When I first came on board Hilarity Ensues, I was thrilled. I thought being in Oswego’s only improvisational comedy troupe was the beginning of what I intend to be a long and successful acting career. I also thought the fact that Jesus was in the troupe was a bonus.
It’s been well over a year now, and I’m sure you realize things have not been so good. The enthusiasm that I originally came with has waned considerably, almost completely, and the troupe’s morale in general is at an all-time low. I feel I should elaborate on why.
From the very beginning it was obvious to me that Jesus was not a team player. In my very first performance, Mike and I were doing a scene where a watermelon farmer is returning an eggbeater to a department store. We had the audience in stitches. We owned them. Then Jesus walks offstage to an older woman and heals her ear. We totally lost the crowd after that.
That was my first inkling that Jesus was the kind of improviser that had His own agenda, other players be damned. Usually, with a player like that, you hope that the director reins Him in during the after-show notes. You never did. In fact, that very same night, I recall you defending Him as “the King of Kings,” even though I have more experience, having completed Level 3 classes at Upright Citizens Brigade in New York.
And so we plodded on. Every show was more of the spotlight-stealing same. If Jesus wasn’t inviting the whole audience to the Kingdom of Heaven, He was blessing them, guiding them, or turning pitchers of water into wine-which annoyed the waitresses to no end.
He was even nice to hecklers, which I think encouraged them even more.
Most of us in the group hoped in vain that you would see the light and ask Jesus to tone it down. Every single time, we were rebuffed. It was “Son of God” this or “Messiah” that. In your eyes, He could do no wrong. I know He fixed your uncle’s knee, but separation of personal and professional feelings is paramount here. Hilarity Ensues was supposed to be about the comedy, yet we were dealt one blow after another. Even though He killed nearly every scene, He was “the Savior” in your eyes. And to add insult to injury, you gave Jesus a bio that took up most of the playbill. I was limited to a headshot and a line mentioning my history degree.
I know you consider a packed house to be the hallmark of success, but the people weren’t there for Hilarity Ensues, or for improv comedy at all. They were there for Jesus. Perhaps from a business standpoint it was great-a full house at $10 a pop was not a shabby deal at all-but from a performer’s standpoint it was a disaster.
Did they ever appreciate my adherence to the Tao of Del Close? No. Were they impressed with my lightning wit? No. My repertoire of differently wigged characters? No. They were there to be healed or saved or to personally request that their favorite team win the Super Bowl. I’ll never forget doing my awesome Greek fisherman character with the funny hat and not getting a single laugh because He couldn’t stop ascending in the background.
Improv is a team effort, Tim. When you get a group of talented folks together and put them on stage, you have an amazing, magical experience. But if one of those people is Jesus, I’m sorry to say, all bets are off. Frankly, I think Jesus was the Yoko Ono of Hilarity Ensues, and you were the Lennon.
At this point, I think it’s best that I part ways. I’m certain Oswego is big enough to support two improvisational-comedy troupes, so I’m starting up New and Improv-ed. There are no hard feelings. I hope you’ll come see us.
Premiered on McSweeney’s, 7/29/04.