That’s Not My Name

The Groundlings School in West Hollywood

Groundlings has begun! The first day is always the worst, because as if improv isn’t scary enough, doing it in front a bunch of strangers is the most daunting thing ever. I’m not in the right state of mind to start classes today. I worked long hours this weekend and then did the commercial yesterday and I just feel like I could fall asleep standing up. This is not at all how I want things to start.

So I arrive early. I’m actually the first one in the lobby. Park myself on a bench and rest my eyes, listening to a real improv group through the double doors ahead of me. They sound funny. Professional. Like they know what they’re doing. This is that, ‘What the hell am I doing here?’ moment. Others trickle in and I know these are my classmates. Then my teacher enters the lobby. He’s very friendly, loud, and making jokes. I actually think he says good morning and no one responds. We make our way across the street to another building that is also Groundlings. I’m tired, but nervous. Not a good combination. There are chairs facing ahead and we all sit down. I take a back seat. My teacher introduces himself – Jay Lay. The first thing he does is curse. “God, I’m already cursing. I hope that doesn’t offend anybody.” No response. “OK, good, because I don’t fucking care.” And now I love him. He’s fucking awesome.
“OK, everybody up.” Shake out the nervousness and form a circle. Jay can’t remember names (as most people can’t), and has us go around the circle to come up with a pneumonic device for our name. Ex: Jazzy Jay. (That’s definitely not what Jay uses for himself, but I can’t remember, because I’m like three weeks behind on my blog.) I do remember that he immediately points to me and says, “you start.” Fuck. I need time. Ummmm, Lunatic Lindsay? What? Why? So everyone says in unison my new name: “Hi, Lunatic Lindsay.” Awesome. We go around the room – Apple-eating Amy, Roast Beef Ryan, Traveling Teddy, Crazy Caroline, and so forth. I’m getting more and more mad at myself for not coming up with something better. Uh, hello, Lefty Lindsay? Lucky, Little, Loud, Laughing? We are about half way around the circle when we reach a guy with long dark messy hair and tan skin. He’s from Venice, obviously. We’re supposed to say a fun fact about ourselves first, before we give our new name. This guy says he has a Lemon car, and it sucks. (I didn’t even know what this meant, but it’s a new car that is found defective only after it’s been bought.) Weird fun fact, but OK. And your name? “Ummm, Jello? Jackson?” Jay doesn’t believe him. “You don’t even like jello, do you?” “No.” OK, let’s come up with something different. So what kind of car do you have?” “A jeep.” Wow. Dude, really? Yes. This is Jackson – Jeep Jackson. He’s hilarious.

Even though today is an introduction, get-to-know-each-other-day, it’s a productive one. We do a couple exercises where I don’t want to get up in front of the class but feel invigorated after I do. And embarrassed. I always feel dumb, but I need to throw self-consciousness out the window if I’m ever going to succeed.

I leave class pumped up. Dead tired, but love my classmates and can’t wait to really get started. Already feel like this is a “safe” place. And that’s all I need in improv. Have I mentioned I love Jay Lay? He’s amazing.

*The Ting Tings

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