Turtlenecks, Coffee, and Self Doubt

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June 4, 2012 by MM

I’m an actor, nothing else. It’s nice to be able to say that, even if it only lasts for a year. I don’t have to say, “I’m an actor and a copy editor,” or “an actor and an office minion,” or “actor and toy demonstrator.” (True story.) The only “ands” now are “and writer,” or “and comedienne.” And I’m just fine with that.

In high school, when I pictured “being an actor,” I saw myself in New York, living in a quaint little walk-up in the East Village, wearing black turtlenecks and doing “performance pieces” with lots of abstract movement and drama. OH, the drama! I’d spend my days in coffee shops doing character work and actually drinking coffee, and I’d probably wear glasses, even though my vision was perfect.

Back then, I never could have anticipated that today I’d be “just an actor” (writer, commedienne) in Amsterdam. I do live in a quaint little walkup, but it’s not in the East Village, it’s in Waterlooplein, on the Amstel River, on the top two floors of a skinny, charming, old Dutch building tucked so high into the very top that both upstairs and downstairs, the ceilings are slanted. Here, a coffeeshop is an entirely different thing (and I don’t drink coffee anyway). And rather than black turtlenecks and high drama, I’m wearing Mickey Mouse hands or fake boobs and a Dolly Parton wig.

Sometimes I wonder what I’m doing here. Or, rather, if I’m good enough to be here. Sometimes I do shitty improv on stage. But I know I’m here for a reason. For various reasons that maybe I’ll get into sometime, my being here seems… divinely orchestrated. Like something that was truly meant to happen. Plus, it’s one of the few decisions in my life of being a truly abysmal decision maker that was a no-brainer. I didn’t have to think about it even for a minute. I knew I wanted it. I almost never know what I want, but I knew I wanted this. And so, here I am. At the most basic level, I know my purpose with this is to make people laugh. So I try to focus on them, rather than on my own insecurities and concern about what they think of ME. There are only 2 women in our cast of 9 (soon 10), so I’m often the only woman on stage, in a sea of men who are hilarious people and great improvisers. And I feel a tremendous amount of pressure on behalf of all women, to prove to all the idiots out there who think women can’t be funny, that we can. So if the men out-funny me onstage, I feel like I’ve failed not only them, since they have to pick up my slack, but all funny women. It’s a lot of pressure.

But really, all these men have been performing these shows, with each other, for months, and in some cases, years. I’ve been in the country for two weeks. I had never done comedy with any of these people before. So, it’s plain to see that I’m being hard on myself. In every show so far, I’ve made people laugh, and in a few shows, I’ve caused a lot of really big laughs. So I guess I’m doing my job. I’m making people laugh and helping them forget their problems for a couple hours; enhancing their weekend or their business trip or their bachelorette party. And even if sometimes I’m not a rock star on stage, as long as I can do those things, I guess I’m doing what I came for.

High school me would be proud.

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