Regular readers know that I played a small part in a live table-read with Janeane Garofalo this week.
So I met Ms. Garofalo properly. She’s a remarkable person. In public interviews she says that she struggles with anxiety and social interaction. I’m sure this is true. But you’d never know it. She makes conversation with such an easy, unaffected bearing. And she talks to complete nobodies (i.e. me) with full attention, and an apparent real desire to connect. We discussed nothing of consequence: cigarettes, New Jersey, the London borough of Hackney. But throughout, I had to keep noticing: “wow. This person is very giving in this conversation, despite us only knowing each other for a few minutes”. This quality must be difficult to cultivate, since few have it. And it must be even harder to maintain after a career spent largely on the brightest stages of the entertainment industry, where every conversation could – at any moment – dump a request, or a project, or “this script you’d be perfect for” into your life.
The table read was fun. The premise for the show was “Not Suitable for TV”: television writers presented scripts, jokes, bits etc. that had – for whatever reason – been rejected from production. Garofalo read the lead role in Dr. Princess Lawyer, and animated pilot in which a Princess is both a successful attorney and ER surgeon. It was actually very funny. As a British person, I of course played my typical roles: narrator and butler.
These were the good parts of the evening.
The bad parts weren’t so fun. And they mostly took place inside my head. Once again I struggled with jealousy and bitterness. It’s like my brain is a lush jungle of negativity. I hack away at the creeping vines of resentment with my self-belief machete, but they grow back with remarkable speed. The night’s performers were all working, respected TV writers – something I aspire to be. They were all reading “bad” stuff that had been rejected, but the fact remained: they were all successful people. Part of me bristled at that. Like the whole show was a giant “meta-humblebrag” designed to make me – and me specifically – feel like a failure. It was total nonsense. Yet my brain thought it.
Also, one of the performers and I shared weird personal history. We were classmates together in my very first 101-level UCB improv class, way back in March 2009. Back then I was in a deep depression, and comedy was the only thing I could cling to. Fast-forward six years from that point. This person writes for a nationally-known TV show. The success of their career seems assured. I still feel like I’ve barely made a dent on this world. I sat in the back of the room and festered while this person performed, semi-ruining my earlier interaction with Ms. Garofalo.
I did this to myself. Me. No one else. I’m writing this experience down as a reminder to my brain: no one can make you feel bad without your permission. I gave that permission, and unsurprisingly, I had a crappy time because of it. Let’s try to get out of that habit, OK?