Something that Jerry Seinfeld and Mike Birbiglia have both brought up in their stand-up routines is how they’re not good at anything besides being funny. I’m paraphrasing not calling them out (they’re funny and make a living at it, so who cares?), but that’s the jist. Birbiglia even at one time really wanted to be a break dancer and was encouraged by his siblings who no doubt liked to watch their little brother fall on the floor. Because making your brothers and sisters look as stupid as possible has got to be one of the best things about sharing one or two parents.
I couldn’t initially think of the word “break dancing,” so I Googled “dance where you fall on the floor.” It didn’t help, because Break dancing wasn’t one of the results. I ended up having to remember it organically, which means the internet is still on its way to being sentient. What I did get were a lot of Youtube videos of people falling, some of them while drunk. The spirit of America’s Funniest Home Videos will apparently outlive us all, and, I’m sure, follow us into a post-apocalyptic world. My friend was playing Fall Out 4 and asked, “Why do people like this? I keep having to build shelves and run errands for people.” You wouldn’t think you’d have to do shit other than celebrate being alive, but maybe I don’t watch or read enough sci-fi to verify this. When my husband reads this post, he’ll probably just turn to me and shake his head. But then again, he’ll probably be the one in the post-apocalyptic world building shelves, because he does read sci-fi. And likes feeling productive.
I’m sorry if I’m not telling it very well, but I gave my mom Mike Birbliglia’s Sleepwalk with Me book as a present, and she was like, “Okay, I’ll read it!” But she lied, and it’s been 5 years, and she still hasn’t read it. Now it’s lost in her messy house, and I don’t want to go out and buy it again in case she finds it. I should probably just go buy it again.
What I’m trying to say is that Jon Benjamin, the voice of Archer and who also stars in Aziz Ansari’s Master of None, made a jazz cd. Parker sent it to me earlier today. I almost busted my gut laughing, because Parker suggested I work out while I listen to it which means he either loves me a lot to send me something to make me laugh or is actually trying to kill me. It’s probably the former, because I almost never exercise.
Parker: I thought it would be perfect for you, because I heard Soft Jazzercise, and thought, “Hey! That’s how my wife does it. Barely at all.”
So, not only is Jon Benjamin funny, but his jazz cd is great because he can’t play the piano at all. I’m also drawn to it, because it also reminds me of whenever music teachers found out I knew how to play piano at school.
As a child, I developed joy in trying to learn how to play simple songs on the electric piano. All I needed to do was show my mom I’d graduated to the point of wanting to learn to play music for her to mention it to my grandma. My grandma pounced on this immediately and went out and bought me a piano that required my mom to remodel the living room.
I was then introduced to the weekly torture of practicing for piano class. I hated being MADE to play and often cried. I would sob while Mom, who hated to make me and maybe hated to listen to me play the song incorrectly over and over even more, screamed that I needed to play, and my grandma bought me such a NICE piano, and didn’t she love me? So I’d cry and sniffle, and try to play it from memory, since I was worse at reading music than I was at playing music. I could never remember which note was which, so I’d memorize the piece and then my teacher would chuckle as I paused midway up the piano and would say, “I see you memorizing the piece again.”
All I wanted to do was play what I wanted to play WHEN I wanted to play it! Now I knew how to play “Yes, we have no Bananas,” but did NOT want to learn how to play “Spring Morning.” I certainly didn’t want to practice it semi-weekly to have to practice it even more in order to play it at my piano recital. To make it less awful, I made up my own terrible lyrics to “Spring Morning,” which I still have memorized because that’s never leaving unless I get full-on Alzheimers or a brain tumor. There’s something about making up lyrics to songs that runs on both sides of my family and makes me happy whenever I think about it.
By the time I was in 6th grade, I was trying out new things like the clarinet, but the lessons remained the same, and now it was harder, because I had to learn to try to find the notes all over again and blow “just so.” When my 6th grade music teacher insisted we were all going to play different instruments and memorize a song, he added, “If you have musical experience with an instrument, tell me, and we’ll assign it to you. Otherwise, you’ll get something random.”
“I’ve had piano lessons,” I said after another girl had raised her hand to admit she knew how to play.
“Excellent! Let’s hear what you’ve both got,” my music teacher proclaimed.
I then watched this girl play and realized we weren’t even close to the same skill level.
“Oh, I’m not THAT good,” I said once she had finished.
“I’m sure you’re great. You’re just being modest!”
“I’m really not.”
One of the things I have gathered about teachers now that I am older is that where we see failure and lack of skill, teachers see the flickering of potential. I survived the performance of “Wannabe” and managed to disentangle myself from taking lessons.
Now, I pretty much leave piano playing up to my husband. He’s much better. But the point is that comedians have given me unrealistic job expectations, and so now I think I may have a future in the jazz biz. More details to follow.