I’m not using that 12-step addage correctly but I needed a snappy title.
David Arquette (and even his wife Courtney Cox) was one reason why I didn’t pack up my bags and quit comedy.
Years ago, before the UCB Theatre became my 2nd residence, I had limited places to perform and I was in down period of my act. The imitating my mom thing started to become sad, I don’t do dating material, I was not back in therapy yet and I really wasn’t living my life. I had some routines that I liked doing, about fear of zombies and working some sad jobs but I just came off as…a loser…there was not enough distance between real Jen and stage Jen. There wasn’t a stage Jen, just a real Jen, who was upset on stage.
Then I got slapped with this crazy dental shit that I had to do and I didn’t have the $$, and that’s what I had a day job for, MONEY. But I didn’t make enough to really have thousands of dollars for dental work. I was just sick of it all. I was pretty sure I was going to move back to Boston and give up for a while and then maybe try to make a show about how I gave up or something….ugh.
I was performing at this West Hollywood, sparesly attended club and people dug me there but it wasn’t enough and the place was closing. I was getting regular spots at the Improv which was fucking with my head and usually ended up reading the menu angrily to the audience or hiding under the piano on stage. I was not getting many spots at a popular MBar show and I was not embraced the way that I felt I was when I first got to L.A. six years ago and was doing Largo regularly and getting laughs.
I felt like I’d hit a wall and I spent many nights in the fetal position, crying, a la Tom Hanks in “Big” when he’s the little boy who has a scary, lonely apartment in the city.
Then I got a call that I had an audition for some pilot that Courtney Cox and David Arquette were producing. Some girl I had done one comedy show with once 5 years ago, remembered me and somehow had my number. I show up at the audition, which I was told was like a Daily Show type show (what isn’t?) and I got there and there was a script, sort of, and I sat in the lobby waiting to go audition for the casting director and a video camera. That’s usually how it goes on Round One of auditions.
To my surprise, I walked in and there were David and Courtney in chairs smiling and waving. Then David, instead of the casting director or an assistant, gave met he rundown on what I was to do. He asked me to ditch the script and just improvise. “Improvise what?” I asked. He said, “Political humor.” I had nothing. I did have a new joke about Kerry losing the election which I likened to destroying me in the same way that my first L.A. breakup did and I subsequently maybe went too deep into my psyche for audiences to ever laugh…but that was the closest I had to ‘political humor.’
So I figured that I had nothing to lose and I sat there while Monica from Friends nodded expectantly and I sat down on a chair and at eye level with these two, did a stand-up routine that had only ever bombed, and I said it to them intimately, in a way that would not be acceptable to do in conversation normally. They laughed and laughed. They clapped and laughed. David did some thing where he picked his legs and giggled into his fist, just like Arsenio Hall used to do. I felt invigorated and kept going. When it was over, they said, “Wow!” and told me not to leave.
I spent the day in that lobby going in and out of the room, as they were doing 2nd, and 3rd callbacks continuously all throughout the day. It got to the point where I walked into the room and was greeted with, “Yay!”
Now, I know that they are not particularly comedy snobs. I know that they are L.A. people who have an instinct more embedded in them than that of survival…to have people like them. Of course they have to laugh and smile at me, they can’t have awkwardness. But it didn’t matter. Even if it was for the wrong reasons, two people, were laughing at me. Another funny lady comedian friend of mine got very far in this process too and we both didn’t get it…it went to another funny lady who was a tad older (sorry, had to throw that in.) Ultimately the pilot went haywire due to some scandalous situations with the writers and then I think the whole thing ended in a lawsuit.
Bottom line is, no matter how horrible people tell me that CC is, I don’t care. When I needed it most, when not even my family was encouraging me to continue comedy, when my friends coulnd’t really prop me up because they had their own shit to worry about (you know when people say, “At least you get booked at clubs…” instead of allowing you to freak out about the fact that you can’t stop bombing and are really unhappy) and before I met Neil, it was just some slim, lonely times
Going back to work and sitting at my desk, I kept thinking, “Well, Tina down the hall in advertising didn’t just have David Arquette giggling into his fist on her lunch hour. It’s pretty cool how things can come up on the drive to work.
And every time I bombed on stage, which happened for another 8 months, until the results of therapy kicked in, I would just think to myself, “Pretend the audience is full of Cox-Arquette’s, eager to laugh.” and it would calm me down. And when no one laughed still, I’d think, “I just have to find a couple hundred more David Arquette types to laugh at me.”
Again, I know they laughed because they are also an out of touch Hollywood couple who maybe never has seen live stand-up comedy and anyone saying anything personal, seems so unusual to them that they laugh in that moment of honesty and their whole public life is built on keeping people away and my whole thing is built on bringing people in and I think that dynamic as I sat there confessing to them, was just a weird, unique moment, which I realized is one kind of cool thing about L.A. which would not have happened if I had moved home to live with my parents.