Friday, July 31, 2015

Amateur Dream Analysis

DREAM: Myself and a group of friends arrive at my local library, the old Byron Public Library  on Commissioners Road, to participate in some kind of a new game show.  Other friends had recommended it to us, in the way that thirtysomethings all recommend escape rooms or other social activities.  As we all arrive* in the library’s main conference room, a group of executives hand us waiver forms and inform us that we’ll be participating in a series of real-life improv situations where we’re “part of the action.”

* = I’m kinda semi-using the royal ‘we’ here since I don’t actually remember any of the other people from my group.  I’ll just presume it was my regular group of friends since god forbid I go on such an entertaining adventure without them.

So this is the setup, and what happens after is totally bonkers.  The scenes quickly go from basic improv stuff to incredibly elaborate scenarios that would require this to be one of the more expensive TV series ever made.  For the sake of this post, I really wish I could be more descriptive of the various sketches/scenes, yet I only remember a few.  Essentially, we’d finish one thing, walk through a door and maybe down a hallway and into another room that was suddenly 50 times as large.  (Needless to say, the Byron Library would’ve needed to have gone through some extensive renovations, or gained access to an inter-dimensional portal.)

Of the ones I can remember, we had…

* I’m suddenly a contestant on a cooking show, and my ‘recipe’ is just to use a rolling pin to stretch out dough for ten minutes.  This happens, the dough is almost paper-thin by the end, and then I’m just hustled out into the next room.  At this point I should note that some of the tasks given out in these scenes weren’t always actually funny.

* For instance, in one scene, I’m in a holding cell, apparently in a prison with three other new inmates.  They all tell “what are you in for?” stories that vary from depressing to grim, so when it’s my turn, I make up something like “this guy ripped me off, so I pushed him down the stairs and killed him.” (I just recently watched the Staircase)  Everyone grunts and nods, then it’s just dead silence for, like, 10 minutes.  Finally we’re led out of the cell by guards and they go down the hallway while I’m shuttled off into another improv game.  Hilarious?

* The only seemingly successful scene was a situation where I played a PR publicist trying to interpret the bizarrely pretentious rantings of a director (Jason Schwartzman) in an interview with a journalist (Kristen Wiig) while the film’s editor (Michael Cera) kept chiming in from elsewhere in the room as he was literally working on the final cut right then and there.  Apparently my answers were so clever that they kept cracking Wiig and Schwartzman up, which is either a tribute to my hilarity or a sign of their unprofessionalism.

* At least two false endings!  In one, everyone claps at the end of a scene, shakes my hand and whatnot, then I go sign a waiver, pick up my stuff and leave.  I’m out in the parking lot about to get into my car when suddenly, who should call over but Amy Poehler and Chris Parnell.  Their “shifts are over” and need directions to a hotel.  I’m helping them out and trying not to be a fanboy, when I notice that Parnell has my old Nokia flip-phone that I got rid of five years ago. (I think….it may just be in a box in my house somewhere.)  I ask him about it, and he mentions he got it at a garage sale.  Then Poehler says she was at that same garage sale and whips out this old sweater I last wore in 2003.  They proceeded to “give me a lift” back home, only to drive to “their hotel,” which quickly devolved into an improv situation.  First tipoff: Scott Thompson was the hotel’s concierge.  I never did find out why and how Poehler and Parnell had such access to my life. 

I should note that the other twist of this show was that it was absolutely packed with notable stars as the “cast” taking part in the games with the amateur contestants like me.  Off the top of my head, I can recall: Poehler, Parnell, Thompson, Wiig, Schwartzman, Cera, Beyonce, Reese Witherspoon, Margo Martindale, Alec Baldwin, Amy Adams, Tara Reid, the guy who played Courteney Cox’s ex-husband on ‘Cougartown,’ Horatio Sanz, Michael Sheen, Maya Rudolph, Michael Pena, Dana Carvey, and, somehow, Dick Van Dyke aged back into his 30’s.  (One scene featured me on the set of the Dick Van Dyke Show trying to come up with a new gag for the opening scene rather than Dick/Rob Petrie tripping over the ottoman.)  There was no rhyme nor reason to the usage of the stars, nor the size of their parts.  Witherspoon, for instance, solely appeared between “scenes” as one of the show’s production assistants telling me which room I was supposed to go to next.  You’d think a bigger star would angle for a bigger role, but maybe my subconscious didn’t trust Witherspoon to handle anything larger…after all, I’ve seen her half-hearted SNL hosting gigs.

ANALYSIS: It probably goes without saying that this was one of the more fun dreams I’ve had in a long time.  It might even be the most fun dream I can remember…uh, non-erotic category, naturally.  As someone who performed improv comedy back in high school and university and whose all-time fantasy job would be to be on SNL, this may have literally been my greatest dream.  The setting of the Byron Library seems odd, yet if I can get deep here for a second, I’ve been signing books out of this library for almost my entire life.  In a way, my imagination was born through the Byron Library, so it only makes sense as a staging ground for this most extraordinary imaginative enterprise.   

As noted, this specific version of the show couldn’t happen due to budget constraints, yet it’s not too big a stretch to see something *like* this actually get on the air.  It’s not too far removed from a hidden-camera type of pranks show, or even those Whose Line sketches when they bring someone out of the audience to participate.  The whole thing seems like a very elaborate extension of a Jimmy Fallon-esque celebrity game show, so it only makes sense that so many SNL veterans were involved (and, these types of actors would naturally be good fits for this fluid format anyway).  Interestingly, I don’t remember Colin Mochrie, Ryan Stiles, Wayne Brady or any of the other Whose Line regulars appearing amongst the myriad of stars within the show, which I can only imagine was my subconscious adhering to network contractual rights. 

Beyond it just being a show, though, there was also a vague sense that I had actually signed away my life in some kind of “be careful what you wish for” situation.  For example, my past was intertwining with the material, as in the case of Poehler and Parnell having my old stuff.  Maybe a hint that I’ve spent so much of my life watching and obsessing over TV and comedy that I’ve let my actual life go by?  Wait, hang on…that sounds like an actual point of analysis and a real dark frame around what was a very fun dream.  Let’s keep living’ in denial and move right along!   

This dream took place during what I call the ‘secondary sleep’ phase of a morning.  That’s when you wake up earlier than expected to go to the bathroom or something, consider staying up and then saying screw it and going back to bed since you don’t have to be up for anything.  I generally find that it’s during this secondary sleep that your dreams get really odd.  To cite an old Louis CK routine, it’s during these extra hours of sleep that your subconscious goes, “okay, you want to see some weird shit?  Here goes.” 

So the moral of the story is, sleeping in is awesome and it leads to you getting to perform comedy with vintage Dick Van Dyke.  I may never schedule anything prior to noon ever again.

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