I get a text from Jay’s assistant. She asked if the call time for the show was 7:30 Chicago Time or LA Time. I replied Chicago time. She said great I will make sure he is on.
About ten min later Jay calls me. I was just starting to put on my makeup and I jumped what felt like was a foot in the air. First thought, he is calling the cancel.
“Angie from Chicago! Is the show 7:30 your time or my time?” “It’s my time” I said. “Well that makes a big fucking difference doesn’t it.”
Now my brain can go a few ways on this one. Full Claudia (don’t want to do that), apologetic speaking fast fan girl sure that she will be hung up on, or cool calm collected. How do you think it went down?
“I’m sorry, I didn’t know if you got text messages and I texted your assistant and I didn’t want to bother you, and I wasn’t sure but we did tag you on Twitter with CST, were you going to RT us because you don’t have to it is not a big deal…(breath)”
“Angie, Angie from Chicago (unintelligible sentence with a Chicago accent).
“That is more of a Wisconsin accent actually,” I said. (note the hints of Claudia in the air).
He said “No it was not. I replied to your Tweet”. “ You did and that was very cute, but you didn’t RT the show,” I said.
“I’ll fucking do it right now. I am pulling in. “ (click)
WTF just happened. Did I just piss him off into a RT? This is either going to be amazing or a disaster. I check Twitter.
I laughed because he had a hashtag. One of the last things he said to me in our first phone call was “I can’t believe I am going to ask you this…do you have a hashtag. Oh my god kill me I can’t believe I said that” he started laughing. I said “No I don’t have a hashtag” Then I did a deep dive on the guy and his branding and hashtag game is on point!
I texted him again “The show is 5:30pm your time :)” this is me once again worrying that I have upset him somehow because I am not a super smooth Hollywood anything. See the sublet…oh my phone just did that U up? I also thought maybe he would find it…funny? Ya, I don’t know. I finished my make up and started setting up my studio. See in actuality if I had to I could likely have the show set up in 30 min top to bottom. Green Screen, Lights, Computers to run the show, software open….go. But I obsess about the show ALL DAY starting around 5pm on Thursday night.
WHAT THE HELL IS THIS SHOW
So if you are following along. I did pitch a few of my clients on doing this kind of show. On Easter me and my family played Jackbox Games Quiplash over Zoom. I had been working on some different remote entertainment ideas for a few clients…mostly Trivia. It is easy to make in general and I found some really great software to customize shows with pictures and such. I had thought maybe we would do a Trivia game I would write about the family. “Who here won’t shut up about Trump on their Facebook page. Is it racist Step Dad or Super Woke Step-Sister”….that kind of thing. But we have a lot of little ones with us now. 5–12 years old. I thought it would be more fun if we did a fill in the blank game. That way the kids could play too. It was a total blast and the next day I was on the phone with all of my clients about it. “We could sell it as an interactive experience. They have a version that can be customized, the content, not logos or anything.” No one was biting. As previously stated I did not think I would ever in a million years want to create and produce a show again. NOOOOOOO sir. But I couldn’t get the idea of this show out of my head. I first did a double text to my gals Mia and Sommer. Both very close friends and performers I always know I can count on. Both of them up for it 100 % we started a three-pronged approach. We have to 1. Write the show, basically, thirty-two prompts 2. Cast it and 3. Figure out how the hell to broadcast it. We gave ourselves the very stupid goal of having the first show in two weeks. Mia is a playwright. Yeah, that is how she actually makes money. She teaches at Northwestern, she writes films and such, but the thing that always blew me away is that she gets paid to write plays. We met after she had been writing and producing plays for 15 years and I had been running and producing Improv and Sketch for about 15 years. But neither of us had ever tried Stand Up. Sommer very similarly is a Meisner teacher. She did edgy theater and had her own Theater company that won awards and shit. But she had never done stand up. The three of us found each other in Cameron Esposito Stand Up 101 class shortly after I had my second child. We stayed friends and co-conspirators ever since. Mia and Sommer both knew a lot more active talent than I did. But the one guy I always got in my pocket. Ladies and Gentlemen, they call him Grande Finale, because after him there aint nobody else. Yes it was MR. MARZ TIMMS.
Marz and I have known each other for as long as I have known my husband. We all three actually met around the same time. I have worked on and off with Marz on projects all 20 years. He is usually who I call first when I have a dumb idea. He and I talked through why we hated Zoom comedy shows, and this time, and all of it. I pitched him the show. It’s all about the comics having a blast together. The audience isn’t even in the room with us. We make each other laugh. And if nothing else we get to forget about this goddam mess of a world. Marzy agreed to do the show. And that is when I knew I had something. He doesn’t just sign on to stuff. Not these days. He is a working road comic and a rising brand. So even for me, an old friend, he is going to double think it. But also I think it was the start of May. We all missed hanging out. Drinks after shows. Bits online. But now it was only bits online.
We did the first show…it was a technical mess. Greg Holliman (our celebrity guest for the night) had his internet go out about 30 min before the show. I made my husband be a contestant with no notice. I was a panic’d mess. And it was the most fun I had had in months…fuck years. Marz dressed in a weird band leader costume, and I last min got Steve Gadlin (who I have also known for years in a MUCH lesser-capacity) to jump on the show the last min. We had a blast and fell in love with each other all over again. Everyone agreed we would do the show again in two weeks.
There is no way I can write a new show each week. We barely squeezed out those 32 prompts. Also they were NOT great prompts. But I really didn’t want this show to be “Watch comedians play Quiplash” it had to be more than that. So I put a call out on the internet.
“Would you like to be part of a virtual writer's room? No pay, but you will get credit. Weekly online show.”
I had 50 people sign up to be writers. I had two Zoom meetings telling them my vision and what they would be writing. I knew, like when you get an intern, you better have shit for them to write. So my first thought was 1. Quips 2. Segments (like desk bits) 3. Social Media…gimme ya tweets baby. That would be enough at least to get them busy. After the meetings on Zoom we had 35 people say they want to be in the writers room. I broke them into a few different groups. Every Wednesday we have a zoom meeting at 3pm and 7pm CST. I took ANYONE that wanted to work on this project. Here is why. Why the fuck not, they want to do it. I have the final say in what goes in. They at least have one or more comedy class under their belt. We are in a Pandemic, give folks something to look forward to.
Yes, I really do think that way, basically all the time. How can I solve the world's problems with my dumb ideas.
HOW WE WRITE THE SHOW
So the show has evolved a bit, and I am so glad for it. So there is our current writer's room. My 3pm Zoom room writes the intermission games, audience challenges, and Quips. My 7pm group is mostly monologue jokes and Quips. Everyone writes Quips. I know if we have about 150 Quips pitched I can easily get 32 good ones. So we start the call by checking in. The writers give me feedback.
(HARD STOP you take notes from your writers? Yes I do. I always want to hear every voice that wants to be heard. And if I don’t agree with the note I say, thanks for that I hear you, then ignore it. It really isn’t that hard to not shit on people’s creativity.)
Then I give the writers any updates, any topics I don’t want to touch for the week (mostly anything having to do with race or charged news topics) then they pitch me ideas. Any ideas. If they want to pitch me a joke cool. New Youtube video for before the show, lets hear it. Have suggestions for Marz’s costume, yes I for sure will not tell him this but I am listening. Then I put them in break out rooms and they get to work. I pop in usually after 30 min and see if they need anything from me. We have one mast “living document” that everyone writes into. It is where I review and build the show from.
And that’s it. Thursday night I might start reading jokes and Quips making a mark next to what I like. Basically all day Friday I obsess about the show, every week. I have never not done this. I really need to stop doing this.
It takes me about an hour to pick all the jokes and Quips I am going to put in the show. Then another hour to update the software, write the master script I will use for everyone’s intros, and updating all the slide show bits for the broadcast. Then it might take me another hour to pick the 15 min of preshow video.
I love doing this. I basically stalk everyone on the show’s social media, writers included. I try to find stuff they made, or stuff they would be embarrassed about (love pulling clips when they are teens if I can find them). But also I want to promote everyone. So sets, shorts, anything as long as it isn’t bad…like really bad. I will take medium talent with all in attitude over extremely talented and a flake any day.
Then for the rest of the day I pace and write bits in my head.
How did we get here? Oh yeah. Jay Mohr.