Remembering Gilda, Second City, and Second Chances

Gilda Radner 1946-1989

While we have the gift of life, it seems to me the only tragedy is to allow part of us to die – whether it is our spirit, our creativity or our glorious uniqueness. Gilda Radner

The year is 1987. I am 22 years old, living in Chicago and sitting in the parking lot of Second City, comedy Mecca for a midwestern gal like me.  All I have to do is get out of my car and walk up to the front door and apply for a job. Simple really, and yet not.

I already have a day job and I talk myself out of going inside.

If I could go sit in the car with my 22-year-old self, I’d drag her through that front door today. I mean, what was I thinking?

Comedy was my dream. I spent years laying on my living room floor in the 70’s, watching Saturday Night Live. I thought Gilda Radner walked on water. I studied every nuance about her and memorized every line, every delivery, every movement. I wanted to be on Saturday Night Live more than I wanted to live. She came up through Second City in Canada, I would do it in Chicago.

By 1983, I had been in a few plays, and was already studying under a professional circus clown. While most of my friends were going off to college, we couldn’t afford a university and my grades were no where close enough for a scholarship. So, I figured I’d spend a year in clown college, three years with the circus and then move to Chicago, audition for Second City, and that would be that. It’s the hard way, I wouldn’t be classically trained, but it would be worth it.

Only that isn’t what happened.

A kid from the wrong side of the tracks,with absolutely no self-esteem wanting to make good in this world, can sell a dream in a heart beat if the bid is right. And it was. Money, security and status pushed those dreams right out of my head, but never out of my heart.

At my mother’s request I put off clown college for two years of business school. Not an unwise decision, I could always fall back on the education if I so chose. I could go to clown college after business school. Only I didn’t. Once I graduated from business school, I moved to Chicago. Clown College was quickly becoming a distant memory.

Sprint Communications offered me my own data room at 22. A data room with computers the size of my refrigerator that process as much information in a week as my boy’s Ipods do in a day. I was making $19,500 in 1987, almost double what my mother made in a year. You can’t survive in Chicago on that, but I did and by 1988, I was making almost $30,000 a year. Triple what my mom used to make.

That’s why I didn’t get out of my car.

 I sold my dream for an IBM mainframe and the prestige of having some feminist group put me in their who’s who of women. I was already making more money than my mother ever did. I thought for sure if I kept this up, I’d finally arrive and feel like I belong. I’d prove to the world that I was somebody.

Little did I know that self-esteem cannot be bought and I already was somebody I just hadn’t met her yet.

to be continued… eventually.

When I feel like it.

Really.

 I’m kinda like that you know.

Never Skip Church to Write Comedy: Just Sayin’

(Added 1/3/11 – Not that I’m neurotic or anything – okay, I am, but that isn’t the point. – While I’m happy you are here – please note that this post is just an off-center offering regarding a glimpse at my strange mind — it’s not about Jim so if you are looking for him – check his web page at www.jimbelushi.ws – really – you will be glad you did. That is the only official page for Jim Belushi – according to his webmaster, Jim is not on Facebook. Correction: Jim is now on Facebook according to his webmaster and you can find it HERE.) – 9/13 Oh and TY Google for screwing up your “tidbits” and making people think  I said THIS (as in my blog) is his page when I said the ws page was.  Okay back to our regularly scheduled post.

I had a dream the other day that I was married to Jim Belushi and I am beside myself over the irony.

It was your typical Sunday afternoon. The guys are watching football on the big screen and I am up in our room writing comedy on my lap top. I am on fire, writing great bits of wit and wisdom.  I must have fallen asleep because the next thing I know, I am no longer in my room but on a sound stage. I look at my teenage son and notice he’s written the letters U and F on his front teeth — he had apparently looked in a mirror while writing his message to the world with a sharpie. Dad (Played by Jim Belushi) enters the kitchen scene and we argue over our son’s newest stunt. I point out that every time he smiles he’s really telling us something obscene, even if it is dyslexic. Dad scratches his head and acts oblivious, I call him a moron – enter canned laughter and I exit the scene.

Off set I place my hand on my chest and proclaim to myself “Yes! I so totally rock as a comedic actress.” Looking back I see a look of shock on Jim’s face. A heaviness settles in my heart and before I can shake it, the scene goes black.

SCENE TWO:

I am in my real bedroom sorting and tossing monstrously huge broken bottles of  conditioner into a trash bag on my bed. My heart is heavy and I am feeling more insecure than I’ve felt in ages, which is saying a lot really. I’m speaking with a brunette mother figure and simply ask her to go get Jim for me, I want to speak to him.

This scene is different, it’s not a set. My confidence is gone and each bottle of hair product I try to throw away is larger and more awkward than the last. I’m lost in that struggle when Jim enters behind me, clears his throat and waves a pillow in my direction to get my attention.

I take a step toward him, only he crosses his arms and so  I stop. I”m a wreck and while he notices that, he does nothing to make me feel better. He simply stares at me for what feels like forever and finally speaks. We are apparently married or something in this dream and Jim definitely has the upper hand in this conversation.

Jim: You wanted something?

Me: yeah. About what I said. I shouldn’t have said that.

Jim: You mean calling me a moron?

Me: (Eyes on the floor) Yes, That. I was wrong. I shouldn’t have said it.

Jim: Do you think I’m a moron?

Me: (Looking up) NO!

Jim: Then why did you say it?

Me: I don’t know.

Jim: (Arms still crossed raises right eye brow.)

Me: (Shuffles feet, starts smoothing my bedspread) – I was trying to be confident and funny. Like you guys. (Personal comment here: Like I’d EVER say that out loud, you know? I’m such a dork in my dreams.)

Jim: So, calling me a moron makes you confident and funny?

Me: yes, I mean No. … sigh.. I was trying to fit in. I’m not like you guys – but I want to be.  (Sit down on bed and stares at floor.) – (Wouldn’t say that one either! Who writes this crud. Oh yeah, I’m dreaming that’s right. sigh)

Jim: (Scratches his head and catches my eyes) — So you don’t think I’m a moron.

Me: No, I don’t. Actually, I think you’re awesome.

Jim: (Arms unfold and hands go in pockets) I see. …Comedy is a tough deal. First thing I’d tell you is to quit trying so hard to fit in. You are better than that and that won’t bring you confidence. People see right through that crap anyway.  Just be yourself. Oh and don’t call me a Moron, it hurts my feelings.

Jim leaves the room and I lay down.

Scene goes black. and I wake up.

It

was

a

dream.

CRAP —

I have to admit this dream kinda shook me up for the rest of the day as well as most of Monday. As a middle-aged woman stepping on stage, entering into yet again another male dominated field – having a dream about Jim Belushi calling me out, is a bit of a neurotic deal, you know? I mean he’s played all the venues I’ve ever dreamed of back when I performed all those years ago – Second City, SNL, Movies, Sitcoms. You name it he’s done it. He’s like the Godfather of comedy.  Okay, maybe that was a stretch, but you know what I mean right?  I used to see him at Cubs games when I lived in Chicago. No I don’t know him. Never met the guy.  Still, he’s fearless and funny and just a regular joe from Chicago and I felt like a five-year old in trouble with Dad in that last scene.

And so I’m stuck with two thoughts:

1. Jim Belushi is either some kind of father figure, my conscience, or God, and I’ve totally lost my mind

AND

2. I’ll never skip church to write comedy again. I’m pretty sure God is messing with me.

I could ask a thousand questions about what does this all mean, why Jim? Why the neuroses? Why can’t I have a cricket for a conscience? Why the conditioner – okay if you’ve seen my hair you get that one.  Question’s won’t help. I still have my set for Yukon to finish editing. I have to look at Jim later — I’m sure there is something about him — that made him come to mind while writing on Sunday — Time will tell. I did delete everything I wrote on Sunday afternoon, — Dream Jim was right, it really wasn’t that good.

For those interested, Mr Belushi is in a new television series called The Defenders which is actually really good. I like it. You cannot turn on a tv without seeing an advertisement for this show, which is probably why he was on my brain to begin with. At least I hope that is the reason and this isn’t going to turn into some Christmas Scrooge thing where I’m visited by comic ghosts of the past, present, and future. That would suck.

(Side note: I did buy his book, Real Men According to Jim, and reviewed it HERE.)