Megan Radke

Put Those Improv Skills to Work (Literally)

Office Space When I interviewed for my current job, for whatever reason, I felt it necessary to let my would-be manager know that I was taking improv classes. I’m not sure why I divulged such information. I knew well that it could lead her to think I wouldn’t have enough time to perform the often 24/7 duties of a social media manager. But, she asked about me and improv has been a big part of my life for the last several months so I figured, it couldn’t hurt, right? I was totally right.

I'm not saying that should you mention improv in your next job interview that it will go this well, but after I brought it up, my now boss told me that while working for her previous company, they would actually reimburse employees for doing such things and working toward goals that would, overall, better themselves. I, unfortunately, don’t get reimbursed (but I do intern, for the incredible experience and so I don’t have to worry about things such as reimbursement) but the more I thought about it, the more I started to realize how improv HAS actually made me better at my job.

Regardless of what you do to put food on your table, I’m pretty sure improv, and what you learn while doing it, can be applied. I’m the type of person that most often needs to take information in, digest that information, and then I can come back to you with a plan. I’m not typically someone who speaks up in meetings, I don’t usually just spitball my ideas to the group—or at least, I wasn’t and I didn’t. I’ve since changed that and it’s mostly due to improv and the confidence that I’ve gained in myself since day one of Level 1.

There are no bad ideas in improv, and really, there are no bad ideas when you’re brainstorming for that next project at the office, or, wherever it is that you work. Sharing your ideas and taking a risk or two show the others involved that you care, that you’re taking initiative, and that you’re thinking.

Now, if you’re just quiet in meetings because you aren’t paying attention (also, me, most of the time) then neither improv nor I can help you speak up. Just look up from your computer occasionally, nod, say, “Yeah!” enthusiastically in agreement if that’s what everyone else is doing, and carry on.

Office Space

I’ve mentioned previously that improv helps you to become a better listener and a better friend (and person, really) and as such, I think improv can also help you improve your interactions with your coworkers. Sure, once you tell them that you do improv, they’ll likely ask you to tell them a joke, expect you to be funny all the time, or just ask you multiple times, “Is that like, Saturday Night Live?” but, by simply being more open to them, their ideas and maybe even saying yes to a couple of them, your workplace will be a lot more tolerable.

Even though, yes, Sonya, I’m fine, please stop asking. I know you really don’t care how my weekend was and you’re just making small talk. I can’t deal with it right now. Every time you walk over to my desk I know you’re going to ask me to do something that I don’t want to do for a client that I absolutely hate. Please, just send me an email. Also, we really didn’t need an entire meeting for that.

Megan Radke is currently a Level 4 student at DCH. She is a copywriter and social media manager by day and an essayist and mediocre musician by night. She is a constant consumer of books, music, film, and all things comedy. She is also great at racking up copious amounts of credit card debt with spur-of-the-moment travel.

Not So Awkward Silence

silence You’re in the middle of a conversation with a person or a group of people. For the purposes of really exploring the term “awkward,” and setting the scene, let’s say the conversation you’re in the middle of is with one person. Maybe it’s a person that you really look up to, personally or professionally, or, maybe it’s someone you’ve just realized you have a crush on.

You’re actually talking, you know, being a normal human being. Things are going well but the conversation is starting to slow down, you’ve said everything that was on the script you had written in your head, and they’ve responded positively and appropriately, but now, suddenly, silence. You’re both standing, still facing one another, looking in various directions, maybe nodding your head, saying things like, “Anyway…” You’re probably smiling to keep the panic in your eyes from showing, trying desperately to figure out how to get out of the conversation. There you are, just wallowing around in what is now very awkward silence.

My advice for getting yourself out of this mess? Just a clean break. Say something like, “Welp. See ya later!” Perhaps then that will leave them curious to know more about you based on your outstanding social skills and the fact that you have seen Dumb & Dumber one too many times.

Dumb and Dumber

Or not. You probably shouldn’t take advice from me or let me send your new match on Bumble a message. I’ll ruin it.

Regardless of that silly scenario, there are many moments in life when silence is very uncomfortable. Those moments often teach you to fear it, no matter the situation. If you aren’t talking, then something’s wrong. Right? Not necessarily.

I’ve always been terrified of silence. The thought of awkward silence in person is one thing but awkward silence on the phone? Yuck. Don’t even get me started. There are reasons I’m a pro at texting. Obviously, the more you get to know a person or people, the more comfortable you all are with just enjoying a little peace and quiet, but even still, I’ve always felt that if you were talking, the better things were going.

As it has with many things, though, improv has taught me otherwise. I feel like maybe it’s natural to step out into a scene needing to say something immediately, especially if you’re in front of an audience. You feel like you need to say something, anything, so that you don’t appear lost. You feel like you need to speak so that you and your scene partner(s) aren’t just standing there in silence. Sure, it may feel just as uncomfortable as it does in real life but remember, improv is pretend, it’s make believe, and we’re all just making it up as we go.

Embracing this not-so-awkward silence will allow you to better listen to what’s happening in a scene, catch all of those very important details, names, and gifts that your scene partner is giving you and play at the very top of your intelligence.

And, as far as the audience goes, just think about it: If you step out, take a breath, take your time initiating or responding, not only is what comes out of your mouth most likely going to be better and bolder, but the audience will not feel an ounce of your awkwardness. If anything, they’ll be intrigued and that much more engaged in your scene when you do finally speak up.

If you apply some of these lessons to your everyday life, especially things like, really listening, taking time to respond, and simply not rushing a conversation along, you’ll become a better improviser and conceivably, a better friend and communicator.

So, settle in and get more comfortable with silence, in your scenes and your life. No one’s thinking about it as hard as you are anyway.

Megan Radke is currently a Level 4 student at DCH. She is a copywriter and social media manager by day and an essayist and mediocre musician by night. She is a constant consumer of books, music, film, and all things comedy. She is also great at racking up copious amounts of credit card debt with spur-of-the-moment travel.

Put a Little Care in Your ‘Oke

Cesar Bearded Buddies I’m not exactly what I would personally describe as “shy” but I am pretty anxious, awkward, all that and yes, you know this by now, I’ve covered it. Don’t worry, that’s not what I’m here to talk about today. What I do want to talk about, though, is how much I love watching and experiencing what being on a stage brings out of a person.

I can imagine that the idea of being on stage, in front of a crowd, is completely paralyzing to some, and that’s perfectly understandable and valid. But, to others, simply by stepping foot on stage, you’re able to meet an entirely new and different person that you didn’t know existed.

Comedy in all of its forms will tell you a lot about someone. Comedy can be rather therapeutic. Let’s be honest, if I’ve been mad at you in a scene for being lazy, dirty, unmotivated, or anything of that sort, it was likely genuine anger inspired by an ex-boyfriend. Comedy can allow a person to come out of her shell, show an audience who she knows she's capable of being, but were maybe too afraid to show to others. If you pay close attention, there’s a good chance that you’ll get a glimpse into a person’s very real life through comedy. Under those lights, it’s your opportunity to show the world what you can do. I don’t say that to add any pressure, I say that to only reinforce what a glorious moment being on stage really is.

Aside from improv or stand-up, though, I think that maybe one of the most telling forms of the performing arts is most certainly karaoke. Why? It’s everyone’s chance to prove that they’re actually a rock star. No longer are you a teacher, a copywriter, a photographer, a social media manager, a historic arms and armor dealer (I’m naming actual careers of my actual, very diverse friends), you’re now Katy Perry, Patsy Cline, or maybe even Lionel Richie, whether you sound anything like them or not.

At the most recent Bearded Brothers Karaoke, I made sure to take the stage with others. I did this, not only because it’s sometimes more fun, but because, for whatever reason, in my head, which has a tendency to blow things out of proportion, doing karaoke at Dallas Comedy House (DCH), in front of the many talents I witness on a weekly basis, was just too much to tackle all on my own. It was a night of memorable performances, though, and what actually inspired this blog post. That night, I believe we all met the real DCH student Shawn Meyer through his most epic, “Wind Beneath My Wings.”

Portlandia

For the purposes of full disclosure, you should know that if I am performing alone, I’m THAT person about karaoke. I may as well be Dave and Kath from Portlandia, taking voice lessons to perfect their rendition of “You Can Call Me Al.” I pick songs based on whether or not I know I can nail them. I take having a microphone in my hand way too seriously.

And, then there’s a thing called Punk Rock Karaoke. You pick a song, you sing that song, they’re your actual backing band. There aren’t monitors with the words, nothing to indicate when you’re to come in, just a real band and its support. There are two very different versions of Punk Rock Karaoke but the one I have performed with, in my eyes, is the only one that matters. They’re a touring act featuring members of many of my eighth-grade favorites (OK, maybe, I still listen to most of them), including Eric Melvin of NOFX. The chance I had to be on stage with him was the only time I’ve ever taken a karaoke risk like, signing up for a song that I really didn’t know that well. You better believe, though, that I wasn’t letting this performance opportunity go to waste.

Megan karaokeI would become Brody Dalle (you can take a break here and head on over to Google) but not without the help of a bartender and listening to the song multiple times, alone in the bathroom of Prophet Bar to make sure I could handle the task.

I’m happy to say that it went pretty well but was ultimately fun and gave me what is, without a doubt, one of my favorite memories of the more recent past. The, at times quiet, reserved, sometimes bumbling, and often meek Megan Radke, became the no-nonsense, intimidating, rough around the edges queen from The Distillers.

Very, very long story short, harness the power of the stage and show the world (or at least the room) what a powerful presence you really are!

Megan Radke is currently a Level 4 student at DCH. She is a copywriter and social media manager by day and an essayist and mediocre musician by night. She is a constant consumer of books, music, film, and all things comedy. She is also great at racking up copious amounts of credit card debt with spur-of-the-moment travel.

Do You Guys Really Like Me? (And Other Worries)

Mindy Kaling Would you ever guess, based on the title of this blog post, that I’m currently reading Mindy Kaling’s book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)? I know it’s an older title but I buy most of my books from Half Price Books. Usually, I wander in, stay for a few hours and then leave with an armful of those that I intended to read a long time ago but never got around to. This is one of them. The title alone makes me wonder if Mindy Kailing and I are actually the same people as that’s certainly been a concern of mine, multiple times.

During day one of Level 4 improv, I had to do a one-man show. At first, the idea of it terrified me but as soon as I was told I was going first, I didn’t have time to be afraid anymore and knew exactly what I’d do. Something I knew well, obviously. My one-woman show would simply be me sitting at home, alone, on a Friday night. I’d be on my couch, drinking wine, being ridiculously insecure about everything, from liking things on Facebook to whether or not anyone would ever care to read my essays to whether or not my friends are all actually hanging out without me. The good news is that I don’t have to worry about that last one much anymore (I’ll get to the “why” shortly). The others, though, we’ve still got a long way to go.

Growing up, I had a hard time finding a group(s) of women who were really and truly supportive. I mean, I had friends, but I usually had one best friend and then just got along well with everyone else. I was in choir, I was drill team captain (yeah I was! I had to brag a little…), I was in multiple academic clubs but even still, it always felt like, while the other ladies involved were my friends, we were all secretly trying to get ahead of the others. Or, maybe I just couldn’t relate to any of them. Maybe some of that was by choice, however. College was a similar story as I typically hung out with the boys and had a couple of close girlfriends to talk about said boys with.

I didn’t exactly expect that to change in recent years but it most certainly has. I’ve mentioned it before but I’ve never met a more supportive group of people overall than those I’ve met at Dallas Comedy House (DCH). That goes double for the women that I’ve met at DCH.

I’ve heard it said in general, and I’ve heard it said to me personally by Kaitlin Marone, a standup I interviewed prior to the Dallas Comedy Festival this year, that female comics need to stick together, and it’s so true. Women are funny and while some who don’t know any better might disagree, we are. Just while writing this piece and Googling for other essays of the sort for inspiration, (not that I need it, you ladies inspire me enough, but I also got distracted and needed to read something to get back on track) if you type, “why female comics…” you’ll get three autofills that are similar to, “why female comics aren’t funny.” Needless to say, it’s beyond important that we support each other’s work and support each other personally.

It’s difficult to explain but to have a group of women around you, no matter how large or how small, who are there to constantly lift you up, laugh with you, laugh at you, watch trash TV with you (shout out to #RHODCH!), support you and tell you that you’re OK, and be 100 percent honest and sincere about it, it’s a big deal. It’s something that your soul needs.

BeyonceI’ve always looked up to those people who, though they genuinely inspire me and make me want to be better, they were untouchable—public figures, musicians, celebrities, etc. I still look up to those people, but now I have those fellow strong women around me and I can’t even begin to express how much I’ve learned from them, and not to mention, the genuine friends I’ve made. Friends who are there to empower you, to inspire you, that’s what I’ve found at DCH. Don’t get me wrong, Beyonce is amazing but having powerful, funny, and smart women around, in person, yeah, you, we, do run the world, in my opinion. (Sorry. I had to.)

Megan Radke is currently a Level 4 student at DCH. She is a copywriter and social media manager by day and an essayist and mediocre musician by night. She is a constant consumer of books, music, film, and all things comedy. She is also great at racking up copious amounts of credit card debt with spur-of-the-moment travel.

Four Reasons Why You Should Stop Beating Yourself Up and Trust Your Instincts

Yoda feelingsI’m pretty self-aware. I know when I’m being neurotic, I know when I’m being unrealistic, and I certainly know when I’m overthinking something. Obviously, though, as anyone who does the same knows, I continue to overthink it. As such, I’ve realized quite recently that, up to this point in my life, I was the type of person that when I figured out that I wasn’t the best at something, I either beat myself up over it or I quit. That was a pretty difficult thing to realize about yourself because it’s just so negative but it was true. I expect things to happen quickly and when they don’t, I have a tendency to lose my patience and I simply become so afraid to fail that I don’t even want to try.

Examples include the time in sixth grade when I didn’t become an incredible pianist after a few weeks of practice, I was done. When I was unable to teach myself all the chords and songs on guitar in junior high and high school, I gave up.

Luckily though (maybe sadly for my neighbors), I’ve since picked up the guitar once again and am much better, but why am I better? I tried and gave myself a fair shot. And, because David Bowie told me to do it in a dream. (I’m not just quoting Flight of the Conchords here, this really happened. I’ll happily share the strange, strange details with you if you’re curious.)

Bowie dream

There have been multiple times in my short improv career when I’ve second guessed myself when I’ve overthought everything, and really when I was ready to quit. I don’t imagine that this feeling is foreign to anyone who’s been involved in improv for a long period of time, anyone who’s been acting or to anyone who’s ever been on an audition. But, there comes a point when you have to stop thinking, stop beating yourself up and start trusting your instincts. Here’s why:

You’re awesome!

You stepped so far outside of your comfort zone when you signed up for that improv, sketch, or stand-up class. You were so brave to step on that stage (no matter if you’ve never stepped foot in front of a crowd or if it was your 500th time). That’s pretty damn cool! You should be proud of that in and of itself. You’ve got this! Allow yourself to inspire you to keep going, keep trying, keep learning and keep growing! You do you.

If you’re having fun, you’re doing everything right already!

OK, so maybe that one scene didn’t go exactly “right” or that one joke didn’t land. Maybe you didn’t get out there as much as you wanted to. THAT’S OK! Did you have fun? Then, that’s all that matters. You did exactly what you were supposed to do.

You have an incredible support system – use them!

Remembering all of this stuff when you’re having a hard time isn’t easy. Thankfully, that’s what friends are for! I have never in my life found a more supportive group of people than those I’ve found at Dallas Comedy House. They all get it. Talk to them, talk to your teachers, just talk, whether it’s in regard to life, improv, performing, or a combination of all three. They, we, have all got your back.

You know what’s best for you!

Yes, you do. If it makes you happy, do it. If it makes you unhappy, don’t. And no, that doesn’t make you selfish. You’ve got to give it, and yourself, a chance though, or you’ll never know what could have been.

Megan Radke is currently a Level 3 student at DCH. She is a copywriter and social media manager by day and an essayist and mediocre musician by night. She is a constant consumer of books, music, film, and all things comedy. She is also great at racking up copious amounts of credit card debt with spur-of-the-moment travel.

DCF2016: Love Me Tinder

It’s almost that time again! Obviously, the most wonderful time of the year, Dallas Comedy Festival (DCF) kicks off on Tuesday, March 22. To help you put together your festival schedule, we want to make sure you get to know as many of the fabulous out-of-town acts as possible that will be dropping into Dallas Comedy House. Love Me Tinder

Heckle Her, an Austin-based production company, creates not only comedic (and sometimes musical), but also bold works for both stage and screen. Adrienne Dawes, director, producer, and badass lady behind it all, told me all about Love Me Tinder, the sketch revue she, along a troupe of talented performers, is bringing to Dallas for DCF!

Describe what your show, Love Me Tinder, will be like.

Love Me Tinder is a fast-paced, musical sketch comedy revue about dating and relationships in the digital age. We have a deep dish Chicago influence but are all Austin-based performers, writers, and musicians. We aren't affiliated with any specific theater or training center (WE BELONG TO NO ONE). I put together this ensemble because I wanted to see great comedy and great music in the same sketch show . . . with a diverse ensemble. There was nothing like it in Austin at the time, so I made it myself!

OK, because of the nature of your show, I have to ask – any fun (maybe fun isn’t the right word?) Tinder/online/digital dating stories you’d be willing to share?

I'm only on Tinder for the trollin' and celebrity sightings. It amazes me the level of misogyny and racism that men believe will attract women. It's pretty rare that I swipe right . . . even rarer that I've actually messaged with someone . . . the rarest, I've met someone in person. There's just too much opportunity, I think, for the crazy, racist, misogynist sh*t to reveal itself . . . and I can't with that. I don't care how often you Crossfit or pose in tuxedos at your friend's wedding or hold tiny teacup puppies next to a rainfall. You can't be a dumb a**hole. End of story.

Please visit the Dallas Comedy Festival blog to learn more about Love Me Tinder and to purchase tickets.

Megan Radke is currently a Level 3 student at DCH. She is a copywriter and social media manager by day and an essayist and mediocre musician by night. She is a constant consumer of books, music, film, and all things comedy. She is also great at racking up copious amounts of credit card debt with spur-of-the-moment travel.

(Image: Shelley Hiam)