Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Masters of our domain

I've been taking classes, working and performing at iO for over 3 years, which is like 6 months in improviser time. Most people here are lifers, if they're for longer than just a year. Its a little different for me because my focus here has been on working rather than performing. For many reasons - but one of the simplest is - you get paid to work here, and you have to pay someone else to perform. And I am an economical girl at heart.

When you perform you spend most of your time before the show hiding from people to "prepare" (read: start drinking) and then after its mostly people fawning over you and trying ingest your harold team Aura.
My job is all about interacting with people and for the most part, it leaves me wanting to claw my eyes out - but it has it's highlights. Talking to tourists is always way more fun than you think its going to be. And they all take everything you say as the word of God. Also people ask me my opinion, and who doesn't love dishing that out? Improvisers pretend that they like/remember me so that I'll give them free tickets for their friends and put up with their tedious requests. Sometimes I see new friends, and even better - old friends and have a nice opportunity to catch up. And there are long stretches when I don't have to talk to anyone.

All this being said - I love this place. I talk a lot of crap about it, but it was one of the first places that made me happy in Chicago. And it consistently has been a place full of people who get me, and so make me feel comfortable in my own skin...something that happens less than you may think.

So there is this certain subset of people I've noticed when they come in. They're almost always students - most students who have gotten past their third class in level one, understand the student protocol of just going where you want and not actually bothering to pass go. But they're students who are bringing non-students in - and so must stop by my door and buy my wares (not dirty like...I'm just trying to keep my job as vague as possible). While its fun to watch students explain to their muggle friends how exactly buying a ticket works - as if the friend is some sort of imbred ginger... its more fun to watch students bring dates to iO. I don't see it very often because I only work week nights - but occasionally it happens and most nights the crowd is slow enough for me enjoy the show.

These students are so full of pride for themselves, for the performers, for the building. They ask me who is playing and then nod knowingly, occasionally throwing a trivia nugget to their muggle date about someone, just to show that they know everything. The student always pays - even if its a girl. As if to say - "I'm bringing you here as my date, this is a special gift. More special than a V-card. You get to go to an iO show with someone who Knows."

I'm sure throughout the show they lean over and whisper explanations of what is happening. "See how he said that? Its called a callback - and its funny because he's now said it twice, but it'll be more funny when he says it the third time." They'll buy the beers - explaining that iO is superior because of their wide variety of specialty brews and perhaps you would like to try this one, its called PBR - they serve it in a Mason Jar here. Its so funny and improv-y"

At the end of the show they'll stick around and talk to the one person they know who has just performed. And by know, I mean, maybe saw once in a workshop. Or had for a class. Or if they're really lucky, got obliteratingly drunk with at 4 in the morning one time in this very room before a taco bell run and an endless wait for the 22 bus. That celebrity will patiently talk about whatever you can come up with, because improv people (for the most part) are totally awesome like that.

And then that iO student will take their date back out into Wrigleyville. Occasionally I get a half-hearted wave as they brace themselves for the drunkenness waiting outside. I always wonder what happens to them. How the dates feel about this place. Do they get it? Do they get the magic? Do they know why we come and sit and watch shows until all hours? Or why we sit (or stand) and wait on parents from Rockford or bachelorettes from LaGrange?

I hope so. I really hope that they walk home with their iO catch - and maybe give them a hug (don't give away the milk, people - its just a $12 ticket) and say goodnight. And assuming their iO student is not a horrifying ass bucket in real life...they keep them around. For the how to be funny lessons and the education on imports and microbrews and the opportunity to come back to this place every now and then.

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She's pint-sized and amazing.