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Comedy sketch writing isn’t all that funny

  • Written by Claudia Parker

Claudia Mug Shot-ColorChasing a dream to earn a sustainable income as a writer is proving to be a hard-knock life for me. Failure is trying to suppress my writing aspirations.
Recently, I cranked open my Toshiba laptop to find an e-mail from the writing program coordinator at Second City. “Thank you for your interest in Writing 5. Unfortunately, your submitted scene didn’t qualify for you to continue at this time.”
For the previous eight months, my cheeks have been in Second City’s seats learning to write sketch comedy. There are six, eight-week terms in the program.
I completed four.
To gain entry to Writing 5, a sketch scene audition is a prerequisite to ensure ones work is worthy of such an advancement. Of 12 classmates, I’m one of three that didn’t make it through.
“What?!” I thought. “I’m a professional writer! How does that happen?”
The e-mail continued: “This doesn’t mean you aren’t a great writer.”
Crossing my arms I mumbledpage-12-with-Claudia-colClaudia Parker, front row, right, poses with a group of comedy sketch writing hopefuls at Second City. Most of her peers will move up a level while Parker was rejected but said that rejection will sharpen her determination to get better. Submitted photo.

submitted   “You’re darn Skippy it doesn’t.”
I read further. 
  “...just that you may need more work on the principles of scenic sketch.” said the program coordinator.
My emotions dipped back to a time when my husband Don and I took our daughters Donae (7) and Rhonda-Rene (4) to Grand Geneva’s Timber Ridge Lodge and Waterpark up in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.
At the time, Rhonda-Rene was only two and just getting acclimated to exploring water independently. Forcing the natural progression of her comfort level, I placed her at the top of the toddler slide and scurried over to the bottom to catch her.
Most enthused, I petitioned her to slide down.
“Come to Mommy! Rhonda-Rene! Come?” I suspect, from her vantage point, plummeting into cold water didn’t look appealing.
Ignoring my lure, she abruptly scooched backward and tumbled headfirst down the stairs of the slide.
The stairs were softly padded, as was the toddler surface where she landed.
Nonetheless, a concerned lifeguard escorted us into a warm, towel-filled back room.
He proceeded to examine Rhonda-Rene and completed an incident report. She hadn’t sustained any injuries and didn’t cry but a minute. Yet, I stalled to leave that room. I wear the badge of stay-at-home mom with honor. I take great pride in caring for my family. I didn’t want to face the people who saw me fail to protect my child.
Likewise, I’m a passionate writer. I exercise at this craft like a fitness guru does their body.
Failing to advance to Writing 5 was not only disappointing but embarrassing. I wanted to go find that warm, towel-filled room and not come out. But, there’s a danger in that line of thinking.
When entertained long enough, feelings of failure morph into fear. I don’t believe we fail because we’re supposed to quit. I believe we fail when we need to grow. Those who quit shut off their creative energy stunting their expression of joy that only shines through when it’s shared with the world.
When we stop operating in the purpose of which we were created out of fear, we can become unfulfilled, miserable people.
Failure is not an option for me, I will press forward elsewhere!
But, first, I felt I needed the specifics from the folks at Second City. I wrote a small note to the head of their writing program asking for a detailed explanation for why my scene failed. For peace of mind, I needed to know how far I was off the mark. Turns out, it wasn’t a near miss -- it was more like a WIDE gap.
I responded as such, “I appreciate the raw feedback. I’m going to be honest, I never desired to write comedy. I just wanted to learn how to write for the stage and ultimately film. I came to Second City because of its reputation as being one of the best training centers in the business. Thank you for giving me a playwright foundation. However, for what I need to fulfill my personal endeavors, I think its best I seek my training in an institution not comedy specific.”
As a writer, this experience will sharpen my determination. As a mom, it will become a priceless teaching tool for my little girls down the road. Our kids only listen to us for so long.
After that, they model us. It’s easy to show our children how to celebrate success, but don’t forget to show them how to celebrate opportunities to grow.
In failure, there is growth, for the plants that thirst for watering. And that, I do!