It’s difficult to believe that sixteen years ago today, with a stomach full of butterflies I reported to 1616 N. Wells with my bestie Kathy for our first class at the venerable Second City’s improv comedy program. Aside from attempting to learn the “rules of improv,” the longest lasting gift it gave me was a new dimension of my friendship with Kathy, as well as shiny new, yet-slightly-wrong-in-the-rightest-way friendship with Alan, Retta and Tina. The A-List.
I’ve written about them before, but like any deep love affair, I can’t help but celebrate this anniversary by waxing philosophic about not only our enduring friendship, but the extraordinary experience it was to get to know them on stage and off. We learned to love to play together on stage in locales from diners to living rooms to funerals to dead hooker alley. Off stage, we congregated across the street at the preferred watering hole and spent on average of three times as much time together there as we did on stage–and our class was three hours long.
These four hold a special place for me as we came together at a time our lives when meeting new friends isn’t very likely. And the freedom of improv certainly made being anything but ourselves incredibly difficult. That in itself might be the nugget of why we all came together. Peeling off any layers of pretense on stage somehow sped up the process of our “friendship dating.” We took countless risks and innumerable leaps of faith together on a weekly basis. Trusting them came easily. And loving them, even easier.
Together we’ve celebrated weddings, births of children, birthdays, anniversaries, and all life’s bountiful moments, as well as supported each other through life’s crueler improv scenes–and not just the horrifying ones we perpetrated on stage. Along with many other loving friends, these four helped me stand, speak, function–and even laugh on occasion–during Ken’s illness. It’s not that they are more special than any of the other wonderful friends in my life, but I guess it was that we met on the same hallowed stage that played host to likes of Mike Myers, Jane Lynch, Steve Carrell, Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Mike Nichols and Elaine May (among many others) that certainly added a unique texture to our relationship.
Of course, we graduated and like any group of school friends, we continued on in our lives–as we should. But when the five us get together, it feels like it did all those (very few) years ago. Finding time to get together isn’t easy and doesn’t happy consistently, but it happens when it can. And we sit around and talk about the same stories of the “glory days.”
And it’s magic. Every time.
Happy anniversary, my friends. I love all of you, and am in awe of each of you.
[Blogger's note: at sixteen years ago, please know that each of us left the DMV with our shiny new licenses and drove to our first class.]