2011 in Review

Well, that was an interesting year. I was very lucky in many instances. Traveled with 3033 to Florida and visited Hogwarts. Visited Las Vegas to do a show and got snowed in there. Missed the Chicago Snowpocalypse sadly. Close Quarters, which I still miss, closed shop. Created and ran the show “Sarah Palin Explains America at You” with Megan O’Neill, who was simply amazing in the role. I moved out of my weirdo studio apartment (it had two levels, a fire place and and deck) after seven years. Moved in with My friends Brett and Adal because there was access to a swimming pool. That lasted 28 days before we flooded so bad it destroyed the walls. We escaped from that place to our lovely new digs thanks to the generous and gracious assistance by so many of our friends. That was a blessing. Journeyed to the Philippines to do some corporate training and teach some improv. It was my second trip overseas (the first was Australia… apparently, I only travel if the flight is 10 hours or more.)

Went back to Florida with 3033 (and I am amazingly grateful that they include me for these trips.) My lovely friends Pat & Mary had a wonderful baby. My friends Jeff & Jeannie got married and I was in the wedding Party. I got to wear a tux, which I enjoy. Taught a special workshop called Page2Stage for the Gorilla Tango Theater. Did some fun corporate gigs around the country which required me to wear special shirts. Started some podcasts (which I have been woefully slow in getting up and running.)

All in all, it was a very good year… which I kind of relished as the previous two years were rough for me. I thank God/Fate/Random Chance for being so kind as to bless me with the opportunities and friends I have been given. And if I worked, played, taught, laughed, sang, smiled, traveled, with you– then I thank you as well.

If you’ve made it this far then you might enjoy this little slideshow/video I made. Thank you again and I look forward to seeing you in 2012.

(weird… the video won’t embed because of “Copyright Issues” but here it is anyway

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A Christmas Carol: the Series

I just watched an episode of Cheers that was Christmas based. I remember when most TV shows had a holiday episode. For some reason I really enjoy it when sitcoms do a “Christmas Carol” riff… you know, when one of the characters is mean (“Scrooge”) and the other characters play the various ghosts and Crachits.

Here’s a list of just some of the TV shows that have done a version of “A Christmas Carol”:

  • Family Ties
  • Blackadder
  • The Real Ghostbusters
  • Jetsons
  • Odd Couple
  • Sanford & Son
  • WKRP in Cinncinati
  • The Six Million Dollar Man
  • Alice
  • Quantum Leap
  • Dr. Who

and that’s just the ones I found in 30 minutes! Surprisingly there are many more shows that pull the ole “oh-no-we’re-stranded-during-the-holidays!” bit. A list of the stranded:

  • The Facts of Life
  • Newhart
  • The Bob Newhart Show
  • Golden Girls
  • King of the Hill
  • Friends
  • Full House
  • The Mary Tyler Moore Show

I’ve seen most of the Carol rips and I love them all. Do you know of any that I missed? I do have to give it up to “Bewitched” for doing something controversial (for the time) for the holidays. Tabitha (the kid) has a black friend. They’re such good friends that… ah, check out the second half of the episode below.. it’s weird.

Happy Christmas, everyone! Hope it’s a happy and safe one.

A Merry Chinmas

I like Christmas. I like the lights, the presents, and the bonhomie.

I’m lucky enough to have a wise mother. When all my friends were going to Catholic mass or Greek orthodox or Synagogue I asked my mother what religion we were. I mean, I had (and still do) the awkwardly titled, “Children’s Stories from the Bible, Old & New Testament, Illustrated” but we never went to church (funerals don’t count)… so what were we? She told me to wait and learn and then when I’m older I could choose my own religion.

Jennifer, Jason and Jonathon. All demonstrating 80s hairstyles.

In the meantime,

We celebrated the heck out of Christmas. My brother, sister and I pretty much listened to “John Denver & the Muppets: A Christmas Together” non-stop in December. We fought over the free poster that came with the album so my mom put it up in the bathroom. We could look at John and the Muppets as we peed. Well, my sister couldn’t.

One year, my mother decided that she didn’t like all the clean up after holidays from a natural Christmas tree so she bought an artificial one. We grudgingly agreed and decorated the robotree. A few days passed and I decided to surprise the family by bringing home a real tree and replacing the artificial one. I dragged a real one the five blocks home and began setting it up. After a few hours my brother, with the same idea, arrived home with a real tree. So we salvaged ornaments and spread them between all three trees. We loved it.

The dining room was typically set-aside as a wrapping room and we would take turns wrapping our stuff and shouting  “All Clear!” when we had to run to our rooms so we would accidentally peek at our presents.

I enjoyed shoveling snow so I would shovel the walks of all the elderly folks nearby. My mom said, “Charity begins at home. Shovel our walk first.”

Once, my brother got a Shogun Warrior. These 15-inch plastic robots shot missiles, eagle-shaped scout ships and other cool things. My father told my brother, “Never point this at anyone… especially your brother.” Yessir, my brother said. And then he immediately pressed a button, which fired a plastic fist into my right eye.

We were allowed to open one present on Christmas Eve. The trick was to avoid the obvious move of going for the big item first, but to go for a medium one… something you can enjoy for the night, but still have something big to anticipate for the next morning. We would wake up around 5am and run downstairs screaming and yelling. I would put on the great album, “John Denver & the Muppets: A Christmas Together” as we unwrapped. Finally, my parents wised up and in the middle of the night would sneak into our rooms and place present-filled stockings and gifts from Santa. This usually kept us occupied and bought Mom & Dad a few extra hours of sleep.

I do remember reading a book about Santa and then asking my mom about his method of entry. “He comes down the chimney.” So, I went outside and followed the route… it led right into our furnace. “Wait.. a minute… if that’s impossible… then…” and I discovered that there’s no Santa and my parents were the sole providers of gifts. It was a moment of childhood discovery and actual deduction. But that realization did nothing to diminish my enjoyment of the holidays. Giving gifts to family and friends, special foods and drinks, taking a moment to cherish (or rue) the past year, these things have nothing to do with Christmas or Santa Claus. These are humankind things. If Solstice and Christmas didn’t exist, then we’d have to invent them… which I guess we did. Happy Festivus, y’all.

Strong, er…

I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a nerd, but you don’t need to be online everyday to know that there’s something wrong in our country when men/women serving in our military, as well as the Founding principle of the separation of Church and State are regularly under attack by our own politicians.

As President, I would end the war on Reason. And I’ll fight against right-wing attacks on our secular heritage.

The belief that All People Are Created Equal, and should be treated as such before the Law, is what made America strong. Let’s make it strong. Let’s keep it strong.

I’m Jason R. Chin and I disapprove of Rick Perry’s message.

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My Struggle

A few years ago I wrote a book called “Longform Improvisation and the Art of Zen.” It’s a compilation of things I had learned and was using in my teaching at the time. I’m fascinated by the history and philosophies of various martial arts and I found much of it applicable to my work in improvisation.  Having a book I wrote available on Amazon.com is kinda funny to me, personally and I like seeing it there. I’m no expert or master of anything (well, maybe Red Dead Redemption… i kick all kinds of butt in that game) but I’ve been doing it a long time and the book is a collection of experience and research. I remember my friend and teacher Noah Gregoropolous being complimented by a student. Noah’s response was, “I try to learn from my mistakes. I’ve been doing this a long time; I’ve made a lot of mistakes.” I always liked that answer.

For various and sundry reasons, iO Theater is not going to be carrying my book. Instead, if you’re in Chicago, you can pick one up from me personally! I’ll have some with me at all times, or you can e-mail me and I’ll bring a copy to you! Each one is only $9! What a great holiday present!

My friend Bob Kodzis recently sent me this “mind map” (as he calls it) of some of the ideas from the book (some mine, some quotes of people I mention in the book) and it is absolutely wonderful. I mean, it’s one of the nicest things I’ve ever seen… I’m going to have it made into a poster… Check it out:

I wish I still had a fireplace… this would so go above the mantel. There’s an old Japanese proverb, “When the character of a man is not clear to you, look at his friends.” If this is true, then I’m a very good character. Thank you, friends.

Sherlocked Out

Nowadays, being a nerd means that the properties you love are being made into movies. Movies that you will hate. For me, there is nothing more egregious than the Guy Richie / Robert Downey Jr. “Sherlock Holmes” movies. The Great Detective

There’s a reason that Sherlock Holmes stories have been in print for more than a hundred years. I first stumbled upon the Great Detective in my sister’s collection of horse stories. In it was “The Silver Blaze,” a Sherlock Holmes mystery about a missing racehorse. Something about the story stuck with me and I looked for more stories of this Sherlock person. I quickly found a version of “The Hound of the Baskervilles” made for kids. It had cute little illustrations and was edited down, but I loved that book.

So what is so alluring about Sherlock Holmes that to this very day I still re-read the original canon and seek out any and all non-canon works? I mean, movies, TV shows, books, short stories, I explore them all. In fact, this may be the nerdiest thing I’ve ever done: Holmesick.

I think it’s the triumph of intellect over brawn (though not shying away from it when necessary.) Perhaps it’s the triumph of Good (not the law, mind you) over Evil. And, I do have to admit I enjoy the period costumes and manners.

The character Sherlock Holmes is a brilliant man who isn’t just a repository of random trivia; he’s a genius at deduction. He doesn’t just know things; he deduces them. Even though he eschews human interaction (though he has many contacts and acquaintances his only real friend is Watson) he can turn on the charm when needed. Noted American adventuress Irene Adler only appears in ONE official story, but somehow has ended up in just about every filmed version in the past ten years. Using his powerful intellect and planning skills he avoids fisticuffs and violent confrontation and wasn’t that the dream of the Victorian Age? Reason over rumble?

The current franchise of movies prizes chase scenes and slow motion fights over reasoning and deduction. In prizing style and substance, these movies betray the very heart of the original canon. It’s pure, stereotypical Hollywoodization of a property; add more explosions, running, gratuitous sex/nudity and just use the names and basic ideas.

Out of all the bastardizations I have nerdily suffered (new Star Trek, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Watchmen, Tim Burton’s Batman movies, et al.) this is the most annoying. I guess in the long run, maybe, just maybe, someone will be inspired to read one of the original stories and then it’s worth it. Maybe.