How to Tell Dad You’re an Improviser

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Father’s day is Sunday, and the best gift you can give your dad is the hope that some day you will stop asking him to borrow money.

Unfortunately, you are the black sheep of the family, the “creative one,” the one who’s BA in Theatre Arts perfectly prepared her for a barista career and to use perfect diction when on the phone with student loan agencies. So your dad may be feeling a little hopeless about your prospects for future financial solvency. 

Based on my personal experience, here are some helpful tips for talking to your dad about  your life choice to become an improviser.

Use the word “comedian.” 

As far as Dad is concerned, “being an improviser” isn’t a real job because there’s no way to make money from it. But actors, writers and comedians make money, and if you’re a good improviser you’re probably one of those things too. And your dad actually knows what those things are! So choose one of those words to use when talking to your dad. Mention Kevin Hart, he makes a lot of money… My dad loves Kevin Hart.

Don’t underestimate your dad’s appreciation for the cool factor. 

Being a comedian is cool. You staying committed to improv is like a do-over for his decision to leave that awesome rock band he and his friends were in when he was young-ish. And, because he left that amazing rock band and settled down and created a secure future for you, you get to stay in your “rock band” and have your ramen days with solid parental back up.  And now he gets to tell his dad friends how much cooler you are than their kids. And every now and then you’ll be in a funny national commercial* for a discount product and his friends will see it and they will know that he raised the coolest kid. And that will make him proud. 

*The rock band my dad was in with his friends was The Gap Band… so pretty much only national commercials impress him. This step will be a lot easier for you and your dad. Just be the best dressed person in a show you invite him to. 

Print out several articles about the recession and how job security doesn’t exist anymore.

Everyone in America is going to be broke forever anyway, shouldn’t we at least be broke and happy instead of broke and depressed in a cubicle? Besides, being a comedian provides the ultimate job security. No one can fire you from being  a comedian. Sure, you will get paid sometimes… and not sometimes. Some gigs you will do for money, some for love, some to meet a hot guy. But you will always be a comedian. Tell him that no one can take your unique view of the world away from you, and that you can always create your own opportunities. But be careful, because now my dad is saying he’s going to buy a camera and write a sitcom for me to be in… which, since he doesn’t know how to use a camera or Final Draft, is, a horrible idea, but he’s offering me a series regular role, so that’s hard to turn down. Opportunity is everywhere!

If all else fails, emphasize how hard comedy is. 

Always soul searching trying to become a better listener, more empathic, open-minded, and observant of the human experience is hard work. Don’t mention the half-priced beers. Mention trying to find funny ways to explain privilege to white people. Mention trying to figure out how to be “cute enough” to get cast, but not “too cute to be funny” or “gross-looking.” Mention all the rejection. My dad went from “Comedy is a stupid hobby” to “How dare that idiot producer not know that you are the the funniest?! Do you want me to call them?!” in a heartbeat when he saw how hard I was working. I’m lucky. Because my dad loves me, he thinks anything I am working hard on I must be the best at.

It makes it a lot easier to stick around in this business if at least one person thinks you’re the best.  And if your dad is anything like mine, he believes in you, wants you to succeed, and then stop asking him for money.

Let me know if you want to audition for my dad’s sitcom… it probably takes place in a black church.

Ashley Nicole Black dropped out of her Ph.D. program to focus on comedy. You can follow her @ashleyn1cole.

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