When I was twenty-two, my brother John and I created what turned out to be a sketch comedy show called The American Basement Review. I say turned out to be because when I booked us for a full night at a little art house called AS220 all I knew was that we would have the stage to ourselves for about two hours. So John and I sat ourselves down and asked, “What could two guys do on a stage that people would enjoy?” The answer was our first effort, which was not very good at all. There was one actual comedy sketch, and my brother did some stand-up that was good, but half the show was a long dramatic bit about a poet (me) who commits suicide. What I remember most about the suicidal poet was that at one point I forgot my lines, so I let myself sit there and think, “What’s my next line?” which according to a friend was the most powerful moment in the piece.
Despite the slap-dashery with which the show was put together, we had a full house and people sort of liked it, by which I mean they laughed at the stuff that was funny and did their best with the stuff that needed work. No one booed. No one demanded their money back. So we decided to do it again. We dumped the suicidal poet and added more sketches. This went even better. And so we did it again. Eventually we found a great piano player to round out our cast and then a guy who did lighting for us.
To say that we had no idea what we were doing when we started would be only the slightest overstatement. Fortunately, us not knowing what the show was, or even how to write and produce theater did not prevent us from starting anyway. I reflected on this one night in my young mind. “If I had known somehow all that would be required of us, and all that we would have to improve upon, and all that we would have to learn before I began, I don’t think I would have done it.” All I knew was that I enjoyed entertaining people, that I enjoyed making them laugh and think and wonder. Apparently that was enough.
Write Within Yourself: An Author's Companion. "A book to keep nearby whenever your writer's spirit needs feeding." Deb Caletti.