In the early 70’s, there was a baseball pitcher named Steve Blass. He was good – not great, but good – until 1973, when he suddenly developed an absolute inability to pitch the ball over the plate.
He wasn’t hurt. He hadn’t aged suddenly. He hadn’t lost any of his physical ability.
He just had no idea where his pitches were going. His name was attached to the phenomenon of someone suddenly losing their ability to do the key part of their role in baseball (more recently, Rick Ankiel’s unexpected conversion from pitcher to outfielder comes to mind).
So why am I mentioning a pitcher from 40 years ago? Because after my first few shows back at ComedySportz Richmond, I fully understand what Steve Blass Syndrome feels like. And it’s not fun.
I find myself in the Voice Box wondering where my choices are going to go… and having no faith in my ability to get them there.
I think that’s what led to my post-show sulk after my first show, and my regular frustration now.
It may not exactly be Steve Blass Syndrome – maybe I should be comparing myself to an old quarterback coming out of retirement for one last hurrah, scattering footballs all over a practice field (no Tim Tebow references, please, he’s not old) – but the reality is that I do know how to work a computer, and a sound board, and a microphone, and you would never know any of that if you were watching me voicing a show.
While there’s a framework for a ComedySportz show, the reality is that the Voice has a lot of leeway – which is fine when you have confidence in your choices. It’s not as helpful when you’re doubting every choice you make… and even the right choices blow up on you. Part of it is that I’m dealing with a computer that may actively hate me (OK, actually, it’s a Mac and I’m a Windows guy and I still have to get comfortable with all of the small interface differences). Part of it is that I do have that 8 years of rust to get rid of.
And part of it, and this isn’t a criticism of anyone but myself, is that the players have far more faith in me than I have in myself right now, which is creating a bit of a disconnect.
I come out of a show thinking I’ve made a complete hash of it, only for the rest of my team that night to tell me it was a good job. So now I’m left not only questioning my judgment during a show, but now I’m questioning my judgment about my ability to assess my performance. A nice, tight feedback loop.
And no, I don’t want the players to tell me that I did a lousy job. When they say I did well, they’re certainly far more correct than I am, but I think that’s part of the problem. My confidence is so messed up that I really don’t know if I’m doing a good enough job.
It’s not so much sins of commission – actual audible mistakes. I can count those on the fingers of one hand and can explain all of them (well, all but one). They’re the kind of things that always happen in a live show. Those I can deal with.
It’s the sins of omission – missing cues, not covering silent moments with music beds, not taking a more active role in scenes (sound effects and such), and (the one that seems to really irritate me) not having the “right” musical choices in hand at times. Of course, if you know improv, there is no Absolutely Right choice in just about anything – you make a choice, you make it work (or not), and you move forward. But that seems to be where I’m really getting stuck in my head (and in Blass territory). I am so caught up in finding the unfindable Right Choice that I make either a terrible one (to me, not to anyone else) or none at all. And for some reason, I can’t seem to let go of the idea that there is a Right Choice during the show. I mean, obviously, I know there isn’t, as I’m writing about it. But in the moment… well, my head becomes a chaotic place to be…
I’m not sure how I’m going to get out of that mindset. Oh, I’m sure that I will. But the answer to that doesn’t seem clear at the moment. It’ll come to me (perhaps with some help from the blogosphere hive mind).
It had better. I’ve wanted to get back to the Voice Box for too long – I’m not going to let my own insecurities pull me down… not again. Not this time. This means too much to me. But right now… right now, my head’s all over the place. Do let me know if you see it. 🙂
Who knows? Maybe I have to acknowledge that I’m not as young as I used to be (and that nice round number lurking less than 3 weeks away doesn’t help that, either!)… or maybe I just need a little more time… or maybe I’m just asking too much of myself…
It’s probably all of the above.
Doesn’t make it any easier to fix.