen Facebook page, below everything I’ve shared, there is a little button that says, “Boost Post.” And you click it and it tells you how much more exposure you’ll get if you pay Facebook money and they share you with people who probably don’t even want to see your blog or whatever it is you’re promoting, anyway.

I’ve wrestled with this for a while. Do I want more followers, more exposure? Yes, of course. I also know how annoyed I get when another ad for Dollar Shave Club comes up.

But last night, I succumbed. I spent $5 promoting two of my most recent blogs, each. $10, total. It’s my understanding that this $10 will promote these two posts for 24 hours, it’s been about 11 hours at the time of this writing. And yes, I see a small uptick on my blog’s Facebook page as well as the blog’s actual statistics counter. “Sandra” is currently my 18th most popular post, and to think just 11 hours ago, it was merely my 24th most popular. Sadly, even with the boost investment of $5, that I could have spent on a frappuccino at Starbucks or a happy hour mai-tai from Damon’s, “I Cain’t Go Back to Buffalo, I Cain’t!” is only ranked 47th. That’s what high stake risk is all about, I suppose.

But this morning, I will be honest, I had a little buyer’s remorse, and yes, I did feel a little dirty. And I felt bad for “God’s Pen”, which had been enjoying it’s reign as 18th most popular blog post and found its way there on its own merit. No boosts for “God’s Pen”, thank you very much. And by the way, “God’s Pen” is one of my personal favorites.

Oh don’t worry, I won’t beat myself up too much about that lost $10. Although, if I had a time machine, that $10 might have been enough to buy me a house or trip to Paris or a fur coat, not that I wear fur. But in time machine-less 2014, $10 doesn’t go far. Which I’ve proven.

And no, there is no real reason why I made Joan Rivers the featured image of this particular post, except that she is still all I can think about and I really don’t think enough people saw the picture when I posted it on Facebook the first time!

Let it Go?

Jimmy-Fallon-Idina-Menzel-Let-It-GoSo, guess what?!? I can hold a grudge, especially if someone does something that hurts the feelings of someone I love. Real person, celebrity, it makes no difference. And that’s why I’m not the biggest Jimmy Fallon fan. I used to like him until I read my friend’s blog where she detailed a rather upsetting interaction she had with Jimmy Fallon. And ever since, I just couldn’t really watch him without thinking about that story.

Cut to last month, when everyone was posting the video of Jimmy, Idina Menzel and the Roots singing “Let it Go.” Everyone in my orbit emphatically told me that I HAD to watch the video, that I’d love it, that it’s seriously, like the best thing in the world. But I resisted.

Until yesterday.

And then in a weak moment, I watched it on Youtube on my Iphone and I’ll be honest. I did love it. I love Idina and I love the song and there really is something magical about the video. And I sat there on my couch, watching the video, thinking, Ray, there is a message there for you. Let. It. Go. Forgive Jimmy. It’s time.

And then I went and found my friend’s blog and read it and got a little mad again. But I sent “Carreen” a message on Facebook, she’s since moved away from Los Angeles, and asked her if I could share her Jimmy Fallon story. Also, since she posted it in 2007, how does she feel about him today, seven years after posting the original blog? Her response: “You can most certainly re-post my blog because I wish more people could know about what a jerk he is. He will always be a social-climbing jerk in my mind, and that incident with him was the turning point for me that caused me to turn away from comedy and writing and all things Hollywood.”

So, really, I’ll be honest, I don’t know how I feel. I still don’t think I like him very much, but I do love this video, so in the spirit of letting things go, I’ll repost it. And by all means, please read Carreen’s blog:

Why I hate Jimmy Fallon

I know I’m supposed to be trying to behave myself and be a nice person these days, but I just can’t help it. I still hate Jimmy Fallon. Every time I see his faux-earnest face on TV or in a movie poster, I just want to punch him.

But hear me out – I have a good reason for hating him. My hatred has basis in fact, and like everything else in my life it’s a long story.

Many years ago I was in a comedy group called the Groundlings. I took classes there and worked my way up through the ranks very quickly – too quickly in the opinion of some. By the time I was 25 I was in their Sunday Company, waiting to get voted into to the main ensemble. But when it came time to get voted into the big company – much to my shock I was tossed out. I was stunned. Several other really good comedians besides myself were tossed out in the same vote. We just couldn’t believe it.

And I really was good. I’m not usually a confident person, but I know in my heart that I was an exceedingly talented writer and comedian. I could improvise circles around just about anyone who shared the stage with me, and I could get a laugh with any material I was handed by the other writers. That was the problem though. I was a young, idealistic kid and I didn’t realize that being talented marked me for death in the shark pit that was the Groundlings. I foolishly thought that Hollywood was a place where talented people rose to the top and got famous, and everybody helped each other out along the way, and I thought I was absolutely destined to be on Saturday Night Live.

Right before the vote came up for the main company cast, I started to notice that every time I did an improv scene in a show, the director paired me with actors who talked nonstop and never allowed me to get a word in edgewise. They’d immediately grab focus and force me to the background of the scene, ignoring me as they talked loudly and nonstop at the same time as other loudmouthed actors. I also noticed that our bitter, (and might I say over the hill) female director was putting fewer and fewer of my scenes in the shows until finally I didn’t have any material to show the voting committee. For some reason she didn’t think I was funny, and when we’d all read prospective scenes and mine got laughs from my cast mates she’d wrinkle her nose and go “I don’t get it. It’s not funny to me.” and cut it from the roster.

It was years before I realized what had actually happened to me. I had been steamrolled. I’d been completely smudged out by aggressive actors who were older than me and therefore more familiar with the rules of the game – kill or be killed. That was when I started hating acting, and I quit. I thought, “If this is how you have to behave to be successful. I can’t do it. I just don’t have it in me to knock somebody over to get ahead.”

It was a good time for the Groundlings. The main company then featured Will Farrell, Lisa Kudrow, Mike Hitchcock and Kathy Griffin and many others who went on to great success. My fellow actors in the Sunday company included the brilliant character actress Jennifer Coolidge, MAD TV’s Phil LaMarr, Chris Kataan and also Cheri Oteri, who later ended up on Saturday Night Live.

Cheri and I had been close friends during our humble classroom days at the Groundlings but right after she got cast on SNL I saw very little of her. I figured she was busy and our friendship had been sort of on-again, off-again throughout the years anyway so it didn’t really hurt my feelings. A couple of years went by, though, and I still could not bring myself to watch SNL. It was just too painful for me to see it, knowing how much I had wanted to be a part of it and knowing that it would never happen. I continued to write and even signed with the Artists’ Agency literary division, but I distanced myself from actors and acting.

That’s why I was very surprised when I got a call from Cheri in the late ’90’s, out of the blue, saying she was coming to LA for hiatus and she wanted to talk to me about submitting some of my sketch material to SNL. We had lunch and talked about ideas for a film, then she said she’d tell the SNL producers to look for the stuff my agent was sending over. She warned me that it would be very difficult to get my writing seen or taken seriously because the writers were all male at that time, and she was trying to get me in because she wanted a woman writer on the staff. My submissions got read but I was not hired. I truly appreciated her trying, and I still do.

BUT…the last time I ever saw Cheri made me walk away from the entire comedy scene forever. It went down in history as the most awful, embarrassing thing that has ever happened to me, I want to throw myself off a bridge every time I recall it, and yes – it involved Jimmy Fallon.

Cheri and I went out to dinner, again to talk about movie ideas, and she said “We’re going to a party afterwards at the Chateau Marmont. Dress hip.” We had dinner, went to see Jim Wise’s band at Molly Malone’s, then I followed Jim and Cheri in my car to the hotel. As we were walking in the front door I said “Whose party is this?” and Jim said “It’s Jimmy Fallon’s birthday party.” Since I hadn’t watched SNL in two years I said “Who?” I really had no idea who he was. They both looked at me like I was insane.

The party was in a bungalow there – one of those little private houses like the one where John Belushi died. I walked in the door and almost had a stroke. I am a very, very painfully pathologically shy person, and parties are excruciating enough to give me dry heaves all day beforehand, but this was the worst-case-scenario-of-all-time party I could ever have imagined in the subconscious nightmare regions of my medulla oblongata. The lights were all blazing – 100 watt bulbs overhead and in all lamps, so no hiding in any nonexistent shadows for me – and there were ten people there. All ten of those people were famous. Very famous.

And I….was not.

They were also really close friends with each other. Really close, darling sweetie love you kissy friends.

And I….was not.

Cheri introduced me to Janeane Garofalo and I pointed at her and said, “You’re funny!” in a stupid childish high voice that was so weird it made her walk away uncomfortably. That’s when Cheri disappeared and left me to fend for myself.

I tried to join conversations. I lingered at edges of groups, hoping to be noticed and asked to join. I introduced myself to people. Nobody talked to me. They squinted at me, annoyed, as if I was the pizza delivery guy trying to crash their party, and turned their backs to me. I wandered from room to room in that bungalow like the ghost of John Belushi, with nobody seeing or acknowledging my presence, for nearly an hour. Nobody wanted to know me because, you see, I was nobody.

Miraculously, another non-famous person entered the party. It was Chris Kattan’s girlfriend at the time, a very nice and polite girl to whom I will be eternally grateful for the rest of my life for not turning her back to me after I introduced myself. She and I chatted for a long time until finally I felt like I’d redeemed myself enough to make a graceful exit. There was no way in hell I was staying amongst this cold, bloodless horde another minute. I brushed past Sara Michelle Geller (who frowned at me as if to say “What IS that?”) and I found Cheri. I said, “I’ve got to get home – I have to be at work early tomorrow morning.” She looked puzzled, then said, “You have to say good night to Jimmy. It’s his birthday.” I said “Nooo – really that’s not necessary. He and i didn’t meet…” and I headed for the door as if my life depended on it because really, it did.

As I reached the door, so close to freedom, I bumped into a seemingly-drunk Jimmy Fallon. He weaved a little bit and said “Hey – where ya going?” I said “I’m headed home. Happy birthday!” and I tried to squirt past him as quickly as I could. And then he did something truly evil, which absolutely destroyed me and from which I have never fully recovered. He grabbed me and hugged me for an uncomfortably long time, looked at the ten A-List actors in the brightly lit room, and stage-whispered over my head to them “WHO THE HELL IS THIS?!?!??!” which they all found simply hilarious and subsequently died laughing.

And there I was, with a room full of famous people laughing at me. It was bad enough that they hadn’t talked to me all night, and that they treated me like I was an irritant. These people whom I admired so much, and I had hoped would someday be my comedy buddies, my actor peers – and Cheri, who I had thought was my friend, were laughing at me and I couldn’t escape because Jimmy Fallon was still gripping me in this evil, patronizing, life-sapping hug.

I finally wrestled free of him and, looking at the floor with my eyes full of tears, I stumbled out of the bungalow. As the door closed behind me I could hear them all still laughing at this funny, talented, man who was celebrating his birthday, and who was on his way to the top of his professional game at that moment.

And so that’s why I hate Jimmy Fallon. He continues to rise up the ranks in Hollywood and charm people, and to take the moviegoing public’s money and spend it on wonderful things for himself but I know from personal experience that he is a mean person. His friends are mean people too, and I am glad I never got famous and had to suffer the horror of being their friend as well. I am glad walked away from being an actor and a TV writer and failed on purpose because in turn, I succeeded at being a human being. I held on stubbornly to my kindness and my integrity, and I would never, ever in a million years laugh at somebody who came to my birthday party and just wanted to make friends.

I never saw Cheri again after that. I think that night was a kind of litmus test for her to see if I could cut it in the big leagues and I am glad to say, with a sigh of relief, that I can’t. The ten people who were in that room that night can take the big leagues and shove it up their asses.

Patron of the Arts

1798866_10152304887902755_1072442248_nAs my one year blog anniversary draws nigh, I will confess to you, today, why I started this thing.  I used to take an acting class. I’ve talked about the teacher at times on stage.  He figures into a story I often share about my struggles working on Uncle Vanya.  My feelings for this teacher, whom I’ll call Professor, are complicated.  At times, he could be overwhelmingly nurturing and other times he could be mercilessly cruel.

I left his class several years ago, then after a two year absence, I returned.  I think he was disappointed and hurt that I left class initially and when I returned, I never felt like he liked me.  I hope that you are different than me, but I am one of those insecure types that likes for people to like him.  When I returned to class, our every conversation was adversarial or dismissive or academic.  In my early days of class, he had told me how unique and special my instrument was, but after my flight and return, he never said things like that to me.

After I left class the second time, he told a story to his New York class about a student in the LA class who was nothing more than a patron of the arts.  “This student is in his 40s, he calls himself an actor, but he is nothing more than a patron of the arts.  He goes to plays and read books and goes to museums.  He can talk at length about what he reads or sees, but he, himself, is not an artist.  He does not dig deep the way an artist digs.”  And of course, I was that LA student he was talking about.  When I first heard about it, obviously, it hurt my feelings.  Professor often talks about his students, usually derisivlely, in class, often in the victim’s presence, but more often, behind their back.  As perceptive as he is about humanity, he chooses to build his class around his own antagonistic pathology.

But, back to me, this is my story, after all.  What I did love about Professor is that when he said something about me, usually something negative, I was able to look at it and ask myself, if there was truth there.  And of course, always, there was something true, maybe not 100% true, but somehow, as ugly as it was, there was at least a part of it that resonated.  

I am a patron of the arts.  I read books, but don’t write them.  I see plays, but don’t act in them.  I go to art museums, but I don’t paint.  But I am an artist, and that’s not to say that I am a good artist.  This blog is my art, over which I toil.  And I am not attempting histrionics by saying that it’s been mostly failure.  Not one of my posts has “gone viral.”  Most of my posts receive startling few hits.  Many friends have openly told me that they don’t understand why I am doing this.  And, Amy Grant has not retweeted even ONE of my beautiful, complimentary, open-hearted posts that I’ve written about her and repeatedly tweeted to her.   But still, I keep going.

There have been some successes.  I’ve received nice compliments.  I’ve made a couple people laugh, a couple people cry and of course, my holy grail, a couple people laugh through tears. My favorite emotion!  What’s more, I feel I’ve gained something as an artist.  It’s helped my onstage ventures. I am better at writing than when I started.  I think I understand story a little better.   

So, I am glad a low moment inspired me to create Easily Crestfallen.  It’s kind of thrilling to think that hearing something unfavorable about yourself, can open you up to the possibilities.