Give thanks for lessons

Man, who posts over Thanksgiving break (or the two following days)? Not this guy!

I had a lovely time back in the field of Spring for a few days. Now that I'm back in Chicago and had some time to reflect on things, I've realized that, as with most of my vacations and breaks, I learned some valuable lessons. So, without further adieu, I present:

Things I learned over Thanksgiving Break:
  • I really have no right to call it "Thanksgiving Break." Oh really Tim? A break from what? Improv classes and a spotty wireless network? Yeah, rough life you got there. You need a break.

  • Sears is super flaky when it comes to hiring tall people to do promotions. The day after I said I couldn't work on Thanksgiving morning, I got an e-mail that said Sears canceled again, but those people who signed up to work would get $75 just for saying they would. DARN YOU, SEARS!!

  • Scott may completely fail to give blood once, but will pull himself together enough to get it right the second time. (This time, despite his head start, I definitely won. And don't buy his crap about inside vs. outside veins. I kicked his butt while he was flirting with the old nurse.)

  • Playing Loaded Questions with your gramma is hilarious.

  • Playing Imaginiff with Allyn's gramma is equally hilarious. I'm tempted to reveal some of her more surprising answers here, but they would probably just blow your mind.

  • You know, I'm just going to make a blanket statement and say that playing any board game with relatives, especially when there are multiple generations represented, is going to be pretty hilarious.

  • You may think you know my cousin Barry, but you have no idea. First I learn that the guy writes poetry, and last week, I learned he likes to "get jiggy with his bad self" when he hears rap music. Who knew? Not me.

  • Allyn being competitive is funny. Allyn trying (unsucessfully) to dial down her competitiveness is funnier.

  • Trying to find the pieces of the 30-year-old electric knife in the Ryder household is an epic task akin to assembling the Tri-force. The thing probably only sees use once a year and in the interim, gets disassembled to its various components, which are then stored in completely different and non-adjacent drawers. Josh and I are convinced that the only thing that keeps this thing from rusting away to nothing is the turkey grease gleaned from its previous use.

  • Guitar Hero with Josh and Rob is the most fun I've had playing video games in a long time. Thanks a lot, Guitar Hero. I've never wanted a PS2 more because of you. I'm well aware that I'd probably have to buy a new TV just to connect you (the greatest TV of all TVs, currently in my possession, is from the 70's and has not one, but two dials for the channel selection), but I don't care. Come on, high-paying job! Where are you when I need you?

  • "It's punk rock. How hard can it be?" are famous last words when attempting "I Wanna Be Sedated" on Expert level. I saw probably 12 bars of the song and didn't hit a single correct note before being booed off the stage.

  • There are some super-dedicated fans of The Office out there. Thanks to sites like Northern Attack, I learned that not only does Dwight have his own blog, but Pam, Ryan, Toby, Kevin, and Angela are all on MySpace. I'm now seriously considering joining MySpace just so I can be friends of fictional characters on my favorite TV show, because...come on. That's awesome.

  • The Ryder family Christmas tree expedition, despite being moved to a new location, still follows pretty much the same formula. That's comforting, in a way.
It's also just comforting to be home for a few days. Thanks to friends and family for all the good times. Coming up next...adventures in...temping?


TV Guido

Loyal readers may remember my excitement over possibly landing the near-mythical "Sears gig." (Remember that? Three posts ago? Thanks for sticking around, loyal reader.) Well, disappointingly, they scheduled the promo for Thanksgiving morning to coincide with the parade and I will certainly not stick around Chi-town on Thanksgiving just to pass out Sears coupon books and be pimped for my height. No sir.

But since I went out for that open call, I've been added to the distribution list of the company that staffs all of these crazy things. And on Thursday, I actually participated. I chose a great day, as Thursday was one of the coldest days of the season so far, so what better day to stand on street corners and pass out stuff?

It was a TV Guide promotion, so we were passing out 3-D glasses for Monday's special 3-D episode of Medium, as well as coupons for TV Guide subscriptions. Not surprisingly, people were much more interested in the glasses.

I was paired up with a very cool girl named Lyndsay (yes, that's how she spells her name. I checked.) who, coincidentally (not really) is also an improviser, so we had a pretty decent time trying to stay warm. She at least made things fun and helped the day go by faster. It's funny the things that come out of your mouth when you say the same things over and over for hours. And also when your mouth gets frozen shut.

Things we were supposed to say:
  • The New TV Guide is big - get 4 free issues with your trial subscription!
  • Your 3-D glasses for a special episode of NBC's Medium - a special gift from the new BIG TV Guide!
Things we actually said:

Lyndsay: Hey! Watch TV!

Tim: Get your 3-D glasses here! Only with them will Emmy-winner Patricia Arquette actually show some depth! Ha ha! Get it?!

L: Psychic investigations in the third dimension! See what she sees! (to Tim) That's ghosts, right? (to universe at large) See ghosts in 3-D!

T: Get four frissues of the new BIG TV Guide!
L: Frissues?
T: Yeah, that's a new combo term I just invented. Means "free issues." Get four frissues here!

Creepy guy with food on his face: Hey, are you an actor?
Lyndsay: Uh...yes.
Guy: Gotcha!

(This worried us for a little while because we were warned that the client would be sneakily auditing us and trying to catch us saying things that weren't in our script. But then we just decided it was a creepy guy with food on his face.)

Business guy: Oh, I love that show. It's so great to have a show with a female lead that's not some dumb model.
L: Yeah, she's a great psychic lady.

L: Get your three free-D glasses here!
T: You know, that's not technically wrong.

At least two old people berated us for the changes in the new TV Guide, because people who pass out stuff on the street corner obviously have a direct conduit to the decision-makers. But, just in case there are any TV Guide higher-ups reading this, you need to put things in Central Time Zone, because people here haven't learned how to subtract an hour. Also, something about cooking shows and movies from 6 AM to noon. There, now get on it! The public has spoken!


Harry Potter and more awkward bathrooms scenes with Myrtle

Tara snuck her way into the router today and played with some settings. Now, not only are we connecting to a network known as "3406, y'all," but we are also actually connecting to a network. It's quite the revolutionary concept. Ah, Comcast...how quickly I've come to despise you.

I was quite jealous to hear of the Springfield foursome's great times at the midnight showing of Harry Potter. I did not go to a midnight showing because I was
wiped out from standing outside on the streets of Chicago in the blistering cold handing out 3D glasses for the better part of 7 hours. More on that tomorrow.

I decided to catch a matinee this afternoon, because I really don't do anything during the day and thought it would be less crazy. I drove to the theater because it had been a while since I'd taken the Stallion out (the clock was still wrong, for heaven's sakes). Travel time kind of screwed up my chance at the 3:30 (since when does a 3:30 Friday showing sell out? Geez.), but luckily the theater was showing the movie basically every hour. But the 4:30 showing meant one thing.

School's out.

Normally, a kid-filled audience would be very upsetting, but, lacking nearby dedicated geek friends, I was more than happy to share the experience with dedicated kid friends. The PG-13 rating ensured that there would be very few
little kids, and so therefore I enjoyed a pretty silent and cry-free audience*. Besides, it's good to see things through the eyes of a child every now and again. Every New Day and all that.

The movie was, as many of you know by now, awesome. The kids are growing up and growing with their roles pretty nicely. Overall, very enjoyable. In the interest of sharing and conversing and whatnot, I had some questions and comments.

-Did Cho have an Irish accent in the book? If she didn't, she should have. I could have listened to her talk the whole movie. Pity she didn't have more lines. "Careful of the steps, Harry. It's a bit oicy at the top." Sigh...

- Did the students from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang go to school during the year or did they just get the year off? They obviously didn't mix into the Hogwarts classes, but a year seems like a long time to be going to class on a ship/in a carraige. Did they have some empty classes in Hogwarts or what? This may be a middling issue, but I feel education is the key to the future.

- Finally, I decided that watching Harry Potter movies without reading the books is equivalent to watching
Serenity without having ever watched Firefly. Taken on their own, they are enjoyable cinematic experiences, but have nowhere near the emotional resonance. It's just so much more meaningful to know the backstory and the depth of everything - like why it was so hard for Neville to see the Cruciatus curse. (Which they changed, didn't they? It was Bellatrix Lestrange that performed it on his parents, not Barty Crouch, Jr.**)

Anyway, it was great, even the super awkward scenes with overzealous female ghosts. Naughty bits, indeed.

*Except for that little bit that I cried. But that was silent and if there had been a nice girl with me, she would have thought it was sweet.

**Is this post geeky enough yet?***

***No. No, it's not.


Vaguely upsetting

Sorry for the lack of posting lately, but Comcast went completely bonkers over the weekend and my Internet has been fluctuating between middling and non-existent ever since. (I blame Scott's arrival to Chicago.) Believe me, I'd love to post about all of our wacky adventures. I'd also love to BitTorrent my stories, but the only thing working at the moment is wishful thinking.

Also, the Sears gig has been postponed until further notice. Sears is still shooting for sometime this month, but don't hold your breath.

Finally, it's cold and rainy in Chicago. Possible snow today.

I'm not going to say it's depressing, but let's just say I'm really looking forward to Goblet of Fire, for escapism if nothing else.


I hope I get it. Oh God, I hope I get it.

So...I'm pretty tall. Many of you are well aware of this. I've been that way for some time, and while it is occasionally an inconvenience or an irritant, I've made my peace with it.

Yet as I move into this strange world of improv and auditions and whatnot, I'm aware that my above-average height will probably knock me out of the running for a few things. I'm fully prepared to hear "You're absolutely hilarious and fantastic, but you're just too tall," quite a bit (probably without the first bit most often).

So imagine my surprise when my first potential gig demands it.

One of my roommates makes a little money doing promotions for companies. A lot of actors and improvisers in the city make money by passing out samples of FUZE or painting their faces blue and talking on cell phones in the El (I'm not making that up). This is the "guerrilla" or "encounter" marketing you hear about from time to time.

So my roommate told me about an upcoming promotion for Sears that required really tall people. Apparently, Sears was looking for about four people who are 6'5" or taller to pass stuff out downtown. The hook is that we're really big, but we're passing out really little coupon books, but at the same time, encouraging people to wish BIG and get ready for a BIG holiday. Get it? Yeah, I don't either.

So I went in for an "open call" last night that pretty much consisted of a brief interview and then getting measured and having my picture taken. The gig is next week, so I'll let you know what happens.

But now I can say things like, "Oh, I hope I get that Sears gig." Which I think is hilarious.


He's not heavy, he's my brother

Holy crap, it's my brother's birthday! He turns 25 today, so in honor of his quarter-life crisis (and possibly to exacerbate it), here's a bunch of pictures that make him look like a dork!

(Loyal readers may remember that I did this for Raph on his birthday, thus making it a time-honored tradition. Because I've done it twice now.)

Here's Josh in fierce competition with a girl that is much younger than he. If you can't tell, they're trying to hold a quarter between two spoons while squatting with their arms straight out. This is just the kind of thing that happens at church camp. Another thing you might not be able to tell is that he's losing. In fact, that's a big Josh characteristic: frequently loses tests of strength to junior high girls.

I know I've posted this picture before, but I think it's just about the coolest picture even taken. Not just of Josh, but of anyone. Ever. For the story behind the shot, go here.

I don't know who that girl is, but this is an important picture because it represents the Josh Ryder picture-posing philosophy: "Even if everyone else around is smiling nicely, I'm making a silly face." I often hypothesize that this has something to do with how much he sucked as a baby. (Seriously, he was born way premature and things were looking bad for a bit. But he turned out okay and now we just gloss it over by joking that he really sucked as a baby.)

This is an important picture because it illustrates an important attribute of both Josh and Scott. Scott likes to be really creepy in pictures and Josh sweats. A lot. Even if it's not warm. Seriously, it's gross.

This is...oh wait, this is just me stealing a bike. My bad.

I think Josh was going for a Ty Pennington/Randall from Clerks look here, but mostly he just looks like a tool. (This is how we show affection, I swear.)

There's that girl again...weird. Here's Josh in a really sweet car giving English people the bird. Take that, English people!!

So yeah...there it is. Hope you liked your present, brother. This is it. It's all you're getting. So happy birthday! Everybody, go to Josh's blog and tell him happy birthday. He deals with 6th graders all day. He could use the encouragement.

P.S. I highly recommend watching tonight's episode of MADE on MTV at 9:00. It features an extremely ridiculous girl who doesn't know what she wants to be, so she comes to ComedySportz. Seriously. Ridiculous.


"Wow, what kind of drinks do you serve in this place?"

I just had a great weekend with the visiting Josh & Allyn.

During that time, Niles the Cat got sick and not only pooped on the living room floor but also had some weird hairball vomit stuff go on in the kitchen.

Earlier today, my improv class was incredibly tedious and frustrating.

I just got back from seeing MxPx and Relient K, another show I was much too old for.

However, these are all topics for another day.

I simply cannot go another minute without sharing this amazing discovery. It seems the FOX Broadcasting Company, in their infinite wisdom, has decided to do battle with ABC's surprise summer hit "Dancing With the Stars," with their own amazing creation...

...wait for it...

"Skating with Celebrities," airing in Winter of 2006.

Not only will "celebrities" be paired with former Olympic figure skaters to compete in what I'm sure will be fairly atrocious pairs skating competitions, one of the pairs is none other than two-time Olympic medalist Nancy Kerrigan and...

...wait for it again...

Dave Coulier.

Immediately following the premiere, I predict the universe will explode for your enjoyment.


Another improviser in Chicago? Good, we were lacking for them.

It strikes me that I've yet to speak of my improv classes here in Chicago, which is odd as improv is a pretty big reason why I'm here in the first place. I've taking two classes right now:

Second City - Level A: This is the quintessential "So You Want to Improvise" class. There's lots of silly mirroring exercises and much discussion of the principles of improv without actually doing much of it. Not in scenic format, anyway. I just had my third of eight classes a few days ago (this one is on Sunday afternoons) and toward the end of class we did our first real improvised scenes. This is awesome for someone who's never improvised before and is scared to death of it (as some members of my class are, and they're adorable), but a little basic for someone like me who's been improvising for a while. So I scheduled an audition for the Conservatory Program to see if I can get into that. Many of my improviser friends recommended I do this, since it saves time and money, so I thought I'd give it a shot. The teacher is great, though and the class is fun. Just a little slow for my tastes.

ComedySportz - 202: I took 101 last summer during my internship, so I get to rock out in 202 now, which is all scenic improvisation. This class is much more to my liking - no more babying you onto stage, just get out there and let's start making stuff up. My teacher is awesome and my classmates are pretty fun, so we have a good time, doing lots of different character and emotion exercises and learning great ComedySportz games. The best part is that we get a real show at the end of our class, and somehow it worked out that we get the whole show to ourselves (normally, you have to split it with another class). At least that's what they said one week. We'll see. Looks like it's scheduled for Dec. 18 at 4:00 pm, for those of you interested.

Anyway, I have a homework assignment this week. I have to come up with 10 foolproof scene initiations. These are lines of dialogue that set up a scene and give your scene partners some idea who you are, who they are, where you are, and what's going on. Not all of those conditions need to be satisfied in one line - that would be unwieldy and unnatural, but it's get at least a couple of those in there. Something like:

"Okay everybody, listen up! If you all listen to me, you're going to walk out of here a million dollars richer!"


"Your mother and I are very confused, sweetheart. You say it was your teddy bear that killed all those people?"

See! Instant hilarity! Because little girls pinning violent crimes on their stuffed animals = funny! HA HA HA!! ZZZZZzzzzzzz. (I'm stealing bits from Tara now. Take that, Tara.)

Now I'm not asking you to help me do my work. That would be cheating and all of mine would be better than yours anyway. (Need I remind you of the bit with the teddy bear? Eh? EH?!) But I thought it would be fun to open it up to the people at large. So come on, comic geniuses. Hit me with some funny. I know you don't have anything better to do.



Holy crap, Rob. Prussian Blue is like an alternate-reality version of Smoosh. An alternate-reality in which they are brought up by really creepy pro-white people.

So...Halloween, right?


Halloween on Clark Street is lots of fun, because there are lots of bars and silly drunk people in costume. The best line of the weekend was reported to me by Tara, who said she heard some guy yell, "Hey Miller Light Can! Miller Light Can, you dropped your wallet!"

I was helping ComedySportz give away fliers and mini-frisbees on Sunday to little kids in costume. Over on Southport, the merchant corridor gives away candy and tells kids to come by. It was great, because little kids in costume are hilarious.

I decided that day that if I ever have kids, I'm going to dress them up in costume as often as possible. I don't care if it's not Halloween or even anywhere close, some days I'll just say, "Guess what, little guy? Today's a costume day! Go pick one out from your closet!"

Then my kid will be the weird costume kid at school. I'll probably wreck his life, but it's not wrong if it's hilarious.

Cool observed costumes, anyone? Discuss!