Four clips are below:
- A newspaper article - Summer 2010
- An interview with music exec John Payne (Q & A style) - Winter 2009
- A how-to blog entry - Summer 2010
- A commentary about Michael Jackson, cultural icon - Fall 2009
By Chanté Griffin
He was not sure how it happened to him. On a stage, in front of a crowd overtaken by laughter, it bit him hard: the performing bug.
Nineteen-year-old Lloyd Ahlquist realized that when he spoke off the cuff, or improvised, people listened, and then they laughed. Their laughter energized him; it egged him on to give them more. So, he said more, and they laughed more, a most symbiotic relationship.
Years later, Ahlquist and his band of 15 brothers perform improv weekly at Santa Monica’s Westside Comedy Theater, as the comedy troupe Mission IMPROVable.
One year into its existence, it is emerging as the premiere place on the Westside to see comedy, learn the art of funny, and is developing into a community of creative performers.
Throughout college, Ahlquist performed improv, discovering how to uncover the funny in life’s most mundane situations. He quickly realized that, like many other collegiate improvisers, he was devoting more time to practicing and performing improvisation than he was to his academic studies.
Accompanied by a few friends also aspiring to pursue careers in improv, Ahlquist dropped out of college and moved to Chicago. Considered the “Mecca of Improv,” Chicago is the home of comedy clubs Second City and Improv Olympic, where comedians Steve Carell and Tina Fey trained.
After spending time honing his improv skills, Ahlquist co-founded the Mission IMPROVable National Touring Company, which now owns the WCT.
WCT newbie and stand-up comedian, Andrew Pelosi, recently enrolled in a stand-up comedy class at the WCT. Pelosi performed at open mics in San Diego, but saw that “it’s not really a culture that really fostered comedy, it wasn’t taken very seriously. It was too limited.”
A towering six-foot-something, Pelosi is buff, tan, and possesses a surf-god studliness. Underneath the surfer exterior is a sharp intellect and a keen sense of what is funny.
Before Pelosi ever set foot on a stage, he studied “all the classic guys,” like Richard Pryor, George Carlin, Bill Cosby, and Redd Foxx. “Carlin and Pryor were geniuses,” he raves. “Their writing wasn’t based on a punch line. Their humor was based on an appreciation of basic life situations.”
Pelosi models his comedy after theirs, and developed his style after dissecting their routines and analyzing their delivery methods. “You just have to look at an ordinary situation and realize that there is humor among us,” he says.
His routines are comprised of stories from his life, including tales of his embarrassing pre-teen battle with scoliosis and failed attempts at getting girls to make-out with him.
“I would love to be able to be the next well known recognized comic, “ Pelosi says, “but it requires patience, honing your craft, getting to know other comics, not feeling like you deserve success right away.”
Semi-short, a little stocky, and balding slightly, Chris Gorbos, co-owner of the theater and member of Mission IMPROVABLE, is a self-described “average” white dude.
When asked about his life as a freelance artist, he laments, “I worked at a t-shirt store for about 11 months and I wanted to kill myself. With jobs like that, you just feel your life draining away. I think, ‘Jesus, I’m never going get this minute back, and I’m holding a t-shirt.’”
Gorbos’ comedic roots originate in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. He started performing improv when his high school hosted a two-day arts festival in lieu of traditional classes. He loved the experience so much that he studied Theatre and Slavic Languages at Northwestern University in Chicago, where he met Ahlquist.
“Arts and education are super duper important,” he explains. Sensing he may have put his foot in his mouth, he continues, “I don’t think they’re important comparatively, though. Lloyd didn’t graduate, but Lloyd is world smart.”
Smart enough to buy and manage a theatre in a thriving metropolis.
Friday nights at the WCT showcase the theater at its best. Hard, loud laughs and claps flow freely through the theater, spilling out onto the alley that cushions it between Santa Monica’s bustling Third Street Promenade and Fourth Street. The night’s line-up of stand-up comedians and improv troupes culminate with a performance by Mission IMPROVABLE.
If it is a packed house, 50 people are crammed into the small black-box theatre, which smells like a mixture of cheap beer and Charles Shaw wine. There is no bar, but the B.Y.O.B. rule is supported enthusiastically by patrons and promoters.
At show time, the theatre goes black. The Mission Impossible movie music begins, “Dun, dun, dun, dun, dun, dun, dun, dun, dun,…” Red lights flash. Five men run onto the stage, a burst of energy. “This mission will begin in 5-4-3-2-1!”
“We’re going to take all of your suggestions and spin them into comedic gold,” one agent promises the audience, in describing improv. And they do. Every Friday night in Santa Monica and in every city they tour.
Is dropping out of college generally a bad idea? Probably.
Was Lloyd’s decision to drop out a good one? Stop by Mission IMPROVable’s Westside Comedy Theater one Friday night to see for yourself.
M.i.’s Westside Comedy Theater
1323-A Third Street Promenade
Santa Monica, CA 90401
Show Prices: Free-$10
A few months ago, I landed an awesome new job to supplement my freelance work. Here are some tips that I learned during my search.
The Top 5 Ways to NOT Find a Job
5) Keep your same résumé. Don’t revise it and don’t get help revising it.
Most résumés can almost always be improved. Do you need more active verbs? Do you need to include results? Has terminology in your field changed? A tune-up in your résumé can lead to an increase in your calls for interviews. Have a trusted friend, maybe one who works in H.R., give you some feedback. Or, do a Google search. There’s lot of information online.
4) Look most days, not every day, and only once a day.
You should be looking for a job everyday, or at least every workday, multiple times a day. You should search at 8am, 9am, 10 am and at the end of the day, especially on Mondays and Fridays, when employers are more apt to post.
Now, I do realize that it can get discouraging to look day after day, and even hour after hour, with little or no results. However, you can’t catch a salmon if you ain’t fishin. Start your day with your job search, spend the afternoon doing other things (cleaning, exercising), and then come back to it before 5pm.
3) Be embarrassed that you’re looking for a job and don’t tell your family and friends that you’re searching.
A year ago, one of my friends, John, emailed me and everyone else he knew asking for leads about job openings. His wife said that it was humbling for him to admit to everyone that he was unemployed, but it paid off. One person, whom he had met years before, wrote a one page glowing recommendation for John to his boss. His boss was so impressed with the letter that he hired John, even though the company didn’t have any job openings at the time. John has been there for more than a year, and he recently got a promotion.
2) Stay home. Don’t network.
People are more likely to do business with people they’ve met before. You should be networking at events in your field, your prospective field, and at local chamber of commerce events. You could even network at sports bars. Talk about the Lakers, make some friends, and pass out your business cards. Get creative, and get out there! My former pastor used to say that if you’re unemployed, then you should keep your résumés in your car cause you never know whom you’re gonna meet.
Finally, the top way to not get a job is to:
1) Believe that you won't find one.
Actions follow beliefs. So, if you’ve given up hope that you will find a job, then you probably won’t. You won’t because you’ll stop looking, or you’ll look halfheartedly and inconsistently. And in this market, that just won’t cut it.
If you’ve been searching for months (or years) with no interviews, a few interviews, or several, but no job offers, you could be tempted to believe that this is how it’ll be until the recession is over. You might be tempted to believe that there just aren’t enough jobs out there—that there are too many lay-offs, no new jobs, and too many job seekers. And while there are obstacles--more obstacles than there have been in recent years--employers are hiring every day. Hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs are posted just on Los Angeles’ Craiglist every day. And there’s Monster, Hot Jobs, Cal Jobs, Job Central, and many more agencies publicizing job openings.
So don’t be discouraged. There is hope. One of my good friends got a new part-time job (to add to her other part-time job) last week. She lost her job last year, and is doing whatever it takes to make it financially. If you’re feeling discouraged, take a moment to pray, meditate, or do something that reminds you that there is reason to hope.
Next week, I’ll share some of the things that I did to land my fabulous new job. Stay tuned!
The Loved One
Like most people, I was a Michael Jackson fan, but unlike most, I shared a birthday with the late pop star. Michael was born on August 29, 1958, and twenty years to the date, I was born. I felt so connected to Michael that for years I was convinced that I was the Pretty Young Thang he was singing about, even though I was only six-years-old when the song debuted.
When I first heard the news of Michael’s passing, I thought I was being punk’d. Seriously. It didn’t matter that I’m not famous and that Ashton Kutcher has never heard of me. I was being punk’d, lied to, bamboozled. I was sure of it. After all, I was sitting in a talent agent’s office and the two people telling me the news were actors, so it was fairly easy for me to convince myself that they were playing a practical joke on me. Yes, I convinced myself that two strangers had conspired to trick me for no apparent reason. That felt more believable than the awful news they brought.
When my mother confirmed the news a few minutes later, I realized that I wasn’t the target of some new hidden camera show. I was the victim of something much worse—grief, for Michael’s death felt strangely personal.
I don’t know why it hit me so hard. Not sure why it took three weeks for me to feel that I was in fact living in reality, and not some poorly plotted reality show. Although fifty-years-old, Michael seemed to be on top of the world, more untouchable than Hammer, more indestructible than the Man of Steel himself. When he sang, I listened, when he danced, I marveled, and when he sang, “I’ll be there,” I believed that he would be—always.
He wasn’t just the King of Pop. He was the King of music, the consummate entertainer, a trailblazing performer who shattered records and raised the bar until he became the bar. He was Michael Jackson, known simply as “M.J.”
M.J.’s music was magical. It had a way of drowning out everything else, even if only for 3:53. When you were listening to M.J., all that mattered was the driving beat and the accompanying movement in your pelvis. You danced to Thriller alongside perfect strangers, declared that Billie Jean was not your lover, and grabbed your crotch like it was socially acceptable.
When you were dancing to Michael, you felt gooooood. You felt the music inside of your body, feeling that the only way to express it was to dance and sing at the top of your lungs. And it didn’t matter if you looked good or sounded good cause the person next to you was singing louder than you. When you were listening to Michael, all that mattered was the music, and it like it was right inside of you, where it was meant to be.
Michael was everything we longed to be. He was, first and foremost, a cultural revolutionary—influencing industries from music to fashion, individuals from Britney Spears to Russell Simmons, and cultures from Motown to Moscow. Who else could turn “Shamone” into a word and create a language composed entirely of screams and grunts that people worldwide recited?
Additionally, Michael possessed a raw talent that was awe-inspiring. While a boy, he sang his way into our hearts with his youthful, soulful voice. As a young man, he moon walked his way into our collective soul with his timeless lyrics and pulsating music. A full-grown man, he declared “I’m bad!” and we replied, “You know it!”
He was—simply put—the best. And who among us hasn’t wanted to be that?
But within his success laid his demise. Fame’s favorite son, he became fame’s prisoner—first enthralled by her, then held captive by her, and finally choked by her.
And while I claim to know neither the inner workings of Michael Jackson nor the world in which he inhabited, I believe that he died years before his physical death on June 25, 2009.
Perhaps his death began with his first plastic surgery.
Or maybe a part of him died the first time that he wore a disguise in public so that he could feel “normal.”
It’s possible that he died when he essentially created his own city, Neverland Ranch, where play was supreme and Michael attempted the impossible—to regain a lost childhood.
Some believe that a part of Michael died when he was accused of child molestation, which resulted in him vowing never to live in Neverland again.
Or perhaps his very public divorce from Lisa Marie Presley killed him?
One could argue that Michael died the first time that he took a prescription drug, whether he needed it or not.
What is for sure is that Michael’s death was unexpected, tragic, and mourned by the masses.
Michael overdosed on a life filled with excess: excessive fame, excessive money, and excessive access; he could buy any material thing that he wanted. But what he seemed to want the most—inner peace—seemed to evade him.
The various plastic surgeries didn’t bring it; neither did the million-dollar shopping sprees. Even the world that he built for himself didn’t provide the sense of security for which he seemed to be searching. He never got enough, so he never stopped. He died, still dancing, although his half-of-a-century-old frame couldn’t endure the intensity of another tour. We wanted more. He wanted to give us more. His finances suggested he needed to give us more. But he couldn’t.
Although the details of his death remain unclear, what is clear is that we never really understood Michael. Fame’s veil separated us.