A couple of glasses of wine and some of Jim's blog-reading has made me a little sentimental. So here that goes.
Jim (and our friend John—back then they were Jim and John or John and Jim, and you just always saw and talked about them together) walked in on my job interview at Hallmark in the late summer of 1989. I had driven my un-air-conditioned Mazda GLC to the interviews, sweated all the way down the back of my Steinmart dress, and—because I got to Hallmark 2 hours early—immediately drove back home, blew the dress with a hairdryer, and drove back from Nieman and Shawnee Mission Parkway to Crown Center without letting my back touch the plastic seat.
I was a little tense—and I was only half-way through Hallmark's day-long interview gauntlet. When John and Jim walked in with their ponytails and BDU jackets and hilariousness, I tried very, very, very hard to be cool.
Starting with that interview, Jim (and John and Jim's wife Penny) have been around for almost every milestone in my life. Penny found (and first lived in) the apartment I called home for 14 years. Jim won $40 in a pool in which he guessed the exact date of a Significant First in a Romantic Relationship—and had the decency to buy me a beer with his winnings. They sat in the audience at Lighten Up's first performance, at Starker's on the Plaza. I celebrated my 30th birthday at Penny's house, and they were all there for my 40th.
I'm an Army brat. Before Facebook, I'd completely lost touch with anyone from college or earlier. To know and feel so known by someone for 20 years—is rare and wonderful. And most wonderful is the thing I learned from John, Jim, Penny and the rest of the writers we drank beer with: The only way to be cool was to be completely, horribly, humiliatingly vulnerable and open.
In other words, I got maybe the most important rule of improv from them.
It usually happened sitting around the brainstorm table at work. Or over beers at Charlie Hoopers, beginning stories with "I can't believe I've had enough beer to tell you guys this..." We said anything and everything to each other. Your deepest shame? Share it with the group. It stays there. Never gets turned against you. And probably makes them like you more.
Anyway, I get to play with my friend Jim. And Penny will probably be there with their not-so-little boy, Jonah. That makes me happy.