Start From Yes

When writing in a collaborative setting, I feel a room is far more productive when instead of “starting at no” and running a crucible of ideas where only the “best” survive, folks “try to get to yes” and ideas get supported and built upon until they’re sharpened and clear.

writer's room.png

The latter is much harder to do than you’d think. Writing is weird in that to get anything on the page and show it to other humans you have to have a healthy dose of ego, but to edit and improve and shape your drafts you need to remove yourself from it.

Collaborative writing is even harder. It’s easy to SAY we don’t attach ourselves to our ideas and will accept or remove pieces based on objective judgement, but so much of the finer points of the craft is subjective gut feel and emotional impact.

Our own ideas are familiar, their logic clear to us. There’s also the ego and bias of ownership. Other’s ideas often don’t mesh, or our biases (pro or against) a contributor color our assessment.

Sometimes everyone in a room is on the same page and you hit that flow state. More often it’s a struggle. But if the starting mentality (especially in a blue sky brainstorm phase) is “what if yes” instead of “is that good enough,” it gives wild and poor ideas room to improve.

Some of my favorite choices and ideas and stories and projects started from “bad” ideas that could’ve easily been rejected. Instead it was explored and the collaborators together made it better than its originator could’ve done alone.

Collaboration is hard and often has painful moments, but the feeling of building something greater than the sum of the parts is amazing. It’s why I write for theater, why I work in games.

Next time your knee jerk reaction is to say no, try just imagining if it were yes. What doesn’t work? What could make it better? What IS exciting about it? Sometimes an idea IS just weak or doesn’t work. But exploration yields far more fruit than rejection.

“Impossible is my favorite kind of possible.”

The impossible is only so when taken as a whole. 

No one can summit a mountain by gazing towards its peaks. But anyone can take a step.

Break down the impossible into the smallest pieces you can fathom. Chip away at what is within reach - and don’t be afraid to stretch toward parts that you don’t yet understand or see clearly.

The most important thing is simply to begin the work. Nurture and feed the dream of the impossible with real, tangible actions.

There will always be missteps and points you have to double back, parts where you seem to lose the trail and feel like you don’t know what’s next.

Trust that work leads to work.  

There will be parts where there is sudden clarity - where you look back and see the little pieces of work has yielded real progress. Parts where the haze clears, just a little, and you can see the next footholds and handholds that will bring you closer to the next ledge.

There will be other parts where you realize that despite being halfway up the mountain, you must climb back down almost to the start as you’ve reached an impasse.  

Those moments are most disheartening, but take comfort in knowing experience gained is not time wasted, but rather an essential part of accomplishing the impossible.  

(4,365 words were written, and most of them deleted, to create this 400 word blog.)  

We are capable of more than we think. So bite off more than you can chew - then take your time to nibble at it until it’s broken down and swallowed in your belly, absorbed into your blood, made into a part of your greater self.  

You can do it. Piece by piece.  


10 Things I Wish I Could Tell Younger Me (Even Though I Know Younger Me Won’t Believe Them Until He Experiences The Things That Make Him Me)

  1. There’s no rush. You don’t have to be “accomplished” and “successful” before you’re 22. Or 25. Or 30. Or whenever. 

  2. Happiness is an emotion, not a destination. It comes and goes. That’s okay. 

  3. No one knows what they’re doing. Everyone’s winging it. Yes, everyone.

  4. Spend more time with your grandparents. It’s never gonna be enough time. You’re always gonna wish you spent more. 

  5. You are the thing when you do the thing. You’re a writer with the first word you write. You’re an actor the first time you act. Don’t wait for permission. Don’t wait for someone else to tell you, you’re the thing. You already are. 

  6. You’re gonna get your heart broken so many more times and it’s all gonna be okay.  

  7. Your metabolism isn’t gonna that great forever. 

  8. The hardest part is right AFTER all your dreams come true, because it means you have to find new dreams. 

  9. Life and success and growth and advancement isn’t hiding in LA or NYC or after you win that award or get cast in that movie or write for that one company or anywhere else people tell you to look. It’s where YOU find and make and chase and dream and meet and do. 

  10. It’s gonna be fine. You’re gonna be fine. 

11. This is going to happen in your future and it's gonna be great.

11. This is going to happen in your future and it's gonna be great.

Bye, 2017.

In 2017, I:

  • Crashed a wedding
  • Performed several times at Curious Comedy Theater in Portland with the brilliant and generous Stacey Hallal and Sarah Shoemaker <3
  • Drew a webcomic
  • Taught improv workshops and classes for Jet City Improv
  • Wrote the story for Magic: The Gathering with one of my favorite people, and helped shape future narrative arcs for the game
  • Owned my first gaming system since the N64, and played my first (!) Pokemon game
  • Judged for the College Improv Tournament
  • Ran my online dating profile as a choose your own adventure game where friends made all the decisions
  • Led creative for an upcoming Magic product
  • Played in several improv duos, including with the ever brilliant Maria Dogero
  • Played D&D for work. And for fun. And then some more for fun.
  • Performed a lot of improv
  • Worked on the design team for an awesome Magic set led by Gavin Verhey
  • Paid off my student loans (on my birthday!)
  • Made like 1-2 episodes of three different podcasts that sadly ran out of steam
  • Shopped an ENTIRE year for a house in Seattle - only to be offered a job in LA literally the day before making an offer on a home
  • Reinstalled Snapchat to try (again) to learn it
  • Uninstalled Snapchat
  • Went on daytime TV to promote an improv festival
  • Performed my solo improv show, “Pint of Life”, at the Seattle Festival of Improvised Theater
  • Wrote little pieces and scenes, but never finished a new full-length play :(
  • Gave a presentation about Magic to elementary school kids and got the cutest thank you cards ever <3
  • Performed as a headliner at the Alaska State Improv Festival and had a local ice cream shop sponsor the show, all thanks to the amazing Eric Caldwell
  • Saw a pod of orcas, humpback whales, dolphins, and sea lions
  • Saw the corgi character I inspired for a game get made into an adorable stuffed animal (courtesy of the amazing David Aaron Zuckman!)
  • Saw a Broadway play by the ineffable Paula Vogel
  • Coordinated multi-team cross-country trips for work
  • Guested on some awesome comedy podcasts
  • Made an April Fool’s prank post about buying a house
  • Got to be a panelist at Momocon talking about inclusivity in gaming
  • Performed improv at The Village Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia with the awesome Cassidy Russell!
  • Saw whale sharks!
  • Visited Austin, TX for improv and for humans I love <3
  • Had all my old furniture stolen by an ex roommate
  •  Got hired as a consultant to design a game that will answer questions about the social systems necessary to facilitate future Mars exploration and settlement with Arizona State University’s Interplanetary Initiative
  • Traveled to Vegas for work and met some awesome Magic friends and fans
  • Swore off traveling for a while
  • Immediately had several trips booked for work and family
  • Left Wizards of the Coast
  • Joined ArenaNet as a narrative designer
  • Hopped down to LA to see Amy Tofte's brilliant play, Women of 4G
  • Ate avocado toast for the first time thanks to Megan Therese Rippey, ending all hopes of ever buying a house
  • Wrote two 10 minute plays in 48 hours as a part of 14/48: The World's Quickest Theater Festival
  • Watched a solar eclipse from Gerritt and Stevie's rooftop
  • Performed my solo improv show, “Pint of Life”, at the Vancouver Fringe Festival, accompanied on guitar by Cameron Gable
  • Assembled IKEA furniture, attempted to recreate a professional painting, and danced for 57 minutes as part of a Firefox Cyber Monday livestream (thanks Liz Hull!)
  • Created, directed, and performed in "Dystopia! the Musical!" as the season opener at Jet City Improv and fell in love with my cast and crew
  • Got a job offer from Riot Games
  • Packed up most of my furniture in a truck, drove to LA in a day, and dropped it in my new apartment there
  • Drove home to Arizona to visit family for the holidays
  • Petted puppers, ate home cooking, saw old friends I haven’t seen in years

In 2018, I will

  • Ring in the new year with Curious Comedy Theater <3
  • Finish my work at ArenaNet
  • Perform Dystopia! at a promo show and as part of Seattle’s Festival of Improvised Theater
  • Write two plays in 48 hours as one of the last things I do in - Seattle
  • Return to Los Angeles (!) to start my new job (!!)
  • Get back to writing plays and screenplays and stories outside of work

Bye, 2017! You were a year of travel, new jobs, new shows, new projects, and fantastic new friends <3. Grateful for the many happy, exciting things in my personal life - and hoping to leave all the garbage fires of the world at large behind.

Hello, 2018! You’re gonna carry me to a new (old) city, an exciting and challenging new job, and the next step in my career. Stoked to reconnect with some old friends, make plenty of new ones, and dive deep into what you have to offer!

On Horses and Mad Scientists

I like Rick and Morty. I love Bojack Horseman.

horses and scientists.png

On the surface, the two shows couldn't be more different. Bojack Horseman is set in a fictional alternate universe where animals are people (and regular people are also people) and the story circles around characters in the entertainment industry. Rick and Morty is set in our world, only the mad scientist Rick has access to the whole universe via a portal gun, and he and his grandson Morty go on (decidedly unwholesome) adventures and capers.

However, despite their difference in genre, the two shows  are in many ways two sides of the same coin. 

Both Bojack and R&M have characters that struggle to find meaning, that combat the gnawing and painful knowledge that none of this matters, that confront the cruel randomness that is life and the universe. Both shows orbit a nihilistic void and examines depression, loneliness, and emptiness, all through sharp and cutting comedy that slices straight to the heart of all our fears and doubts and uncertainties.

R&M does this with an intentional brutality. People and populations are wiped out, the entirety of Earth is destroyed horrifically then replaced with an alternate dimension version of everyone, sweet candy characters commit atrocities, heroes are nothing but brutal disappointments, and darkness lurks around every corner and (more terrifyingly) seeps from deep within the hearts of the main characters - and yet each week semi-status quo is achieved, and life goes on. Life and the universe is meaningless and scary and terrible and funny; nothing matters and as such, we suffer - but we push on in suffering. We persevere and endure existence. 

rick and morty.jpg

Bojack also has its characters confront the emptiness and meaninglessness of their lives. Terrible things happen to good people, good things happen to terrible people, and super rarely, good things happen to good people - only for them to give into the terrible part of them and wreck everything. Or else good things happen to good people, only to have random terrible things follow because life is a chaotic and meaningless romp through luck and chance.

And yet, in contrast to R&M, the characters of Bojack continue to struggle and seek happiness and redemption, even as the show demonstrates time and again how good people don’t get just desserts and emptiness is consuming. Somehow, the show does so in a way that still gives you reasons to hope, to fight, to dream, to search, despite the cruel vagaries of life. 


Bojack, Princess Carolyn, Diane, and Mr. Peanutbutter try to be better people in spite of everything. Rick regularly fights against doing "good" as a false construct of subjective morality, regularly rejects any possible "redemption," and breaks the fourth wall to make fun of and comment and deny the desire of the viewer for things to end neatly or with happiness. And yet... he still finds himself making concessions for his family, and (after letting Morty suffer plenty, and causing some of the suffering himself, and despite consistently rejecting the notion or importance of relationships and ties) he still continues to exist and have rare moments of kindness.  

R&M says nothing matters and we must suffer existence. That intelligence and self awareness is pain. Bojack says nothing matters and yet somehow existence holds joys. That self awareness is worth suffering for. They’re the optimistic and pessimistic sides to the same nihilistic coin. 

I'll probably keep watching both shows. Rick and Morty is wicked sharp and funny and brutal. The sci-fi elements are clever and thought provoking, and the questions of morality are blunt and difficult and brilliant. Bojack is also ruthless and hilarious and heartbreaking, but for me, it captures the essence of where I'm currently at:

Nothing matters, but you still gotta try, and trying in and of itself makes it all worth it. 

Ideas Have No Footprint

The hardest part of being a writer is the writing.

Writing is hard because it means pushing past the initial inertia and actually setting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard, as it were).

An object at rest tends to stay at rest; a writer at rest tends to suddenly find the motivation for laundry, grocery shopping, lawn mowing, house cleaning - anything but writing. If this continues long enough, the writer is no longer a writer, but just a person who thinks about writing. 

Writing is also hard because it means trying to extricate an idea from your brain space and transferring it into real space. 

To borrow the words of a fellow narrative designer at ArenaNet: 

"Ideas have no footprint."

An idea takes up zero space when they live in your head. They are amorphous and hazy, perfect in their ephemeral state, where they're just an imagined, shifting concept, where the parts you're focusing on seem sharp and clear and flawless, and the parts on your periphery are soft and blurred and Future You's problem to nail down.

The moment you have to concretely define the idea, craft it into words, pull it onto the page (or screen), is the instant it loses its perfection. It suddenly gains volume, becomes unwieldy, ceases to fit against the needs of whatever confines you're writing against. Suddenly you're limited by your own ability to craft a story, by the necessary structures of writing, by the logical flow and emphasis of what you're trying to say - and in the world of game design, also by word count requirements, length limitations, technological capacities, voiceover budget and talent availability challenges, implementation challenges, gameplay needs, and so on and so on.

It's great to be excited about your ideas. It's unwise to be too precious with them. Pull them half formed, ugly, and sloppy into the real world, plop them in the sand, let them roll around and get dirty and leave misshapen tracks that don't lead anywhere, a hideous affront to your attempts at wrangling words into some kind of coherent order.

Turn your ideas into writing, messy and raw. Give it a footprint; then cultivate and shape and mold it to stumble haltingly towards the direction you dreamed of in your head.

14/48: A Love Letter

Director Mimi Katano, standing before the Cone of Destiny.

Director Mimi Katano, standing before the Cone of Destiny.

Thank you for 48 hours that kicked me in the butt, punched me in the feels, grabbed me by the heart, and dragged me into the deep end of a thriving, passionate, kind, generous, talented, and vibrant community of performers, musicians, makers, and artists. 

Thank you for the amazing people who managed to make an insanely ambitious project (14 new plays in 48 hours, fully rehearsed, costumed, produced, staged) run more smoothly and professionally than I ever could have dreamed. 

Thank you for the pressure cooker of a prompt, an actor count, and 12 hours to deliver 10 pages of theater. Thanks for not giving time for self doubt or uncertainty to take root, for forcing quick and bold decisions, and for the shower of support and love. Thank you for making me do it twice.

Thank you for the actors who brought my (frazzled, written-at-2-am-under-delightful-duress) words to life.

Thank you to the two brilliant directors who helped shape and empower said performances (and the other directors who did the same for 6 other playwrights!).

Thank you to the designers and musicians who brought the worlds out of sleep-deprived brains and into meat space. (Guys, they made a car and created space suits and tree stumps with magic mushrooms all in 8 hours. Tech magicians.)

Thank you to the bloggers and photographers who wrote and documented all the madness. 

Thank you to the kitchen staff  (!!) who fed an army of actual starving (or at least hungry) artists.

Thank you to the audiences who came to see the things we made. 

I had been feeling distant from the theater community. It has been a while since I wrote a new play or auditioned for a scripted theater. Work and improv had gobbled up my time and energy and passions of late.

Thank you for feeding my playwright heart (and stomach). Thank you for such an incredible opportunity to meet and make so many new friends and people I can't WAIT to work with again. 

Thank you for reminding me why I love this.

Thank you.

Shia LeBeouf Was Right.

This is the third in a series about working towards your dream job. Last week examined careers, and why your dream job is not important.

A few months ago, I attended a convention panel that was all about getting a job in the gaming industry. Leaders and folks from many facets of game development gave talks on how they got to where they were, then fielded questions afterward. After 15 minutes of questions, it was pretty clear most of the inquiries could be boiled down to one big concept:

“I want to make games, and think making games would be fun, but I don’t know how to do it.”

The answer the panelists always gave was,

“Do the thing.”

A few examples:

Q: I’d like to do more coding for games, but my current line of work doesn’t really develop my skills in that space. What should I do?
A: Make time to write code for games outside of work.

Q: I want to write stories for games, but I don’t know how to get better. What should I do?
A: Write more stories. Write stories for your friend’s games. Write stories in other mediums. Just write.

Q: I want to be a community manager, but I don't have a ton of experience. What should I do?
A: Contribute to the community. Gain experience by building your own groups and platforms.

How do you get the dream job that you want? By doing the things that your dream job entails.

Wanting it is Not Enough

It’s important to know what you want. It’s important to identify your desires. That’s how you get started in pursuing your dream job - by figuring out what it is you want in the first place.

However, you can want something with all your being, but until you take that first step and start doing and making and trying, it all doesn’t matter. The difference between a daydream and a career is work.

In other words: listen to Shia LaBeouf.

Don't Wait for Permission

Start doing the thing you want to do today. If you want to be a writer, write. It doesn’t matter if it’s a six word flash fiction, or a sixty-thousand word fanfiction - you’re a writer the moment you start writing. You’re a game designer the moment you start putting together a game concept. You don’t need to be published or hired by a major developer or have an agent to start doing the thing. You’re the thing when you do the thing. So do the thing.

And be okay with the fact that, chances are, you really kind of suck at doing the thing.

When you’re pursuing your dream job, especially in the beginning, you’re going to find you are not yet good at all the skills needed for your dream job. There’s a gap between the aspects of your dream that excited you and your ability to produce - and that's okay. 

Don't wait for permission from others to do work. Give yourself permission to do work that isn't great at first.

Ira Glass explains it most eloquently here:

Don't Follow Your Passion

When it comes to career advice, the phrase "chase your passions" is common to the point of cliche. 

It's also not great advice. 

Don’t buy into the impossible and unfair pressure to identify your “one true passion” in life. Passions are rarely (if ever) an innate thing that resides within you, waiting to be discovered and then followed for the rest of your existence, giving you unwavering clarity and meaning. Passions are discovered through work. Passion is ignited through creation, through experimentation, through a growing excitement and hunger for doing something. Passion emerges as you build the skills and confidence of doing the thing.

Don't just want your dream job. Start doing the thing. Don't wait for permission. Just do it. Don't chase passions. Allow them to grow as you do the work.

The rest will follow.

Your Dream Job is Not Important.

This is the second in a series about working towards your dream job. Last week highlighted the importance of not networking. 

Today, I want to talk about three things:

A career is not the jobs you've had.

A career does not exist in the present tense.

To move closer to your dream job, it's helpful to understand your dream job is not important. 

I know, I know. You're probably making this face right now:



Stay with me. I promise this will make sense by the end.

This Section is Not A Tangent

When I was a kid, I discovered a little card game called Magic: the Gathering. The game was fun - but then someone told me the people who made the game also wrote internet articles about how they did it, and suddenly my lunchtimes were dedicated to voraciously devouring design philosophies and world building approaches. (I was a really cool middle schooler, guys.)

So cool.

So cool.

I remember thinking how awesome it would be to work as a game designer for Wizards of the Coast (the company that made Magic). It seemed like the best job. But being a game designer was nothing more than the unrealistic daydream of a little kid - it was about as possible as becoming the president, or superman, or an orca trainer at SeaWorld. (Forgive middle school me; this was a pre-Blackfish time, people.)

Time went on, and I headed into high school then college then full-time work, jumping into different jobs along the way. Below is a full chronological list of every paying job I’ve ever done, as best as I can recall:

Telemarketer selling phone plans
Teacher Intern for a youth theater summer camp
Piano accompanist for private voice lessons
Improv performer at a comedy theater
Cutco Knives salesman
Full-time teacher for youth summer camps
Improv teacher at a comedy theater
Music Director for a community theater musical
Pianist in a Lutheran worship service band
Writing Tutor
Commercial actor with agent
Founder and Artistic Director of a youth theater company
McDonalds employee
Actor for a Shakespeare theater
Teacher for a Shakespeare kids camp
Voiceover and on camera talent for various projects
Kid band concert producer / talent coordinator
Personal assistant to a kid songs musician
TA for a grad school course on improv
Instructor for a grad school course on improv
Actor for a youth theater company in NY
Disney Imagineering intern
Universal Studios theme park consultant writer
Translator / technical writer for a theme park development company
Translator / coverage writer for Disney Imagineering
Translator/copywriter for an online higher education company
Lead narrative designer for theme park projects in China
PR / Social Media manager for a comic book and game store
Staff writer on a bilingual Chinese sitcom
Copywriter for a web SEO company, writing blogs for dentists and carpet cleaning companies
Script writer and consultant writer for live shows at Disneyland Shanghai
Copywriter for Wizards of the Coast
Community manager for Wizards of the Coast
Narrative designer (with game design contributions) for Wizards of the Coast
Narrative designer at ArenaNet

The full list, at first glance, looks like a chaotic mess. But hey, look at that at the end - I got to work for the company I dreamed of working for as a kid! I got to work on Magic, writing the story and even designing cards for the game! Dream job, achieved!

And then I left that company.


Past and Future

A career is not the jobs you've had.

As I was growing up and working and learning, I remember looking at folks in jobs and “career tracks” that I admired and thinking that I should try to do what they did. Surely, the path to success was following in their footsteps and emulating the careers and trajectories I found inspiring.

Yet as I moved along my own journey and as I got to look more closely at the arcs that folks I admired had traveled, it became apparent a career (at least, in creative fields) was rarely a solid line or a straight path to follow. It was more a pointillistic painting, a series of dots and points (and jobs and decisions) that when viewed from a zoomed out view created an impression of a coherent image.

If you look closely you can see the dot that is "The Nightmare THAT IS writing SEO blogs for dentists"

If you look closely you can see the dot that is "The Nightmare THAT IS writing SEO blogs for dentists"

If you look at each individual job I've held, it seems pretty scattered and doesn't really make much sense. However, when asked to describe my career, I talk about my passion and work as a storyteller, connecting the various points of my work history to show my progression of teaching, performing and writing for stories across disciplines and mediums. This includes specific jobs I've done, but also plenty of work I've done outside of paying jobs. This includes education, personal projects, and my passions. I talk about how my improv and performance experience shaped my playwriting and screenwriting chops, about how I've always grown as a storyteller and artist by approaching and learning how to tell stories in new media - from written fiction, to theater, to music, to TV and film, to theme parks, to games. I talk about my passion for crafting interactive experiences and modal storytelling. 

My career isn't just the sum of my collective work history. My career is the story of my intention and goals as I advanced through life and took different jobs and projects that excited me, that brought me closer towards work that fulfilled my goals and desires.

A career does not exist in the present tense.

Careers are narratives we construct of our past work experience and projections of our ambitions and goals into the future. 

While careers occupy the space of the past and future, the work occupies the space of the present. 

In the present, there is only the work - for me, the writing and storytelling. When I sit down to write a play, or a short story for Magic, or a narrative arc for Guild Wars 2, it has to just be about doing the best work for that piece of writing. The easiest way to paralyze the ability to do work is to worry about the meta of that work. How does this new play reflect on my developing voice as an artist? Will it receive recognition and awards that could propel my career to greater heights? How will it compare to my past work, or the work of other artists? Letting "future" and "career" thoughts slip into present work has always resulted in a diluted product and creation with unproductive fears inhibiting my choices. Worrying about "career" in my present day to day is generally unhelpful.

However, thinking of your career outside of your present work and in terms of future goals and aspirations can be immensely empowering and energizing.

When I was an undergrad student aspiring to write plays, I remember looking up to playwrights I admired. They had big accolades and productions with amazing theater companies; I couldn't see the path to get to where they were. However, the difference between 12 year old me daydreaming of being a game designer and 18 year old me aspiring to write plays was I had developed the confidence to stride forward into the unknown, even though I couldn't see the exact path or steps that would take me where I needed to go. Having big career dreams of one day reaching far off accomplishments and looking towards the careers of folks who got there helped energize me to do great work at the scale and scope that I was capable of in the moment. As I progressed and grew and became better, I found myself moving towards those distant goals, and found the steps to getting there became clearer, closer, and more possible. Thinking about my career in the future tense helped drive me to keep going, and to seek out opportunities to grow, improve, and share my work with a wider audience each time. Also, it ultimately led to the evolution of my career goals and dreams - which brings us to...

Your dream job is not important.

At the end of the day, your dream job is just a finite destination. It's a constant point on the horizon, a useful beacon to help give you direction. But as you travel towards it, you may discover other things that excite you more, or you may come across other opportunities you didn't even consider. Don't let the fixed point keep you from walking down a different path. 

When I got a job at Wizards, I wasn't trying to be a game designer. I was mainly working in script writing for TV and theme parks at the time. However, when the opportunity arose, I jumped on it - not just because it was a childhood fantasy, but because it also furthered my goal of telling stories. 

Also, the sweet cardigans.

Also, the sweet cardigans.

Rather than fixating on JUST the idea of a dream job, look towards the idea of what you want to craft a career around. Craft a mission statement for yourself and your work. 

For me, my mission statement revolves around being a storyteller. I want to learn how to tell stories in bigger and better ways. Over time, I realized I'm happiest when my work can touch and move people, and I'm most challenged when I get to learn new media and modes of telling stories. I've built my career and work around that.

At the end of the day, a dream job is but one point along the path of your career (and life). 

It's awesome if you reach it. It feels super-validating and exciting. But your satisfaction and your happiness shouldn't hinge on only if you get exactly your dream job, and your hunger to grow and improve shouldn't end once you do achieve it. 

I was thrilled to achieve a childhood dream of working for Magic. But I was also thrilled at the opportunity to learn new skills and grow offered by ArenaNet. I'll be honest. The thought of leaving a job that was a childhood dream job was a bit scary, and a bit sad. I was deviating from something I knew I always wanted for something new, where I had far less experience. There was a degree of fear.

And that's why I knew I had to take the new opportunity.

Believe it or not, I felt the same thing when I was offered my first job at Wizards. At the time, I lived in LA, and the Wizards job was in Seattle. Taking it meant uprooting my life and shifting my progress in the film and themed entertainment world towards working as an entry level position in gaming. I had one good friend in Seattle who was the person who suggested I apply for the job, and that's pretty much it. It was definitely a bit scary.

It was definitely important and right for me to lean into the fear. 

The fear stemmed from the unknown, from the fact that those opportunities were beyond my comfort zone. With the fear came the need to grow. That same kind of combo of fear and excitement sends adrenaline pumping through you, energizes and motivates and challenges and pushes you to become your better self. 

At the end of the day, we chase our dream jobs because they drive us and excite us and is a clear point to work towards. But we should also recognize our ambitions and passions should extend beyond one job, and our happiness and satisfaction with our work should encompass more than getting the exact thing we think is the thing we want. Don't wait for permission to start doing the things you care about. You don't have to be a game designer at a big game company before you can design games. You don't have to be a nationally recognized playwright before you write plays. You don't have to wait until you get a paycheck as a performer before you think of yourself as a professional actor.

Identify your mission statement, start doing the work in the present. The "career" will construct itself as you build your body of work, and will project out as you clarify what you care about. The dream job will always be there, and you'll get it or you won't - but if you do the work, you'll move and grow and maybe uncover something even bigger before you know it.

Don't Network.

Last week I wrote about working towards your dream job, and ended with a list of topics. The one item that raised the most eyebrows and questions (and questions most likely asked with eyebrows raised) was a simple two word phrase: 

"Don't Network."

This was among the best advice I've gotten about working in any industry. It also probably runs counter to the advice many people have heard. 

Look at all those stock photography silohuettes networking!

Look at all those stock photography silohuettes networking!

An Unexpected Lesson

I went to graduate school for acting. In my third year of the program, we had an industry coach come as a guest speaker to talk about building a career, seeking out agents - all the business things of becoming an actor. I'll be honest - when I first read the title of her book and heard her speak, I rolled my eyes at the thought of a "life coach" person giving touchy feely motivational advice. 

And then she said the thing that has been a pillar of my working life ever since.

"Don't network," she said. This advice seemed absurd in an industry that is all about building connections, all about getting known and seen by the right casting agents and agencies, all about establishing industry ins that could lead to a big break or opportunity. However, it quickly became apparent how right she was.

What It Actually Means

Perhaps it didn't start this way, but the very term "networking" has come to carry with it a connotation of connecting with someone with the expectation of a return. You "network" by talking to people who could potentially benefit or help you out. For me, it was the thing I hated most about working as an actor and writer in LA; with some folks, it always felt like they were sizing you up and seeing if it was worthwhile to "befriend" you. It left many conversations with certain people feeling icky and slimy, coated with a veneer of false niceties and manipulation. 

The thing is, those conversations are unpleasant to be in on either side. People can also see and sense disingenuous motives from a mile away. Even when "networking" is done within a professional setting and construct, it can still feel artificial and weird.

What to Do Instead

Instead of networking, make genuine connections. Build genuine relationships. 

"Wait a minute," says the hypothetical skeptical reader, "this sounds like semantics. Tomayto tomahto. You're still reaching out and connecting to people. What's the difference?"

I'm glad you asked, conveniently constructed hypothetical questioner! The key difference between networking and building genuine connections is one of intention.

Networking is self-oriented: how can I get others to help me advance my goals? Networking advice often talks about how to introduce yourself, how to put yourself out there, etc.

In contrast, forging a connection helps you to position a meeting more as a serving of others: I want to learn more about your work; I genuinely love what you do and want to learn more about your process. 

It's the difference in asking "what's in it for me?" vs "what can I learn and offer?"

How To Do It: The Secret is Delicious

Approaching someone you admire is hard. Approaching someone who potentially has the ability to open doors and big opportunities for you is harder. How do you do it without appearing desperate or like you're begging for a job, and how can you build a genuine relationship that isn't just you wanting something from that person?

The (not-so) secret: ask them to lunch. (Who doesn't like lunch?) Then, talk about their work, not yours. 

All along my path and growth and as an artist and professional, there's been one constant. People go above and beyond to help you out and lift you up. Seriously. It's pretty amazing. I am where I am because of the generosity of talented people further along on their career paths helping me out, serving as a mentor, and giving me amazing guidance, advice, and encouragement. Folks are happy to share their experience, because guess what - they got where they are due to someone else doing the same thing.

Talk to folks about what they do. Most folks will be happy to share their story with you. Ask people who you admire about their work. Learn more about what they make. In doing so, you'll also reveal your own taste, and how your work and interests are in alignment with said person. Spend more time listening than talking, ask more questions, and forge the start of a genuine friendship. 

Instead of a networked relationship that holds no deeper ties or meaning beyond a tenuous professional exchange, you're building a deeper connection with someone. That friendship might manifest in them thinking of you when an opportunity arises. It might just be a great learning opportunity as they share their work and process with you. It probably means you've gotten to become friends with someone who you think is awesome. And if you're really lucky, you might be able to help them out in a professional or personal problem. One of my most proud moments was getting to recommend an outstanding actor friend to a director I admired, and watch that actor kick butt in the project and collaboration that ensued. 

I've had the pleasure of eating sandwiches with some industry legends. I've made many friends with folks who became my mentor figures, then bosses, over Indian food and banter about games. I've learned more about coworkers and their process, and subsequently worked better and more efficiently in collaborations as a result. 

Words for Thought

I'll end this meditation on networking with these two quotes.

The first: "When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

The second: "Do good and throw it into the sea."

Don't network. Build connections, and dare to share your dreams and wants with people who you care about and care about you. (There's more of them than you think, and people just waiting for the opportunity to root for you, if you just ask.) Then, do good by them, think about how your work can help others, and put it out there - and let it go. Act without the expectation of return, and revel in the surprising and delightful bounty that will surely wash upon your shores when you least expect.

How to Get Your Dream Job

I'm a lucky guy.

I have a job that's definitely a dream job for many people: I write stories for games. I wrote and game designed for Magic: the Gathering, where I helped create fantasy worlds, designed characters and power sets, and wrote the stories of what happened to the main cast of heroes. Now I am a narrative designer for ArenaNet, where I'll help create the stories for Guild Wars 2, a video game played by millions around the world. 

Folks have asked how I got this job - or, more often, how they could get this job. I've always given the best answer I could depending on context, but it's hard to squeeze a thousand different thoughts, warnings, encouragements, and feelings into a pithy response. 

Whenever anyone asks me things in this vein, there's a litany of experiences and learnings I want to share. After stumbling through answers of varying degrees of coherency, a recurring pattern of certain topics and thoughts began to emerge. I'll be exploring each of these further in future posts, but for now, I hope the list itself inspires and intrigues. 

I am by no means an expert. But I'm happy to share for any who's curious the pitfalls and successes I've found so far along the way. 

1) Don't network. 
2) Defining a "career"
3) Wanting it is not enough.
4) Balance the three needs.
5) Skill up.
6) Be so good they can't ignore you.
7) Getting lucky / those "connections"
8) The nitty gritty crunchy bits.

Dr. Strange and White Lady Ancient Ones

I just saw Dr. Strange.

The movie was super fun. Incredibly well paced, beautiful and imaginative visuals, just enough humor without feeling forced, and strong actors that lent gravitas and weight to a fairly straightforward and fluffy plot. 

I also think casting Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One was a strong and successful choice. 

Before the movie came out, there was a strong outcry at seeing Tilda Swinton cast in what was described as an Asian role. It was scorned and derided as another example of Hollywood whitewashing - removing people of color from stories or casting white actors in Asian character roles. While the concern of Hollywood whitewashing is more than justified and calling out instances is a necessary part of creating change, I don't think this movie qualifies as an instance of whitewashing. I think the casting choice is actually helpful, not harmful to Asian American representation in film.

I was not familiar with the Dr. Strange comic and universe, but even a cursory search reveals The Ancient One as a character that is rife with problems. It is a stereotypical Eastern mystical character who teaches a White foreigner how to harness magical powers. It is also a character who is, in the comics, hailing from Tibet.

Oh hello, 1963. Give me a healthy dose of your exoticism Orientalist magic!

Oh hello, 1963. Give me a healthy dose of your exoticism Orientalist magic!

I personally am a big supporter of a director and creative team taking source material and retelling a story in their vision. When translating a story across mediums, how its told by the very nature of the shift has to change. In the case of Dr. Strange, one of the characters involved in the source material was also highly problematic for a variety of reasons.

I was actually disappointed to read the reason writer C. Robert Cargill gave about why they chose to cast the way they did. According to Cargill, the casting as stemming from the challenge of having a Tibetan character, and the loaded financial and political problem this presented. Cast the role as Tibetan, and risk upsetting Chinese censors and the movie not being allowed in China due to political conflict over Tibetan independence. That's a lot of money lost. 

If that was truly the main thrust of the casting choice, then it is cowardly and greedy. However, the result, even if unintentional, is a stronger and more interesting character that worked for me.

The shift of the character away from stereotypical tropes is, for me, a better alternative than just blindly adhering to the source material. The switch in gender also helps to break the expectations and tired tropes we've seen again and again. I'd rather see Tilda Swinton portray a badass, fairly androgynous mystical sorcerer than see an Asian actor play the typecast magical Asian guy who helps the white dude just long enough to get started on his path to heroics before dying to Advance Plot. (Oops, spoilers.)

The result is a character that is acknowledged as Celtic in film, comes from a long line of Ancient One defenders, and circumvents and subverts exoticism and negative racial expectations of the role. Swinton's chops and charm as this character gives the movie an added dimension, and we get an Asian character that is actually strong and interesting (and confirmed for Avengers: Infinity War) in the form of Wong. 

I will acknowledge that with the change, you're still left with the problematic assumption of a very Tibetan inspired, monastery order of sorcerers, drawing from Asian themes, but set in Napal not Tibet. However, narrative-wise, the order's international nature (with headquarters in Hong Kong, London, and New York) combined with its relatively diverse membership help to elevate the story from stereotypical Oriental exotic mysticism to a more fantasy realm of magic and sorcery.

TLDR: Dr. Strange is fun. Let's hold our outrage until we can evaluate the supposed offenses in context of the full artistic endeavor. Let's focus our energies on creating dialogue around actual cases of whitewashing and harmful racial erasure in Hollywood (and other) stories.

Overwatch: the most fun I've had dying a bunch of times.

I hate first person shooters.

I'm awful at them, and frankly, they stress me out. The combination of my poor aim and the general frenetic, twitchy pace of most games in the genre often leaves me a fringed heap of nerves and regrets. 

The last time I played an FPS and enjoyed it was Goldeneye on N64, and that was primarily because I was a 13 year old and we were jamming the game at sleepovers until we bled from our eyeballs and our mothers came tromping downstairs to yell at us to turn the TV off I mean it's 3AM for chrissake.

Ah, the sweet sweet graphics of my youth.

Ah, the sweet sweet graphics of my youth.

More recently, I borrowed a friend's Xbox to try out Destiny. The game looked gorgeous, the world design seemed awesome, and I was open to giving the genre another shot. (Heh, shot.) 

I got 20 minutes in, died repeatedly to the first boss fight, and promptly gave up. 

Which makes what I'm about to say perhaps all the more surprising: I'm loving Overwatch.

Pew Pew Pew! Kssshboom! Vrrrrn! Watchow!

Pew Pew Pew! Kssshboom! Vrrrrn! Watchow!

Yeah, this revelation probably isn't surprising if you're at all into video games or follow video game news. Overwatch launched to a flurry of strong reviews. It's also the newest title from Blizzard, a publisher known for its genre-defining, high quality games. 

However, I had my doubts that I'd enjoy the game, even as coworkers and friends expounded its virtues. It's been some time since I considered myself a "serious" or "hardcore" gamer, and first person shooters in general have an unfortunate reputation for competitiveness and potentially acerbic communities. The few times I've ventured into the genre resulted in strong sentiments of "this game isn't for noobs or casuals."

So far, Overwatch hasn't felt the same.

The game is fast - fast to pick up, fast to learn, fast to jump in and start playing. Matches are equally quick, running on average between 7-10 minutes. That match length makes sitting down to play much less of a commitment. You can breeze through a match or two before bed, or binge for hours on end running games back to back.

The game is almost as fast as Tracer, one of Overwatch's 21 iconic characters.

The game is almost as fast as Tracer, one of Overwatch's 21 iconic characters.

Central to the game's appeal is the cast of 21 heroes, each with their own special powers, roles, and flavor. From heavily armored tanks, to fast paced teleporting gunslingers, to medics who fly across the battlefield on angel wings, each character has its own playstyle and backstory. Also worthy of note is the incredible diversity on display - not just in play and mechanical design, but in the heroes' characterizations. We have heroes of all nationalities, genders, shapes and sizes - including a gorilla, a robot, and an omnic (which are future death-dealing-robot-turned-buddhist-inspired-zen-masters? ...I need to watch more of the story videos - more on that later.) 

Winston don't got no chill.

Winston don't got no chill.

The gameplay itself is easy to grasp - two teams of 6 battle to control mobile payloads, guard and capture areas on a map, and vie for control of key positions. The complexity comes with the make-up of the teams. Characters fall into four role-types, meaning a balanced team of offensive, defensive, tank and support heroes will fare better than a hodgepodge of too many of any one role. 

Each hero feels vastly different and offer unique ways to play and contribute to your team's success. A lot of the fun comes from the layered discoveries that occur over the course of playing. Initially, the fun comes from learning the way a hero's ability set works together to create a coherent strategy or approach. As you get better with a hero and solve the puzzle of their abilities, the next level reveals itself -  discovering how your hero combos with your teammates to play even more effectively, and learning what abilities counter your opponent's strengths and weaknesses. 

The game also gives plenty of tools for a newer player to build confidence and learn. There's an enormously helpful Practice Range mode, where you can take all the heroes for a test drive against robot targets to learn their abilities. You can battle with other humans against AI opponents on Easy, Medium and Hard difficulties. Then, when you're feeling ready, you can dive into smart-matched battles vs real players.

And if you're anything like me, you'll then proceed to die. A lot. 

And lose. A lot.

And somehow, it will be really fun.

Almost as fun as a roller-blading DJ killing people with sonic waves.

Almost as fun as a roller-blading DJ killing people with sonic waves.

At first, as with learning anything new, games felt mildly mystifying and impossible. Overwatch is, after all, still a First Person Shooter - the gameplay is fast and twitchy, and oftentimes I died and had no idea who or what killed me. On my first game on the first map I encountered, I charged out the gate - and promptly ran off a cliff and fell to my death.

Yeah, something like that.

Yeah, something like that.

After that, I mainly stuck to playing Mercy, a hero who heals folks mainly by tethering herself to teammates and holding down one button. 

I can handle one button. 

Praise be to (aptly named) Heal-bot Heroes.&nbsp;

Praise be to (aptly named) Heal-bot Heroes. 

Then I started testing out some of the other heroes. Each hero has a handy 1 to 3 star Difficulty Rating to give you an idea of how hard they are to master. I actually managed to kill some enemies with Bastion, a one star difficulty hero that's a robot that can turn into a mini-gun turret (just go with it). 

I can point and click.



Fun fact: when your hero dies in the game, a "Kill Cam" shows you how you died as you wait to return to life. While in other games this often feels like a gratuitous rubbing in of how much you suck, I actively learned about positioning, strategy, and enemy abilities with Overwatch's Kill Cam. (And I was also reminded of how much I suck.)

And that's the thing. Losing is fast (7-10 minutes!) and relatively painless. There's tons of new heroes and playstyles to learn and try out each time. And breakout moments of success and learning are exciting. 

Tonight, I decided to pick up the first Hero I tried out - Widowmaker. It's a hero that plays as a sniper, shooting from afar. Widowmaker requires deft aiming, smart positioning, fast reactions and strategy. AKA, everything I'm terrible at.

Pictured here: not me playing. You can tell because this Widowmaker actually killed folks.

Pictured here: not me playing. You can tell because this Widowmaker actually killed folks.

The first time I picked up this hero, I got destroyed by a Widowmaker on the opposing team that absolutely outplayed me in every regard.

The game tonight, however, I managed to get a few sweet shots in, found some fun hiding spots on a map that I knew better now that I had played several games, and actually contributed to my team's win. I copycatted the positions and strategy I saw my opponent do, I had faster reactions from having a few games under my belt, and had a blast playing.

I'm never gonna be a pro at this game, and I probably won't be dipping my toes into the new competitive mode that will be unveiling in the near future. But this is a game I know I'll pick up and play for a long time.

Additionally, (and for me, more career and work related), I'm immensely excited by how Blizzard is unveiling the narrative and story behind Overwatch. The game doesn't have a story mode - rather, we learn about the characters and world of Overwatch via beautiful animated shorts, comics, and other media outside the gameplay itself. This elegantly tackles a challenge often faced by games clearly designed with esports and competition in mind - how to tell story in the bizarre context of an open arena / battle style game.

So when's the Overwatch movie coming out?

So when's the Overwatch movie coming out?

Blizzard's answer is to simply not.

Rather than justifying why Widowmakers are sniping down opposing Widowmakers, it weaves its story outside the context of the game, giving further depth and showing characters off in standalone mediums. It also creates opportunities for fandom and enjoyment of Overwatch for folks who may not actively play. 

By putting the thrust of storytelling outside of gameplay and as free and accessible nodes of content available online, Blizzard enables fans to organically share and access the story. It empowers fans to consume the story of Overwatch without the need for gameplay, widening the appeal and reach of the game and brand. In short, it fuels and grows the potential audience and spectators of the game, which in turn strengthens the e-sports potential of the game itself. 

Smart stuff. 

If you're playing on PC, you can pick up the most basic version as a digital download for $39.99. You can check out some awesome videos and comics here. 

If you have the chance, check it out. And come play a game or two with me. We can be terrible together, nerd out on the story, and talk about how impossible it is not to have a crush on Tracer (British accents are totally cheating). 

Yes, and? No, Thanks.

If you've ever taken an improv class (and probably even if you haven't), you've likely heard of the phrase, "Yes, and." 

"Yes, and" is commonly touted as one of, if not THE most, fundamental rules of improv. The basic principle behind "yes, and" is simple and elegant: players in an improvised scene should agree with what their partners have said (yes), and then add more information and details to what has been established (and).  

I've taught countless beginning improv classes that began with "yes, and" as the first rule.

I've taken countless improv classes that began and reinforced and came back to "yes, and" as a fundamental rule.

I think the rule clearly illustrates an important foundation of collaborative storytelling, implies a need for close listening (another fundamental skill in improv), and encourages performers to speak their mind and boldly add their piece.

I also no longer begin my workshops with "Yes, and." 

Don’t get me wrong. There’s lots to love about “yes, and.” It is an elegant explanation of a key concept in improv. It encourages agreement and collaboration. It asks players to make bold choices, to follow their gut, to speak their mind, and to do so while listening to their partner. It helps teach students to create forward movement in their scene work. However, I’m curious if it is truly the best starting place to teaching improv.

It’s Okay to Say (k)Nope

As improv becomes more and more mainstream in our social lexicon and consciousness, as improv schools and theaters grow in size and clout and importance, certain elements about improv education become more common knowledge and more codified. Guidelines become rules become laws become Unbreakable Pillars of Requirement. Even non-improvisers smile knowingly when I say I do improv, and respond, "Ah, right, yes AND you don't make any money right?" (To which I reply, yes, AND... well played. Then I quietly weep.)

One of the big dangers of “yes, and” being an Unbreakable Pillar is the elimination of agency when it comes to consent on stage. At its least insidious, it results in beginning players feeling like they can’t say no as characters on stage, even if it’s a stronger choice.

An example: Actor A says, “Whatever you do, don’t eat my sandwich from the break room fridge.” Actor B can say “yeah, okay, I won’t eat your sandwich, and I’m sorry.” A potentially more dynamic scene might instead be mid-chew and say, “Oh, this sandwich?” By denying the character, Actor B actually heightens the stakes and clarifies the conflict. The Character of Actor B says no, while the Actor is embracing the drive of the scene.

This kind of inability to say no is rather benign. It simply results in a (potentially) less dynamic scene. It definitely limits an actor’s choices, which is ironic given the intent behind Yes, And to empower improvisers to be able to create openly.

Far more problematic is the elimination of agency when it comes to scenes that create moments that are potentially harmful or hurtful. This especially has been heavy on my mind given the recent revelation of sexual harassment issues running deeply endemic to various well established improv institutions – in Chicago, in LA, and in communities across the country. Most recently, it resulted in the firing of an artistic director at an iconic improv theater.

To say that “Yes, And” is behind the systemic disregard to sexual harassment is to grossly oversimplify and reduce a complex issue. However, I can’t help but feel that an over-emphasis and culture of “yes above all else” tacitly empowers the creation of classroom environments where students feel they can’t express discomfort or objection to scenes or subject matter. I personally have experienced this when racially charged scenes happen. The dichotomy and challenge is we want to create a safe space where we CAN explore sensitive subjects (and make mistakes, discover WHY things are offensive, and explore what things reinforce damaging paradigms vs what things are funny and upset established power dynamics). However, we MUST also have a space where if lines are crossed we can point it out without fear of breaking a rule or being told we’re “just not getting the joke” or “not saying yes.”

I know for myself and many of my peers, part of the draw of improv is its empowerment and inclusivity. It’s a core part of the concept of “Yes, And” – we are all “correct,” whatever we say, and we have the power to create new things from that. Yet I imagine we can do a stronger job in shifting our approach just slightly to avoid some of the inherent, subtle problems of demanding agreement.

Make ‘em Comfy, Then Punch Them In The Gut (With lols)

What’s more important? A safe space, or laughs? I would argue that comedy cannot begin until we have made the audience feel safe. Not in a coddling way, but in the manner that comedy has the power to disarm people so that they are receptive to complex and challenging content. Bawdy puppets in Avenue Q can say things no politician can broach. Comedy news shows can lampoon and call out uncomfortable truths in a way that has people rolling in stitches. That is only possible when we have created a space that allows people to drop their guard and listen with joy and excitement. We can only create such a space if all performers and participants feel empowered and able to say yes AND no without repercussion. I think that sort of training should start from day 1, class 1.


Shifting away from “Yes, And” as our starting point further empowers us to examine more deeply what IS the most essential thing to any strong and funny and interesting comedic scene. Once we do that, we can start with a stronger foot that allows for more open play, and further empowers rather than limits our performers as they grow from these foundations.

105-Year-Old Literally Cannibalizes 36-Year-Old Who Destroyed 29-Year-Old Millenial Who Ripped 25-Year-Old Ex-Yelp Employee

Dear Whoever-the-hell-I-can't-even-keep-track-of-all-these-kids,

After reading your scathing character assassination of a girl who wrote a bizarre excuse for a mini autobiography in response to a girl who wrote an article detailing the absolute struggle she dealt with while working for a Bay Area based corporation, I felt it absolutely necessary to dine on your flesh and internal organs. I think it is only fitting that I literally eviscerate you as you metaphorically destroy someone who literarily decided to reframe someone's personal essay on the struggles of working for a cellular phone application into some kind of indictment on an entire generation. (You might also tell me literarily is not a word, but I'm 105 so who the fuck cares?)

My name is Mary, but that is not nearly as important as Joe, which is the name I gave your pancreas right before I devoured it. I will be turning actually older than dust come this winter, and it is literally two or three lifetimes ago for some people that I was your age, having survived two world wars, a Great Depression, a Great Recession, and a Mediocre Jam Season (the strawberries were a little under-ripe this year). Despite our several-decade age difference, it seems we are closer than ever, primarily because I am in your body cavity, consuming your kidneys. 

Before I dined on them with just a little touch of mustard, you used your lungs to tell me you were an English major at one point, and that a 29 year old English major was busy ripping into a 25 year old English major, much as I was ripping into your bronchi. You said something about the privilege of getting to dream, and something of reading comprehension, but all I wondered as I consumed your trachea was, why do English majors spend so many words hating on each other?

I wondered as I picked apart your muscle groups why you and that girl you destroyed and the girl she ripped spent so much time picking apart each other's personal flaws or faults. It seemed so exhausting, at each step, as you tip toed around the quality parts of each person, the good things they had to say, and instead chose  to tear into the details that contain the least substance.  You were a graphic designer (before I drained all the blood from your body into a saucepan). She was a waitress. That other girl was a customer service person. I'm a methodical deconstructionist of the human body. Who the hell cares? 

It just seems a real shame that all this talk turns to personal successes or failings while the big, juicy issue of unsustainable minimum wages, which it seems all of you have experienced, goes almost untouched. Sure, that's not all your fault - I've watched tweets go from "something the birds my husband (ingested in '85) watched would do," to "a way a narrative completely runs off the rails." But it's amazing how we get so distracted by whether or not someone actually could afford bread (or cupcakes and bourbon), or who is more privileged and who is the least grateful, or who doesn't understand the #BlackLivesMatter movement at all (wait, really? oh dear. That is pretty awful. I'm 105 with plenty of latent racist views and even I think that's bullshit).

Sorry, what was I saying? I got a little distracted while chewing on your appendix. What is the whole point of this thing, anyway?

I suppose all I really have to say is, the Internet is a lot like the small intestine I'm currently slurping up like spaghetti - it runs on forever, and it's really good at sucking out all the nourishing and interesting bits and leaving only the husks of opinion and shit behind. 

Maybe instead of consuming each other for all of our flaws (honey, your poor bile duct, so overworked), we can direct our attention back to the choice problems of a culture of knee-jerk outrage, angry mob mentality, sharing stories without fact checking, character assassination over empathy, gentrification, and a booming tech industry with problematic wages (which makes no sense to me not because I'm old but because I primarily spent the last 20 years eating humans). This isn't directed at just you, my 36 year old friend, because you're little more than viscera on my carpet at this point - this is directed at all the people on that small intestine Internet train of bullshit. 

Let's stop being shitty to each other, folks, and get back to the important thing - disposing of bones in a discrete, non-obtuse manner.

It's Not Censorship; Your Jokes Are Just Crappy and Lazy

"Did you know that if you are still telling the same tired jokes you were telling 20 years ago with no regard to the changing social and political climate that you probably won’t get tons of laughs on college campuses? ...[But] there is nothing more American than the ability to say whatever you want — no matter how vile and hate-filled, no matter the social consequences, no matter how steeped in the blood of people of color, trans people, or rape victims those jokes are — without having to face any criticism." - Ijeoma Oluo

You can be dirty, raunchy, and talk all about the taboo. But you gotta be really freakin' good to do it well. It's why Louis CK can get away with murder (or, in the case of his SNL monologue, a heinous yet hilarious joke about pedophilia).

Lazy comedy is pointing at a stereotype or taboo topic and saying "HERE IT IS." Laughter because you made the audience uncomfortable is easy. 

Good comedy takes a taboo stereotype or problematic topic and inverts it, twists it, highlights its absurdity, and makes us examine an uncomfortable thing up close and observe the need for transformation.

It’s easy to say something offensive and provoke a response. It’s harder to call out the offensive thing or stereotype and make a joke about why it's offensive that simultaneously barbs, is funny, and highlights why it's problematic. 

An imperfect example:

I was playing a game where a fellow improviser and I were movie critics who narrated/set up scenes in a movie. Then, two of our other teammates would act out that scene. For a suggestion of a genre, we received Martial Arts film.

I chose to narrate the scene with a British accent, because I had no interest in the low-hanging fruit of playing up my Asian-ness. The two (white) actors acting out the scenes however immediately made the choice of coming onstage and immediately doing stereotypical Asian/Chinese accents and talking about shaming the honor of their family, etc.

It’s a fine line. There is not anything inherently wrong with their choice to play the accents. Sure, their content was stereotyping - but it’s a genre game which often leans into stereotypes of genre for bits and jokes. Audiences laugh when they recognize tropes, and accents, dubs, and white-appropriated depictions. 

To me however, this is really beginner-level comedy and jokes, and also fraught with the easy danger of tipping into offensive/racist choices. We’re reinforcing expectations instead of inverting them - the comedy comes solely from recognition, not from any element of surprise or intelligent inverting of expectations.

My partner narrating the scene was obviously a little uncomfortable, and made a comment questioning the “historical authenticity” of the movie. This was an amazing gift that I got to jump on.

Instead of pointing out how inauthentic two white guys pretending to be Chinese warriors was, I instead asserted how deeply, amazingly authentic the film was, and how it wasn’t at ALL weird or problematic having two white guys play all the Chinese characters through the film.

The audience laughed, and then the game of our scene became the two white actors purposefully playing into horrible overblown stereotypes, my character embracing them ridiculously, and my co-anchor playing the straight man getting more and more uncomfortable and finally rebuking the whole thing. 

What could’ve been a generic scene of stereotyping and bad accents instead became a commentary on appropriation of culture and how Hollywood whitewashes Asian roles. 

The scene could’ve just been easy humor that was laughing at a culture’s perceived other-ness. Instead it became a commentary on how white culture consume foreign stories, then grotesquely twist it to fit white cultural understanding, standards, and expectations by inserting white characters into non-white environments.

Whine Less, Write Better Jokes

People who complain about "censorship" in comedy sound a lot like the people who say we are “too politically correct” as a country nowadays.

I call bullshit.

The actual case is, we as a culture are getting to be more inclusive and aware. We’re also spotting lazy, discriminatory humor from our comedians, humor that enforces existing power structures, that “punches down.” Comedy has the power to change minds, to talk about the taboo, to revolutionize how things are. George Carlin, Louis CK, Amy Schumer, all buck expectations and punch up and out against power systems, against prejudices and injustices. 

We are not too sensitive. We are saying we're not interested in lazy humor that picks on the disempowered. 

Punching a little kid is easy. Let’s tackle the 2 ton gorilla with our comedy. 

Same thing with people complaining about having to be politically correct. Political correctness actually just means “hey, don’t be an asshole and completely dismiss or insult a group of people through ignorance or intentionally hurtful words.” If that’s “too much trouble” and “stupid” to you, then you’re an asshole.

And here’s the thing - an audience might not be able to articulate that, but we as professional comedians need to recognize that and make smarter, better, more subversive jokes.

We need to step up our game.

The first stand up set I ever wrote had a bit about having dogs in jars in my fridge growing up. You know, because Chinese people eat dogs. How foreign and weird! The fact is, I’ve never eaten dog; it’s not in the culinary culture and regions my family is from. But it was an easy joke and got a huge laugh every time. 

I’m more than a little embarrassed by that joke. 

I’m trying to evolve past that.

I hope that teachers and institutions and people in positions of instruction and power will encourage players to play smarter.

It’s not censorship; it’s not political correctness; it’s playing smarter and sharper and better.

Because at the end of the day, there’s a dick joke, and then there’s a dick joke that illustrates what male privilege looks like while simultaneously kicking patriarchal expectations in the dick. 

Defunding Planned Parenthood is a Pure Political Lie.

In case you haven't heard, a bill passed the House to defund Planned Parenthood. It won't make it to law bc the president has promised to veto it even if it passes the senate.

However, here's why I'm angry that defunding PP is a whole movement that's pretending to happen:

It's a purely political gesture based completely on lies and misinformation to emotionally stir up voters as we approach an election cycle, and is not actually about preventing abortions at all.

It's JUST the emotional manipulation of voters with lies and lip service "defense of those without a voice."

It's actually the shameful using of fetuses as mouthpieces for selfishly driven political rhetoric. It's disgusting.

AND if such a bill actually passes, it would do real harm to millions of women, AND actually undermine the supposed purpose of defunding Planned Parenthood, which is to save unborn babies.

First - the videos that caused the sensational outcry of supposed inhumanity were heavily edited to create the illusion of selling fetuses for profit, when in fact the costs were for transportation and associated costs for legal and approved research.

Let's say you still object completely to abortions. Sure, I (and way more importantly, the law) disagree with your position. However, the government funding for Planned Parenthood DOES NOT EVEN GO TO ABORTIONS. EVER. That was done precisely because of the political toxicity around abortion.

To say we'll stop abortions if we take money away from Planned Parenthood is a pure convenient political lie.

What would ACTUALLY happen if we defunded PP is the astronomical reduction to access of basic sexual health care to millions of poor and underserved women.

We also would be denying services and family planning counseling which are designed to HELP AVOID UNWANTED PREGNANCIES, so that we can AVOID ABORTIONS.

Defunding Planned Parenthood would actively hurt millions of women, defund their access to basic screening services for cancers and diseases, and reduce programs that ACTUALLY help prevent abortion.

THIS is why I'm furious. The movement is built on pulling on our heartstrings and a whole pile of lies. It's done purely to rally supporters behind an imaginary slaying of a dragon, when really the dragon is a young girl in a dragon costume going "why the hell are you stabbing me with swords I just wanted to provide health care for the princess argh."

I'm furious we can live in an age where politicians, leaders of our country, can lie to us ceaselessly because they want voter turnout and to say feel good sound bites.

I'm furious because 241 representatives either didn't do their basic homework, or are saying "I am willing to threaten millions of my constituents with losing access to health care and services that actually help reduce abortions to make a political gesture based on selfishness, misinformation, and pure manipulation."

If you are against abortions, you should stand with Planned Parenthood. They are in the business of health care and prevention of unwanted pregnancies. They are also in the business of providing safe and legal abortions for women who have a right to their body, and want an option allowed them by the law of this country.

And we all should shame all the candidates spewing Defund Planned Parenthood as a rallying cry.

You think it sounds like "no more abortions!" But what they're actually saying is "fuck health services for women and low income people." And that is abominable.

Zuckerberg's Cave

None of us are as cool as our Facebook selves.

Behind all the shiny moments, everyone struggles. Everyone feels lonely. Everyone has sad days.

Don't let the parade of highlights and best moments make you feel sad about your mundane days.

Just off camera of that Instagram Lark filtered perfect picture is the hot mess that is real life.

None of us really know what we're doing, and it's kind of beautiful and bittersweet. Painfully, perfectly imperfect.