Some of my favorite memories growing up include me standing in my grandmother’s kitchen with the rest of my extended family crowded around the kitchen table as I did improvised sketches, sang songs, and used different voices with a stuffed animal lovingly named “Mooey” as my captive audience laughed so hard tears were rolling down their faces.
Looking back as an actor, this scene makes perfect sense to me, and one might say “Oh, well you were just destined to be an actor.” At the time I would have scoffed at the idea. As a child and all through my teenage years, I just always enjoyed making the people I loved laugh and well…I enjoyed being showered with attention.
At the time I didn’t realize I was “improvising” or “engaging an audience.” I just knew that I was doing something that I loved.
I remember in high school my sophomore or junior year I was after school in drama club and instead of rehearsing we were going to try something new. Apparently, we were going to do improv. “EW. What the HELL is improv?” I thought…sullenly, to myself. “I’m gonna sit here and avoid going up.”
Well, I watched a few fellow students go up there and basically with a set of circumstances, run a scene off the cuff, by the seat of their pants. Our drama teacher turned, looked at me, and said, “Okay, Casey, get up there.” I felt so stereotypically nervous and unwilling, but I begrudgingly stood up and slowly made my way to the front of the room.
I did a scene. I reacted, I said things and people were laughing. They were laughing a lot. I was confused. I was just doing what I thought was natural and would make sense to keep the scene going as well as interesting. My drama club advisor pulled me aside and looked me deeply (melodramatically would be a better word) and said, “Yes. Bring more of THAT to the stage.” WHAT? Bring more of WHAT to the stage?
It wasn’t until later on in my college years, training as a professional actor, that I realized that I was good at improvisation. I was good at being funny? It took me awhile to grasp the idea. Comedy always seemed to be something one had to work at really hard. “Comedy is SO much harder than drama,” I was always told. Oh.
Actually, I would say it’s taken me awhile to grasp still. In January, I went to a showcase audition for 10 different agencies and 7 of the 10 feedback forms said things like “funny!” “Cute!” “great comedic timing.” I still can’t believe that within a 5 minute window of performing commercial copy, singing a parodied song, speaking in french, and using a character voice, they were able to size me up into the word FUNNY. Okay, I guess that is kind of an interesting, dare I say funny? combination of elements to bring into an audition room, but I guess it’s taken me awhile to know something about myself that has always been apparent to others who I have known me for a long time. Or…five minutes.
But where would I have been without my family? I was only able to do improv and sing and be goofy and imaginative because I had people around me who have always supported me and laughed and made me feel like I was doing something right. I just didn’t have a name for it.
Eric Hill, who used to be the director of our theatre program at UCONN always used to say , “You’re either an actor or you’re not.” That might be true, and maybe I would have discovered this artistic talent in other ways, but I believe that the building blocks all began with my family.
Even my sister used to make music videos, shorts, and fake commercials with me growing up when we were bored. Obviously, she had some sort of faith in me, or at the very least thought I was somewhat amusing growing up. Right? Not just because I’m the older sister, right? RIGHT?
I even made a video with her on top of the Empire State Building on Monday. Hopefully that’s not illegal. Guess we’ll find out.
Anyway, Thanks Family. At least YOU guys think I’m funny. Or pretend that I am.