thursday thoughts

Finish The Damn Thing!

At a show last weekend someone came up to me and said “Hey, are you still writing your Thursday Thoughts?”

I assured them I still was and that I post them regularly on my website. Turns out, he used to see them weekly on Facebook and wasn’t seeing them anymore.

As a result of my push to get off of social media and limit my screen time, it appears that FB has punished me with limited visibility. It seems stupid that an app designed to connect us all controls how connected we can be.

So yes, I’m still writing Thursday Thoughts. And yes, I’ll keep sharing them on social media. But if you want to make sure you never miss a post I set up a mailing list so you can get these essays delivered straight to your inbox every Thursday.

Only join the list if you want to keep up with my blog. (If you’re looking for updates about my upcoming TV projects or tour dates, join the list at the bottom of my website.)

I’m going to be shifting my approach to Thursday Thoughts over the next several months. I want to share helpful, digestible content that is useful to you - along with my existing personal essays about life on the road. And I want to make sure you see it, so do me a favor and click the button below to sign up:


I’ve been thinking lately about finishing projects.

I just ordered a new mattress and it sat in a warehouse for a week until I called to follow up. Then, out of the blue, the company did a same-day delivery. An otherwise perfect shopping experience was clouded by an unorganized, slow shipping process.

If you’re going to do something, then go all the way. Finish the damn thing!

Promise something and deliver. Simple as that.

If I hadn’t called I’m pretty sure the mattress would still be on a truck somewhere. It’s almost like the company worked really hard to get my business then stopped providing good customer service once I was a customer.

Shouldn’t it be the other way around?

You should work hard to get a customer, then work even harder once they’ve trusted you with their business. Customer service should be for the entire transaction - not just for the start of things.

This got me thinking about some of my own personal projects…

For instance, I’ve written a few TV episodes and a couple years ago I tried to get them picked up. I had a dozen meetings with agents, then with production companies, then with networks. The process dragged on for a year and amounted to nothing. So I thought to myself: “Why don’t I just make this myself?”

So I started rewriting it for a more run-and-gun, guerrilla style shoot. Then I started planning and preparing. And now…I’m just sitting on it.

Why? I don’t know.

Maybe because it’s easier to keep thinking about the thing instead of actually following through. If I keep brainstorming then it’s like I’m tricking myself into working on it, without having to face criticism, failure, or even a successful reception.

Maybe it’s because I know I’m good at one thing but not another. And it’s easier to put it off than embrace being an amateur.

Or, maybe I’m just a quitter. It's easy to get discouraged after you spend so long trying to accomplish something.

I think all of those might be true. But I don’t want an idea - good or bad- to be left undone. So I’m gonna finish the damn thing. I’m gonna make it happen. I’ve done everything else, so I need to see it through to the end.

Otherwise, the idea might as well be rolling around on a truck somewhere with no expected delivery date.


Here’s something you should try:

This year, I’ve been writing to people that inspire me. I’ve written to authors, designers, friends, actors, etc. I’ve written to people overseas and down the block. Anytime I say to myself “Wow, this person is fascinating!” I make a mental note to let them know I feel that way.

When I say write, I don’t mean social media. I mean actually writing a letter.

I prefer my typewriter, if possible. If I can’t find a mailing address then I write a brief e-mail.

I usually just say a few things about how the person has inspired me, how I found their work, and what it means to me.

The return rate is amazing. Every single person has gotten back to me. Sometimes it’s a quick sentence or two, but typically it’s a much longer response.

I love sending something meaningful off and wondering if I’ll get anything back. When it does arrive, there’s a magical, mysterious quality to it.

It means that somewhere in the world, this person that inspired me felt compelled to write back. They had to sit down and actively think about their response instead of clicking “like” on a screen. They had to actually take the time to respond.

It’s incredible.


Here’s what I’ve been reading:

The Power of Moments - As a person who creates memorable moments for a living, I find this book fascinating. But it’s useful for anyone looking to create meaningful moments in their everyday life.

Educated - I can’t believe it took me so long to start reading this. It’s unbelievably good.

The Coddling of the American Mind - Really enjoying this and perfectly suited to our current political climate.

If you’re on Spotify here are some summer vibes for you:

Finally, you have two chances left to see MIND READER at the Chicago Magic Lounge. We’ve been packed every Wednesday since March so don’t miss your chance to see it!

After that, I’m off to Pittsburgh to perform at Liberty Magic for six weeks. All dates, showtimes, and ticket info can be found here.



Thank you for reading. If you enjoyed this article, please consider joining my "Thursday Thoughts" mailing list. It's the best way to make sure you never miss a post. No spam, just a new thought shared with you every Thursday. Click here to sign up.

Note To Self

Hey!

It’s me. Any by “me” I mean “you”.

I’m like 10 years older than you are when you’re reading this but WOW we’ve been through so much together. I just thought that maybe I could save you some trouble and catch you up to speed. There’s so much I know now and just figured you should know it, too.

First, you’re gonna get there. It’s going to happen. I can’t tell you when - NO SPOILERS - but just you wait. Stay patient and you’ll get there.

While we’re at it - you don’t have to go down any path but your own. Do whatever makes you happy, even if you don’t think any of it fits together. Turns out the thing that makes it fit together is because it’s all part of you.

When it comes to the things that really matter, don’t be cheap. Put your money where your mouth is. Invest in yourself every chance you get.

Also, here’s a few pieces of obvious advice:

If you think about someone, let them know.

If someone does something nice for you, send them a handwritten note. (You’re going to buy a typewriter in your 30’s and start typing those notes. It’s a long story…)

If someone inspires you, reach out. If someone reaches out to you, go above and beyond.

If something goes wrong, take responsibility. And, if something goes well, be sure to credit the people who made it happen.

Look around right now and take it all in. You’ll never be exactly who you are at this very moment, so make it count.

There’s going to be loss and pain and heartbreak and disappointment. People you love are going to let you down and strangers are going to make your day.

Life is one complex, beautiful, gut wrenching thing - but don’t shy away from it. Get in there and experience every ounce of it. Don’t look away and always keep coming back for more.

Waiting behind every “no” is a big, fat “YES”. Every devastating experience will yield more happiness than you could possibly imagine. But you can’t have one without the other.

I’ve said too much. Just keep doing what you’re doing. It’s all going to be fine.

Oh, one last thing. Your keys fell behind the desk and got pinned against the wall. Don’t forget I told you that. It’ll save you a couple hours of searching and keep you from losing your shit.

See you soon.

— MT


Photo: Trainman Photography



Thank you for reading. If you enjoyed this article, please consider joining my "Thursday Thoughts" mailing list. It's the best way to make sure you never miss a post. No spam, just a new thought shared with you every Thursday. Click here to sign up.

How To Watch A Show

So you got a Groupon to a big show tonight? Or a half price ticket? Or won them in a raffle? You read about something cool on TripAdvisor? Or just Googled “something fun to do on a Thursday”?

Great!

Now you just show up and hang out, yeah? It’s just like going to a bar or restaurant or hanging out with friends, right?

Not quite. There’s a little more to it than that.

And, since it seems an overwhelming amount of people in Chicago audiences aren’t sure how to watch a show (I once saw someone texting during HAMILTON!) I’ve put together a handy checklist for you to make sure you blend in with the true theater-goers.

Follow these steps and you’ll be a great audience member in no time at all…

  1. Dress Up - Do it! Chances are you’re on a date or a work event or out with friends. Maybe you’ll take a picture as a couple or a selfie with the performers. You might even get dinner before. A little effort won’t kill you, right? I’m not talking a tuxedo or ball gown - just maybe leave the ripped jeans and flip flops at home. Plus, it just feels good to dress up, get out of the house, and do something new and exciting.

  2. Get There Early - Doors open at 7? Great, you should probably be there a little earlier. There will be lines and delays happen. If you’re driving, parking will probably be an issue. Public transportation isn’t always reliable either, so give yourself some extra time. When you show up late and you’re not allowed to enter the show, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

  3. Turn Your Phone Off - Seriously, turn your phone off. Not vibrate, not airplane mode. Turn it ALL THE WAY OFF. Don’t text or tweet. The screen lights up your face. It’s annoying for performers and for the people around you. Also, most theaters don’t allow photos or videos, and why would you want those anyway? You’re never going to watch that shaky, blurry, 30 minute vertical video of the show you just watched. Plus, you never want to be the one person who has to frantically search for their phone to silence it in the middle of an act. (I can’t speak for other performers, but do that at mine and I’ll be forced to reveal your deepest, darkest, most personal secrets.)

  4. Don’t Check Your Phone - “How can I check my phone if it’s turned off?”, I hear you say. I’ll tell you how. The show reaches intermission or you need to go to the restroom. You switch on your phone to fill the time and suddenly you’re back in 2019 scrolling Instagram and mindlessly texting your friends. You forget that a moment ago you were watching the founding fathers rap and getting wrapped up yourself. The second you turn on your phone you’ve cheated yourself of that experience. You’ve ruined the feeling those performers have worked hard to create. Don’t do it! Keep your phone off and get lost in the show. I promise it’s worth it!

  5. Don’t Talk - It’s one thing to react to something during a show. Leaning over to your significant other to say “That’s so true!” is quite different from having a full-blown conversation mid-show. I’ve seen people take phone calls, yell to people at the other end of the row, and talk loudly the whole way through a performance. Please don’t! Your whispered chatter carries through the space. It’s hard to deal with as a performer and incredibly disrespectful to the people around you. Every time I go to the movies I have to ask at least one person to stop talking. Don’t be that person.

  6. It’s Not All About You - You may be celebrating an anniversary or a bachelorette party or a birthday. You might be on a first date or out with your entire office. However, unless you’ve paid for a private performance, there are other people in the audience who bought a ticket for the same show you’re seeing. It’s not all about you. Sure, have a good time - laugh, cry, enjoy the show - but don’t let your enjoyment overwhelm the enjoyment of others. This is supposed to be an inclusive experience. Theater brings people together so don’t let your energy become too much that it pulls the audience apart.

I’m not just a performer - I’m a theatre lover.

I see a lot of shows - A LOT of theatre. My wife and I try to catch as many shows as possible. We go to the movies 1-2 times a week. We attend local discussions, theatrical premieres, musicals, improv shows, and concerts.

It’s how we spent our date nights in college and it’s our favorite way to spend an evening in the Windy City now. We can’t get enough.

But being an audience member takes effort and focus. It’s about respecting a performer’s craft and showing your appreciation for their performance. When we get distracted - or worse, become the distraction ourselves - we aren’t only being disrespectful. We’re robbing ourselves of something meaningful and unexpected. It’s up to us to meet the performers in the middle, in hopes of having a one-of-a-kind experience together.



Thank you for reading. If you enjoyed this article, please consider joining my "Thursday Thoughts" mailing list. It's the best way to make sure you never miss a post. No spam, just a new thought shared with you every Thursday. Click here to sign up.