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1/17/2007

Obsession with TV Weathermen and Other Ramblings

On the way home from work last night I stopped by Jewel to pick up some orange juice.  It was just before close and all of the self check-out lanes were shut down so I went to the only open register in the store.  The cashier and bagger/manager type person were enamored with the tall, slender and attractive (for a woman) woman who had just purchased a basketful of items before me.  As I paid for my oj, they asked "you know who that is, right?"  I had no clue, and quite frankly, didn't care; but that didn't stop them from telling me that she was local television news anchor blah blah blah.  Bagger/manager type person walked all the way to the door with me, telling me about the magical day that not one, but TWO local weathermen (zippity do da and whoop de doo) came into his store within a couple hours of each other.  The greatest day of his life.

This triggered a memory from my childhood...  It was a warm summer saturday morning and I was watching cartoons when my mom came running into the house like a cheetah.  "You won't believe who I just met at the vet's office!  Dan Maley!" 

Now, for those of you who didnt grow up in Cleveland, you probably have no idea who Dan Maley is.  The truth is, most people who DID grow up in Cleveland probably have no idea who Dan Maley is.  That's because Dan Maley was the daytime weekend weatherman for Channel 5 News.  Not weekday...not 6 or 11...but the daytime weekend weatherman.

As mom called every single one of her friends to tell them about her celebrity encounter, I couldn't help but wonder why she was so excited to meet someone so unexciting.

A few years later I was on a saturday bowling league and a big celebrity mystery guest was scheduled to attend our "last game of the season" party.  Judging by the Bud Light "Spuds MacKenzie" banners and enormous stack of "autographed" Spuds MacKenzie posters I had a hunch that the big celebrity mystery guest was none other than Spuds MacKenzie.  That indeed had been the plan.  To have a beer spokesdog appear at a bowling league for gradeschool children; (brilliant, no?) but unfortunately, I came to learn, Spuds MacKenzie had been killed by a car a few days before his scheduled appearance and autograph signing at Fairview Lanes.  Frantic to replace Spuds, the bowling alley called in the next best thing.  Dan Maley.

In hindsight it's ironic that the daytime weekend weatherman would make an appearance at a daytime weekend bowling league party, but he did.  None of the kids had any clue who he was.  This was most evident after it was announced that Dan Maley would be signing autographs and a couple hundred kids wandered aimlessly trying to figure out which of the adults he was.  It was like a real-time Where's Waldo? but without the payoff.

I was in Ohio for Christmas and was having a chat with my Uncle Mel.  He mentioned that someone who knew me as an auctioneer asked "So when's Brian going to come crawling back with his tail between his legs?"  (It's nice to know I have the support of everyone back home.)  Mel went on to say that he told the person that he didn't think I'd be coming back.  That I was doing what I want to be doing and that failure wasn't an option.

Recently I've been trying to figure out the direction I want to take things...what I want to do next.  We just closed a very successful holiday show and I was tremendously proud of it. The group as a whole has grown so much and the material was far stronger and more diverse than last year.  I have to admit though, that while I had a lot of fun and am beyond proud of the production, it was less fulfilling for me than the first holiday show and "Broads!!"  Last week I figured out why.

I had the opportunity to participate in octasketch at The Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival.  Octasketch works like this:  you show up at 8:30 am, get divided into 4 groups of 6-7 then create, in 8 hours time, a completely original 30 minute sketch comedy revue to peform that night.  Now, I didn't really doubt that a group of 6 sketch comedians could come up with a 30 minute show in 8 hours; however, I was suprised at not only how awesome all four shows were but at the amount of quality stuff we threw out because of time.  We could have easily done another 30 minute show with the stuff we had to cut. 

It was ensemble work at it's finest.  Through individual and group brainstorming, newspaper headlines and exploring through improvisation, my group, Proscuitto, created an absolutely brilliant show.  A show that I would be proud to do anywhere.  It wasnt a good show for something that was done in one day, it was a good show period.  It put a grin on my face for the next week.  Not just an "I found five dollars on the sidewalk grin" or an "I just realized I have tomorrow off grin," but an "I just saw erik von detten naked grin." That experience taught me the power of ensemble work.  How a group of people with no ego and the common goal of making a good show can only succeed.

So, it's time to focus.  It's time to start being selective.  It's time to put my plans into action and create something bigger...something better.  Stay tuned...it's coming.

Ohio Brian won't be back.

5/24/2006

Mashed Potatoes

Mashed potatoes have been a quintessential part of American family dinners since potatoes were invented in the early 1930s.  A little known bit of history is that my grandmother was, in fact, the world's best mashed potato chef.  Every Thanksgiving and Christmas she would craft a delictible bowl of mashed potato bliss nothing short of perfect.  Turkey?  No thanks.  Green beans?  Hardly.  Just pass Brian the delicious homestyle goodness of Grandma's mashed potatoes and he was on his way to a taste bud Utopia the likes of which most people have ever experienced. 

Grandma did not have a recipe card for her potatoes.  It was all in her head.  That was probably a good thing, because an index card containing the infallible measurements of potatoes, milk, salt and love would surely have surpassed the Holy Grail as one of the most coveted objects in the world.

Grandma passed away in 1998.  It was one of the few times in my life where I broke down and sobbed uncontrollably.  I loved her tremendously and always will.

Holidays came and went and mom tried her best to duplicate the ambrosial palatability of Grandma's potatoes, without success.  Not enough salt, too much milk, not beaten with enough love; try and try as she may, the end result was never quite right.

Then, one Thanksgiving, I decided to attempt to recreate Grandma's legendary potatoes myself.  Suddenly, it was as if her spirit lept into my body, taking control as butter was scooped, milk was poured and salt was mixed in while maintaining a prefectly symmetrical figure eight mixing pattern with the blender.  The end result?  Euphoria.

Upon tasting my creation, Uncle Mel burst into tears, my grandfather dropped to his knees and began to pray and mom passed out. 

I've made mashed potatoes a few times since then, but only on special occasions.  After all, it is possible to have too much of a good thing.

3/6/2006

Lent

It's officially Lent. 

Now for those of you who don't have 13 years of Catholic school under your belts, I'm going to give you a complete definition and explanation of what Lent is.

Lent is a term used to refer to the 40 day period immediately preceeding Easter, starting on Ash Wednesday, observed by Christians as a season for fasting and penitence in preparation for Easter.

Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, a Catholic holy day of obligation where you recieve a thumb print of ashes and soot from burned palm leaves on your forehead.  Nobody really knows why.

One of the main traditions of Lent, is giving something up.

I remember, early on in my Catholic education, that magical day when we were let in on one of the biggest secrets of the Christian Faith:  that we could become closer to Jesus by giving up our favorite snack food for 40 days.  Chocolate, potato chips, it didn't matter what, as long as it was something we liked, because that was what Jesus wanted us to do.
Now initially I bought into the whole concept of Lent.  I'd give up chocolate, or candy, or some other delectable food item without complaint, because I knew it would cause The Heavenly Father to smile down upon me, thus ensuring my ascension into heaven in the event of my untimely demise.

Then, one year, my religion teacher suggested a radical new twist on Lent.  Instead of giving up a snack, one could obtain equal favor with God by abstaining from unchristianlike behavior, such as swearing, lieing or commiting adultery.  "An interesting twist," my grade school brain thought.  So I went home that day and told my mom that for Lent, I would be a good person towards my sister, instead of picking on her and making her life a living hell.  Mom, being an old school Catholic, found this preposterious.  "Surely you dont think you can become closer to Jesus through treating your sister nicely, you have to give up Fritos.  That's what Jesus wants."

It was around that time that I started to notice some things.

I observed my own family.  Traditionally, my mom and sister gave up chocolate...sometimes sweets all together (I dreaded those times, because complete lack of refined sugar turned them into mean and cruel people.  I always took the brunt of their anger, as I knew they were closer to Jesus than they ever had been before).  What I noticed was that when Lent ended they would immediately binge on whatever they had given up.  Every Easter, at around 3 am, I would awaken to the sound of cellophane paper and muffled moans of ecstacy.  I would walk into the living room to see them both on the floor, surrounded by candy bar wrappers and empty donut boxes; their mouths glistening with melted chocolate and their pajamas completely covered with powdered sugar.

A few years later, I learned that Polish Catholics only had to give up a snack for 39 and a half days in order to obtain favor with God.  I still don't know why it had never been mentioned before, but one year Mom announced that Grandma had said it was a Polish tradition that Lent ends at Noon on the Saturday before Easter.  It didn't really make sence to me why Jesus favored the Polish.  I certainly didn't complain, since I have Polish ancestory, I just didn't seem to think it was fair to the others...although not being woken up at 3 am Easter Sunday was a welcome change.

There was another Lenten phenomenon that I found odd.  Hot Cross Buns.  Hot Cross Buns are fairly bland rolls, often with raisins or other small chunks of dried fruit in them, with a white icing cross on the top.  While I viewed them as sweets, appearantly Jesus doesn't, as they were completely permissable for a Catholic who had given up sweets to eat.  During the Lenten seasons when my family gave up cookies, cakes and other baked pastries and sweets, they would go through several boxes of hot cross buns each week.  While I was concerned that they were breaking a vow they had taken with Jesus, I was assured that the Son of God allowed Hot Cross Buns to be eaten.  Perhaps the white icing cross was the key...

Now, those of you who aren't Christian are probably saying to yourselves "Wow, you have to give up some sort of snack for FORTY DAYS in order to gain favor with the Lord?  That sounds hard!"  While true, I have one final Lenten tradition to tell you about.

As hard as this may be to believe, in addition to wanting his faithful followers to give up a snack food, Jesus also wants them to eat fish every friday during Lent.

Let me explain.  Lent is about sacrifice.  Whereas Jesus sacrificed his life for the sins of the world, modern day Catholics make a sacrifice too, by eating at Red Lobster.  Grilled salmon, beer battered perch, crab stuffed flounder; it doesn't matter to Jesus which of his underwater creations you dine upon, as long as you eat them with a smile, in His name.

This explanation of Lent was supposed to be my segway into my thoughts and feelings about organized religion, but now that its almost 3 am, my thoughts arent exactly the most coherent, so that will have to wait for another blog entry.

12/30/2005

Each end is a new beginning...

Tonight marked the end of "Brian and Patrick's Holiday Show."  It was a bittersweet night.  On one hand, I hated to see the show come to an end, it's been incredibly fun and has given me the opportunity to work with an awesome group of people; on the other hand, the show has far exceeded my wildest expectations.  It's kind of like my child that is going off to college.  It has made me happy, made me proud, and it's time to let it go.

What a way to go out.  We were filled to capacity with people who loved to laugh, including none other than our director Brian Posen and choreographer Liz Hamilton.  I'm so glad they could make it to the last show to see our finished product.  The crowd was ridiculously responsive and absolutely loved the show.  I couldn't have been happier with it. 

I realized tonite that I'm living my dream.  I moved to Chicago with certain goals and expectations, but they have long since fallen by the wayside, as the true spirit of what i came here to do has shone through.  Its about laughter.  And there will be even more of it in 2006.

Thanks to all of you for your friendship, love and support. 

12/11/2005

Interesting Observation

Its 2:30 am.  I just got home. 

I went to the bathroom.  I noticed that the toliet seat was up.  I have two roommates.  So for those of you who are mathmatically challenged, that makes three of us.  One of us leaves the toilet seat lid up.  The second leaves the toilet seat down.  The third leaves both the toilet seat and the lid down. 

This caused me to realize something.

If three men, brought together by an ad on craigslist can happily and peacefully co-habitate in a one bathroom apartment despite their completely different bathroom habits, there is no good reason that peace amongst all the nations of the world cannot be achieved. 

Do you hear that George W. Bush?  Do you hear that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi?  Do you hear that whoever the hell runs Canada?  Justin, Kevin and I don't give a shit whether we walk in to find the seat up, down or both lid and seat down.  Why?  Because it doesn't matter.  People are different, deal with it.  You believe in Jesus?  Buddah?  Allah?  Fine, so be it.  You can do whatever the hell you want.  I don't care.  You do and think what you want, and I'll do and think what I want.  It's as simple as that.

I dont walk into the bathroom to find the seat up and suicide bomb Justin's room.  I dont walk into the bathroom to find the seat and lid down and behead Kevin.  That's assanine. 

People need to grow up and follow the example set forth by my roommates and I.  If everyone did so, the world would be a better place.

12/4/2005

I just walked home from the improv jam at i.o.  there was about an inch of freshly fallen show on the sidewalks.  it made this crunching sound under my feet as i walked that triggered a memory which led me to reminise a bit...

i remember that when i was a kid, i loved snow.  i couldn't wait for it to snow each winter.  i always heard adults complain about it, and i once said to my mom "i dont understand why people dont like snow."

at the height of my unhappyness in cleveland, i remember being at a gas station in bay village on the corner of detroit and columbia.  it was snowing and the wind was blowing and i remember getting ticked off.  i went over to my parents and said to my mom "you remember when i said 'i dont understand why people don't like snow?' well now i understand."

tonite, as the snow crunched beneath my feet, it occured to me that i love snow again.  its beautiful.  walking amidst the greystones in lakeview, i couldnt help but smile.  the bare tree branches shimmered with freshly fallen flakes, the cars parked silently along the road were blanketed and it was wonderful.

11/26/2005

A couple people asked me why I didnt post anything after opening night last week.  Well, the show went great, the energy was high and everything went flawlessly.  The only down side was the we had a quiet crowd.  They enjoyed the show alright, they were just the kind of crowd that goes out afterwards to discuss how funny the show was over a frothy latte instead of laughing uncontrollably at it.  Ive had that kind of crowd before, once in each show I've done.  All and all its not a big deal and is just part of the overall sketch comedy world in general, but to be honest, it was a tad disheartening for me for it to happen on opening night.

Last night, show two, more than made up for it.  The Skybox was filled to capacity with the best kind of crowd....a responsive one.  They laughed....long and hard...and was it beautiful.  There were a few times backstage during other scenes where I was actually shaking a little.  Laughter drives me, it gives me strength.  In my bio in our program it says that I "moved to Chicago to pursue his life's ambition:  bringing laughter to others."  I'm never going to cure cancer or anything important like that, but to me, if I can make someone smile and laugh and forget about their troubles...even for a minute...then I made a difference in that person's life.  Sappy?  Yes, but im on a high from the laughter and applause so deal with it!

Five more shows...don't miss it.   

11/6/2005                                                                                                      

"Brian & Patrick's Holiday Show" opens in 12 days.  That freaked me out a little bit earlier this week.  In all honesty this show is the most important thing I've done so far in my life.  Its my baby.  I birthed it.  Patrick and I talked forever about doing this show, and in less than two weeks, the result of well over a year of work will come to life.  I really can't express how much this show means to me.  Not only is it the first real sketch project I've done that wasn't associated with some sort of training center or class, but I've had the honor and privledge to work with two of my most loved and respected friends.  First, Brian Posen.  Our fearless director.  I asked him on a whim to direct our show and he said yes.  No need to ask anybody else, because nobody could compare.  The man is an absolute genius.  He's taken a show that was good to begin with and made it brilliant.  Secondly, Patrick.  My co-writer and co-producer. I have a tremendous amount of respect for both him and his work, and there isn't a person alive that I would rather have worked with on this show. 

Rehearsal today went incredibly well.  The cast is remarkable, I really think they are just as proud of the show as I am.  It's going to be great...you should come see it...                               





                                          email me:  brian@brianhenning.com

 
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