Josh and Failure Vs. The World: Day 1
The failure that looms over me – the failure that haunts me to this day – is the failure I felt when I did not make it into my high school advanced acting class. Compared to all the other failures that have occurred, this may seem like something that’s not a big deal. And that’s because it is not a big deal. I am, however, insane, so here we are.
All through high school, I wanted to get into the advanced acting class – they got to do two extra plays per year, and they were guaranteed roles in both of those plays. And the plays they did were a bit more mature and funny and the plays put on by the rest of us. I remember saying to myself “don’t worry about winning the oscar, don’t worry about trying to make it in Hollywood. Just make it into Advanced Acting – just do that, and the rest will fall into place.” While I was obsessing over this, other people were having sex. I knew about sex. I had read about it. I’d taken the necessary courses on it. I was familiar with the theories – but I never thought I was eligible. Asking me if I had sex would be like asking me when I was joining the NBA.
I worked on my audition pieces for weeks – a Shylock monologue from The Merchant Of Venice – (I got into character by having my own DNA) – and a comedic Dave Berry monologue that I failed to make funny.
I did the audition – I was an over-the-top angry Jew, then I was a sort of middle aged man from Florida aka an over-the-top slightly younger angry Jew. After the audition, the teacher asked me some questions to test my improv skills – the BIGGEST laugh that I got was during this time when I said that I was a virgin. Huge laughs – rolling on the floor laughing. I think it was the answer to a question of why I liked eating cookies – or something to that effect.
I did not make it into the class. I was devastated. The teacher told me that I was too close, in type, to another actor. Which, come to think of it, should be a huge insult to this other actor. I’m glad he never heard about it. She also said I was stiff and choppy. Presumably in my delivery. She said I was “almost there.”
This analysis of me has stayed with me for years. Or, rather, I have allowed this analysis to stay with me for years – I’ve been clinging to it for years. I’ve imprisoned myself within it for years.
I spent so much time sucking up to this teacher, I felt betrayed. And I didn’t treat her too well in the years that followed. And I harbored feelings of ill will towards her. As I harbor feelings of ill will toward any person who criticizes me. (As much as I hate to admit it, because I pride myself on being the victim in all circumstances.)
I totally lost confidence in myself after that. My stage fright got worse. I kept acting, but for years, this failure was hanging over my head.
Stand-up was the first place where I felt like I could be a failure and be ok. Ironically – but all the negative things about myself – all the stiff and choppy – as long as I copped to that, people seemed to like what i was saying.
Even thinking about this right now is making me nervous – “what if I suddenly suck again.” That’s the thought crossing my mind, which tells me that there is a part of me that thinks I’m great, and, that simply has to stop. I can’t think I’m great – that flies in the face of everything I believe in. I need to go walk around the block and rail at the lack of justice in the world.