Friday was a very strange day.
It began like any other Friday of the past nearly 8 years. I got up, put on a suit, and went to work. By 8:30 I was into the first rehearsal for Week in Review. We’ve always run through twice … once at 8:30 and once at 8:45 … with a live start at 9:00.
By 9:30, it was done.
I thought I could get through my final speech OK. I’d read it and read it and read it at my desk over the past week. I wrote it early, knowing it would be difficult, and hoping that by reading it often, I’d be comfortable enough to make it through. I expected to have trouble. I didn’t expect to have it be as hard as it was.
I mean really. I’d never asked to be on TV. I enjoyed it, after I got over the abject terror of it. Once I figured out that the camera was just a big microphone with an operator, I was in pretty good shape. And the confidence I’ve gained from being on television, as well as being on an improv stage, made it comfortable, if not easy.
As John was turning off the lights … a standard breaker-box panel … he got down to the final switch. “Which one is it?”, he asked.
It was my backlight … falling directly on my chair. We agreed that it was somehow fitting that it would be the last one. He flipped the final switch, and it was done. I expect they’ll strike the set Monday. I understand a commercial photographer is interested in using the studio pretty extensively, but I know we’re planning on having our candidates cattle-call in that studio. So maybe it’ll stay for a little while longer.
We had a good run. Nothing to be ashamed of. Over 400 programs, each one new, original, and probably 95% hosted my me. We only went back and re-hashed once a year, our “Year in Review” show that fell on the last Friday of the year. Otherwise, each show was built from scratch, based on the week’s new.
So, here are the people working on the show on the last day. Not a comprehensive photo by any means. Don Agnew was laid off in the most recent RIF, and Christina, who’d been producing since then was on vacation last Friday. We did the final show with just our journalists. I thought it was fitting for us to have the last show to ourselves. We finished strong, with a solid show, and no regrets. But, more than a twinge of melancholy.
But that wasn’t the end of it, by any means
After working through my issues on the final Week in Review show in the morning, I showed up at The Ocean Club Liquor Store for the last improv show, at least for a while, of the so-far short-lived “Milk Comedy Crew”.
In a bizarre twist, Jeff Kalish, who will be our director should we continue, fell playing soccer and blew out his ACL. He was unable to come to the show, and Don G had something come up at the last minute and was unable to join us.
So, if fell to Scott, Della, and me to close out this chapter of Milk.
When we got to the venue, there was already a band setting up on the stage. This happened to us last week as well, but we got to them then before a double-bass drum kit was set up on the stage. After we decided we were going to play at all, we left the stage to the band and played on the floor in front of the first row of tables.
We kicked ass. We had a bunch of our old friends come out. Beth and Crystal were there, John Bryan, of course, Andie came to the show … we played a short, fast, funny set of about 9 games and called it a night. Andre Holloway stopped by and did 5 minutes of standup … and was as funny as ever. But still when it was over … more than a twinge of melancholy. It was just that kind of a night.
When it was all done, I lit one of my likely-illegal Cubano cigars and reflected on how much had changed in the span of about 16 hours.
Every week at work, I had a rhythm. It all revolved around getting Week in Review up and ready for Friday morning. Meetings with Don, editorial decisions, script writing, promo and production element creation … it filled a good portion of my week. That’s all done now. But much of what defined me at work, and indeed in this community, ended when we turned out those lights.
And from my first improv rehearsal, I loved it. And I’ve gotten a lot better, if Scott is to be believed. He really didn’t have any reason to just blow smoke up my skirt telling me that. See, Scott and Della are moving to West Virginia … a tiny little town of about 10 thousand people with very little in the way of culture or art as Scott knows it. I hope they’re able to make a go of the bookstore, but if they wind up back here, I hope we’ll have a chance to improvise together again. Being a member of ImprovJacksonville, and more recently Milk Comedy Crew, greatly improved my public speaking ability, my performance on television and radio, and I made some wonderful friends. So, I hope as Jeff rehabs from his blown knee he doesn’t lose interest in making more Milk. We’ll see.
So, a personally monumental Friday. It’s not often that so much can change in so short a time. Nothing bad, really. Not like the collapse of the whole banking system or anything. But it was a day for more than a twinge of melancholy.
tomorrow’s a new day. Time to start writing the next chapter.