"How do I deal with setback?"

Brian Stack, writer/performer with all the "Conan" late night shows, former Second City ETC cast member and current writer for "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" shares great insight on how to deal with setbacks in your career.

Growing up, I was a huge fan of countless comedians that came out of Second City, and after discovering improv myself in college by seeing Mick Napier's group at Indiana University, and later performing at The Ark Theatre in Madison, Wisconsin while going to grad school, it was a huge dream of mine to work at Second City myself. I actually auditioned there three times before being hired in '92, and I certainly wasn't hired because of my auditions which were all TERRIBLE. What made my bad auditions even more embarrassing was that some teachers and Second City performers had recommended me going in based on my work in class or in groups around town, and then I completely invalidated their opinion with my self-conscious, nervous auditions. I remember my face actually getting red-hot at at least two of them. It was bad.

Looking back, I realize that my auditions were so bad because I hadn't given myself the crucial "freedom to fail" that you need to do good improv work.

As we all know, when you feel that you absolutely MUST succeed, you're much more likely to get "in your head" and freeze up.

I certainly did. I clearly remember walking past Second City a few times after that last audition, trying to come to terms with the fact that I'd never get to work there. I basically gave up on Second City at that point, as painful as that was, and decided to focus instead on just trying to do the best work I could with the friends I loved performing with around town. One of those groups was called Jazz Freddy. Oddly enough, several of us from that group ended up getting hired by Second City after Kelly Leonard and others came out to see us perform. I'm glad I didn't know they were in the audience. If I'd known they were there, I probably would've turned into a quivering mess again.

If there's one thing I learned from all that, it's that good things can happen when you stop focusing on one big dream, and just try to enjoy the journey along the way.

If you do the best work you can with people you really love working with, and treat that work as an end in itself, it's more likely to also become a means to an end. I know that's often easier said than done, and it's a lesson I've had to re-learn several times along the way, sometimes the hard way, but I've really found that to be true.

Brian Stack is one of the nicest and most talented improvisors who ever lived. You can check out the very funny "Role Play" a scene he performed with his wife Miraim Tolan from the Second City Revue "Baby Richard Got Back or It’s Not Easy Being Bob Greene." You can also hear his interview with Jimmy Carrane on "The Improv Nerd". Part 2 of Brian's "How do I deal with setback?" will be coming soon to this blog.

Live - Laugh - Love.

As Martin deMaat said, “You are pure potential.”

Thank you for reading.

If you’re feeling particularly brave, share your experiences in the comments section below.

Written 6 years, 6 months ago.
We Write About Improv

You will find hints and suggestions to improve your performance as a troupe or an improvisor. We also cover stories from the field of performing on the stage as well as teaching improv. Sometimes we include case studies of our corporate work to show how improv can boost office productivity and morale.

Click here to see all of our blog entries about improv.

Let's Talk

Should you have any questions about our classes, our work, or our essays, feel free to contact us and start a conversation.