Wednesday, November 23, 2011

How I Spend My Saturday Afternoons or How "No Pinot 'til Brooklyn" May Have Changed My Life

I went to a party at Doreen and Steve's house in late summer of 2009. It was a wine party. Steve loves wine. I like wine as does Doreen. But Doreen and I are not lovers of wine.

This, of course, meant that we spent the evening making fun of Steve, the wine*, and the people Steve was trying to impress with his knowledge of wine. One of the people who joined us in our world of mock was Doreen's neighbor Anne. At one point, I don't know why, we came up with the concept of the Beastie Boys being great wine fans. This led me to say, "NO...PINOT...'TIL BROOKLYN!" We all got a nice laugh out of it.

*Inspired by the wine we had already finished drinking.

Later in the evening I was talking to Anne and she said she thought I was pretty funny. She said she was taking improv classes at Second City and thought that was something I should do. I said no, in fact I had never heard of such a thing. Please tell me more. She said she'd been taking classes there on Sunday nights and they were great. They're a lot of fun and she's learned a lot of skills. She said it seemed like something I would like.

So I went home the next day and signed up and I've been doing this ever since! Er, no. If you believe that sentence you don't know me that well. I researched it. I started to register. I stopped. I figured I'd think about it for a while. I started again. Finally I registered in April of 2010. Then I didn't go. And I hawed more. And finally I committed in March of 2011.*

*During this time I wasn't working as I had lost my job in March of 2009. In other words I had NOTHING ELSE TO DO! Stay tuned for more episodes of "Mario Sanchez, Man Of Action!"

To say this is one of the best decisions I've ever made could be considered an understatement. Saturday afternoons have been a riot since last March. Things happen between 1 and 4pm every week that crack me up. I've learned a lot about getting out of my own way. I've learned the basics of improvisational comedy. And I've learned to better trust my instincts. As you may have noticed earlier, I've never trusted my instincts. At least not until after a long internal discussion where I weigh all pros and cons  then act only to find out it's too late to do whatever I decided to do. As you can see, this slow decision making process has served me well (see: Marriage, Failed.)

If I hadn't gone to Improv class I wouldn't know these things - that the worst thing you can do at a funeral is to try to have sex with the deceased; that George can do an amazingly detailed reenactment of a person showering; that we can get Katie to break character by me saying normal things while acting like a crazy person while Ryan relates my psycho inner thoughts; and that Karen and I could spend so much time primping our daughter only for Katie to burst in and ask us why we're spending time dressing up her dead sister. ("She's starting to smell!" "I just Febreezed her yesterday!")

Now I'm in a Level E class, my 5th eight-week course, with an ensemble we call "Unmarked White Van." It's the last in this series of classes at Second City. I'm not sure what this will lead to long term but right now there are a few places it has. We have our Level E show on the Second City e.t.c. stage on Wednesday January 4th at 9pm. Tickets are $5. We're on stage for 45 minutes. It's our third show as an ensemble and I have no doubts it will be our best one.

Also, I'll be appearing in a sketch as part of the The Mary Siewert Scruggs Works By Women Festival 2011 this Friday at Donny's Skybox Theater. The show is at 9pm and tickets are $12. There will be a bunch of five-minute sketches and I'll be in one of them displaying my shortcomings, as it were. That's worth the price of admission in and of itself.

So what took me so long to tell you guys? The answer is I'm a chicken. For instance I didn't tell my family until after my Level C show, which was 24 weeks after I started taking classes. This was mainly because I expected resistance from my mother. I told Alan and Maria (one of my brothers and my sister) before my Level D show. Maria and her husband Dan came to that show. Alan was out of town. I finally told my parents at the end of October which was just after the Level D show.

The conversation went as expected. My Dad seemed pleased. Mom didn't. The conversation that day ended like this:

Dad (to Mom), "One day we might see Mario on Saturday Night Live."
Mom, "No we won't. You know we don't drive anywhere after dark!"

There's an epilogue to this. A number of years ago my mother may have continued to be non-supportive but she's matured in her dotage. After my sister had a talk with her, she called me and asked me more details about the classes. She asked if I was happy doing it and I told her yes. After making sure this didn't interfere with work she said she was glad I was doing it if it made me happy.

And when I called her last Friday to tell her I was going to be in a sketch this Friday she couldn't have sounded more excited.

Tickets for the Mary Scruggs Works By Women Festival can be purchased here.

Tickets for our Level E performance cannot be purchased in advance. You'll just have to show up.


  1. How bout some earlier shows for us old people? 9pm is awfully damn late to heckle.

  2. I'll have to work on doing a show during a geezer time slot.