Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Fall Caller

I remember my first acting class like it was yesterday. I was 11 years old. My best friend at the time, Jenny Hoen and I asked our parents to let us take class together at the Civic Theatre in Orlando because we had seen the fabulous plays they put on there. I remember being really nervous because up until that point I had been strictly a dancer. My mother had me enrolled in all kinds of dance classes from the age of three. And although I always had and always will love to dance, in that little acting class, I found what I was really meant to do. I was born to make 'em laugh.

One of our assignments was to make a commercial of either a new product or a parody of a product that already exists. Many of you will remember the, "I've fallen, and I can't get up," commercials. If you are not familiar, it was a commercial that seemed to run for years and years which depicted a sweet old lady who now had independance and freedom because of a little button, that looked much like an electronic garage door opener that she wore around her neck. You see the "before" shot where this sweet little old lady falls down helplessly and says, "Help me! I've fallen, and I can't get up!" Then, she falls again after obtaining the product (which now I can't remember the proper name of) and simply has to press the button on her necklace and the paramedics come to help her.

Jenny, a fiery red head with adorable freckles, and I decide to make a parody commercial of this product. We came up with the "Fall Caller," which was actually an entire wall telephone that you would see hanging in the kitchen in the late 80's strapped around my chest. I donned my grandmothers housecoat, a grey wig and glasses and a huge wall phone strapped around my 70 pound lanky 11 year old frame. Jenny took on the pivotal role of "narrator/salesperson." Our commercial was so good it got chosen to be in our final class showcase.

We performed it at the showcase to uproarious laughter, and I don't want to brag, but it was the best thing in that showcase. I was a hit! I just remember hearing the laughter when I hobbled across the stage as a little old lady, fell down, and picked up the reciever and dialed the paramedics on my Fall Caller. I was addicted from that moment on. Nothing made me feel better then making people laugh.

I'm not an overconfident person, in fact, I'd say I'm fairly insecure about a lot of things but I do feel like comedy is a gift I was given. And I don't feel like it's a frivolous gift. My mother made me realize this when I was in college playing a Betty Boop type character, Ginger Brooks, in 1940's Radio Hour. We were 2 weeks away from opening the show and we all got pulled from class to the student center where we watched 2 planes fly into the Twin Towers. Everyone in America was devastated. I was on the phone with my mother and I said, "This is the first time I feel like what I want to do with my life is just silly. Peoples lives are devastated and I'm supposed to get on stage and play this goofy floosy in this show. It's going to be awful!" My mother, who is one of the most compassionate, caring people I know said, "I always had wanted you to be a nurse like me, but I realized early on that that wasn't what you wanted to do. But I you did follow in my footsteps. You heal people, too. You make them laugh and lift their spirits. This is the time when people really need that. They need an escape." That ended up being one of my favorite productions that I have ever been a part of. When the crowds rolled in, and the audience laughed at every punchline, I realized she was right.

Comedy also helps me cope with hardship myself. When I was going through "the breast cancer scare" recently, I was giving my friends heart attacks with all the jokes I was cracking at my own expense. And when I awkwardly threw my exam room cover up "cape" over my shoulder before my umpteenth mammogram and told the technician, "Oh! I feel like a bullfighter," I realized that my sense of humor helped me, most of all, to distract myself from reality. Otherwise, it's just too easy for my sensitive nature to pull me into a dark, sad place. However, I have found that a lot of people in the medical field don't share my sense of humor, and tend to either ignore my comments or look at me like, "How can you make jokes while your face down, layed out on a table with your boob pulled through a hole, in a vice with a needle the size of a McDonalds straw in it?"

I guess it's because I'd just rather laugh. Life is short.

Do me a favor, the next time you think the world is over, or it's the worst day of your life, or nothing is going right, find the funny. I bet that even when you think you can't, that it's impossible . . . you can. Something funny is always lurking in the misery. And even if you are laughing through tears or screams of rage, you'll feel better! I promise!

1 comment:

  1. I've seen your talent for making people laugh first hand, and I agree with your mom 100%! You have a tremendous gift. And now, you can add "awesome writer" to that list as well! Great post, Erin!