Remembering Robin Williams

Robin Williams on stageBy now, you have probably heard the sad news. Robin Williams died. When I heard, I felt numb. In fact, I still do. My first response when I heard about Robin was, “We need to take better care of our comedians.” But my second response was, “Comedians are canaries (in the coal mine). We need to take better care of our world.”

As a kid, I had this video tape of the first HBO Comic Relief telethon, which he was in. I would play this tape over and over and over. It was a 3-hour cavalcade of comics, fundraising for the homeless. Whoopi, Robin, and Billy were the hosts, and they did these great sketches in between standup sets. I was about seven years old at the time, so most of the jokes went over my head. But it sparked this thing in me, “You can be funny. And you can help people. Both at the same time. Like, for a job.”

We used to visit my grandma in California, and I heard that Robin lived near where we visited. One night, nine year old me had this dream I was meeting him. Little did I know I’d actually become a comedian one day.

At age ten, when Good Morning Vietnam came out, it was my favorite movie of all time. Of course, when Mannequin came out, that also became my favorite movie of all time. What do ya want? I was ten.

In the late 90’s when I actually started doing standup, Robin was working on a new show and would pop by surprise to do some stage time. So many of my fellow comedians saw him and interacted with him, but I would somehow always walk in half an hour after he left.

I did finally get to see him perform live at the Throckmorton theatre in Marin one night with a friend. We sat up real close, craning our necks up at Robin, laughing and smiling. Close enough we could almost feel the brush of his arm hair and the drip of sweat from his brow.And then one day a few years ago, I was driving in Sea Cliff, San Francisco, and my friend said that he lived near there. Suddenly, there he was, walking by. Suddenly, I found myself waving and smiling. Suddenly, he found himself waving and smiling. Suddenly, I saw that he realized he didn’t know me. Oh well.

The morning he died, I woke up feeling depressed. I was talking with a friend and realized I was feeling sad about the world. Sad about all the kinds of life on earth that have evolved over millions of years that are getting decimated by the destruction of the rainforests… I had a good cry about it. The depression I felt was like this stuck emotion that wanted to be seen and felt and spoken. And I did. And then I heard about Robin.

A man who lived his life FULL OUT, to the best of his ability. And it’s hitting us for so many reasons, but especially because somehow, “We feel like he was ours.”

Meeting Tim Ferriss circa 2006

Tim Ferriss 4-Hour WorkweekOne morning ten years ago I woke up at 4:30 am and couldn’t get back to sleep. I had the fire in me.

The week before I had done a shamanic medicine journey and my life was changing. But I didn’t know exactly how. The sun wasn’t up yet. Somehow, searching the internet, I found a recording from the SXSW festival with this guy talking about his totally ridiculously incredible life, created from scratch. He said all you need to do to create your own f-ing incredible lifestyle is just determine what you want to do, to be and to have. Here’s what I wrote I wanted ten years ago in 2006:

Do: perform standup, travel, have a family
Be: comedian/visionary/inspirationalist
Have: time, love, god, peace

This guy said that to have this kind of ridiculously amazing life, you have to focus solely on what are good at and amass resources to help you do the rest. All I wanted was to be an amazing comedian. But it felt like my jokes weren’t “good enough” to make that my life’s work. I struggled for years as a lone wolf in the standup world, isolating myself. Maybe I was shy. Maybe I was bitter because I wasn’t succeeding like I’d hoped. I knew most comedians spend all their time with other comedians, marinating in one anothers’ comedic juices (ah, yeah. yum.) and somehow that morning, it hit me that I didn’t have to be alone in my creative work; I could join forces with other funny people and make my jokes as “good” as I knew they could be. Suddenly something shifted. I don’t have to be alone.

And the shamanic medicine journey work tipped this realization into another realm entirely: that whether the jokes were “good enough” was a moot question all together. All they needed to be was true enough. Me enough. Real enough. The sun started to rise and I felt rich beyond belief. Nothing was in the way any more of me having my dream of becoming a powerful, and hilarious comedian whose humor lightened people’s dark parts.

Thanks to that guy, Tim Ferris, author of The Four Hour Work Week.

That morning, I looked up his website, and ordered his book. I wanted to email him to thank him, but his website said, “I hate email. Call me instead. Here’s my phone number. I walked up the hill to Red Rock park in San Francisco as the orange sun started to hit the tops of the buildings and left this guy a message of utter gratitude and joy and invited him to tea if he was ever in San Francisco. I didn’t know where he lived. (I’m still embarrassed about the tea part… it was like my inner lesbian coming forth. Who drinks tea? I do. I drink tea.)

And then get this: Tim called me back a few hours later and invited me to his book release party at a club in North Beach that Friday night. We met, he bought me a drink. The only other person who showed up was another woman who seemed to be kind of annoyed with me, maybe because he had bought her a drink too? I had no idea what to say (other than THANK YOU) to this muscle-bound guy with the ridiculously amazing life. So I didn’t say much. Was he socially awkward? Was I boring? Was he? Who knows. After an hour I left.

And then a few months later Tim Ferriss’ book exploded into the stratosphere.

I feel so much gratitude for this meeting, for Tim, and for everyone who takes the lid off limits. Thank you, Tim, for opening my mind and my heart to utter abundance and good fortune. We’re not alone! And we’re rich! Do only what you love!

 

What’s in a Birthday? Notes on turning a thirty-something

Guess what? Today, I turn the ripe old age of 34! I was just starting to get the hang of 33. "The Jesus year."  

Now, it might be hard to believe… but I wasn't always the comedy rock goddess you see before you today. It's hard to admit that some things have been tough for me – except when I'm on stage… then I apparently love to admit it. But we all want to look good, myself included, and to be respected and to make a good impression. But by doing so, we essentially lie. And my job as a comedian has always been to tell the truth. So here it is.

Yes, I've spent a over decade performing comedy, but it was largely unpaid and for give minutes at a time. It was easy to sleep in until 10am every day. Working day jobs that I didn't really feel passionate about. Since I was little, I had always felt like there was something different, something wrong with me, some way I didn't fit in.

I struggled for many years with an eating disorder, with a love and relationship addiction. It was easier to fall in love with men who had some quality that I wanted to possess, rather than actually developing my own self. Continually disappointed that true love was not forthcoming, I'd eat myself into a fog. And it's hard to pursue your life's purpose and make a real living when you're suffering from a love hangover and a food coma. The emotional vicissitudes were so intense–nothing felt stable or lasting or fulfilling, and I never really managed to create the kind of sustainability or impact or sheer good quality work I longed for, and was afraid I could never have. 

Seven years ago, I hit bottom. Not human bottoms. Ok, I did hit human bottoms. But I also hit low points. And I went into recovery for these various addictions. I've now done volumes of spiritual and growth work, from learning swing dance to doing a series of shamanic medicine journeys, to 12-step recovery programs.

And the most amazing thing happened four years ago. I became ready to cut the crap, and get serious about my comedy career. But this time, I had to walk my own path. And I had to let go of all my ideas and concepts about what "real comedians" do… real comedians perform at dark and drunken comedy clubs where you can literally smell the bitterness and competition… "real comedians" aren't spiritual. "Real comedians" eat ramen and live with 6 roommates. Well, my path, it turned out, was to take what I had learned through 10 years of standup and years of acting classes, and start telling the stories of my life in my own way, injecting humor into the pain and healing with laughter. And, often, inspiring others to take themselves less seriously. 

Last Wednesday, I put on my show "Eat, Pray, Laugh!" at my friend Jim's house. It was one of the best shows I've ever done… and one of the most fun. At the end, they brought out a cake and sang happy birthday. What a gift. That night, I realized: I have worked my ass off to to find my own comedic voice, one that is truer to my spirit than ever. Wow, it's okay to be funny AND earnest AND vulnerable! And I found my true audience–not in comedy clubs, but in alternative venues, theaters, yoga studios, and the houses of friends. God, it feels good to speak the truth and make people laugh like this. It's taken over 20 years to figure out how to embody this kind of truth and humor on stage, but it was worth working for.

 And it's amazing to have it pay off. This past Saturday, I played my highest paying gig ever at the Iowa City Yoga Festival, plus all those expenses paid (!! – flight, hotel, etc.) and they brought my boyfriend out to teach a workshop as well. That, and winning awards like "Best Local Comedian", "Best of the Fringe" and "Best Storyteller" confirms that I actually have found my path, and I'm walking it. But what's most exciting is that I know that, even with all the years I've spent working at it, it's just the beginning.

I recently met Julia Butterfly Hill, who has a totally amazing life story and a powerful impact on the world, and she confirmed for me something I'd been thinking. That we don't have to stop being who we are. Those of us who are different, who don't fit in, we are gifted. We are can be sensitive, intense, frustrated, angry, sad, and we sometimes overflow with passion and desire. And we don't have to change who we are–we just have to learn how to focus our energy in the right place. 

This has become a passion of mine to now share with others. I've developed a new coaching technique that allows you to accurately tap into your higher self, your soul’s deepest source of wisdom. and show you how to integrate it into your life – powerfully, compassionately, & effortlessly. I'm currently calling it Higher Self Coaching – which is designed for people who are tired of going to others for answers, and who just want to be able to access the real answers they know are locked somewhere deep inside, and move forward with clarity certainty. Some of my specialties include life purpose, relationships, and recovery. 

 If you're interested learning how to focus your energy in the right place, to find your own path, your own voice, your own gifts, let's chat – we'll set up a "Get Your Own Answers! Session." Email me, or you can schedule a time online here

Finally… I have several projects in the works that I'm excited to share with you soon. For now, enjoy a little feel-good music, on the house. This is a song I recorded, and it's dedicated to you. 

No matter how well we do or don't know each other, you've been an important part of my path. Thank you for joining me on this journey, and I look forward to walking on the road of life with you. 

Sending blessings for a year filled with laughter and light!

Alicia

How many chuckles = a chinup? (No joke!)

Laugh-with-abandon_14-things-adults-can-learn-from-children Growing evidence confirms suspicions that laughter is not only fun, but good for us!  WebMD reports that laughter and moderate exercise share a host of healthful effects. According to Dr. Lee Berk's research, appetite hormones behave the same way after a good giggle as they do after a few workout reps. In science-speak: leptin goes down and grehlin goes up. Berk's volunteers watched stressful videos and hilarious videos (in no particular order) while their hormones were monitored. The results show comedy may be good for more than a chuckle.

Berk hopes his findings can assist patients who have lost their appetite. The elderly, handicapped, depressed and ill might benefit from repetitive laughter research. Overachievers may well enjoy a chortle during exercise for added benefit. Though a small study, Berk's work joins other science in supporting laughter as good medicine. More conclusive work may cause this writer to re-evaluate the association between 'cackles' and 'evil'. What can't hurt may heal!

Wanna come try laughter yoga with me?

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The original study

Laugh Factory Therapist

Kevin-nealon National Public Radio interview with Clinical Psychologist ILDIKO TABORI and comedian KEVIN NEALON. 

In acknowledging that personal anguish is at the heart of many stand-up routines, Hollywood's legendary comedy club, The Laugh Factory, recently took on Dr. Ildiko Tabori as in-house clinical psychologist to treat the club's comics. Free therapy will be available to performers four nights per week in a soundproof, private office in the upstairs of the club building. NPR's interview with Dr. Tabori and Saturday Night Live alumnus Kevin Nealon explores the need for therapy in the entertainment industry, but especially in stand up comedy. 

Nealon describes on stage performance as an "escape" from emotional issues, or in other words, "going to Disneyland". The ability to laugh off and transform neurosis into comedy on stage provides a platform for forgetting the emotional reality of life. The offstage come-down, that Nealon refers to as sometimes hitting him like "a ton of bricks", is what Dr. Tabori will be available to treat. 

Dr. Tabori explains the difficulty in recognizing psychological symptoms in comedians because of the variable nature of their work. Aside from this, therapy has been stigmatized as inhibiting to the punch-line humor found through pain. Some comedians don't want help because they fear coming out of the therapy office un-funny. Yet Tabori assures that funny is a personality trait and not necessarily a product of emotional pain. Besides, a comedian's funny can't be sequestered by a psychologist.

The Yoga Mafia

EPL_Buzz_ The Yoga Mafia

Eighteen days ago I started taking a yoga course called the "40 Day Yoga Challenge: 40 Days to Personal Revolution." Basically, we're taking a yoga class every day for 40 days and slowly giving up our vices one by one through a series of torturous cranks of an external vice grip called "letting go" and a framework of weekly motivational classes. I took the course because I've been working so much on comedy and coaching… etc., that I've neglected to really give my physical health the attention it needs, and though I teach Laughter Yoga, I have never really taken yoga on, for reals.  And it's becoming clearer and clearer that to take things to the next level, my body needs to be in as great shape as the rest of my life.  

To tell you the truth, it's a little scary to walk into the yoga studio for the first time. I have an automatic resistance to the place because it's such a western manifestation of this ancient concept–the yoga clothes are expensive, the classes are not cheap either. It's not like India, so it must suck and be fake, right? My resistance rears its head first in me arriving to class six minutes late. The woman at the door smiles at me, but I'm imagining her yoga-cursing me in her head. What is a yoga curse? I dunno. Maybe it's like not saying "namaste" when you meet someone. Wah's melodic music is gently wafting through the otherwise silent studio and everyone has already got their butts in the air for downward dog. People have to get up and move their mats for me to fit in, I'm knocking water bottles over. I'm trying to hold the poses and falling onto my mat in a quivering heap of exhaustion. It's like a scene out of Mr. Bean. I'm "projecting" the yoga mafia in my headall over the place, thinking the teacher thinks I'm an undisciplined fink who doesn't respect the class. I'm thinking the skinny, bendy ladies in the class who all seem to be wearing giant diamond rings are all laughing at how un-bendy I am. And where are all the men in yoga? Not that I'm looking for one in particular, I'm just wondering where are they?  Do they have their own yoga classes behind some secret wall?  Are they all at the naked male yogaclasses in San Francisco, which actually exist?

Fast-forward 18 days. I'm actually arriving early to class, mat in hand, and something has shifted. I've taken to closing my eyes as much as possible–it's way easier to hold an asana when I'm not worrying about how much betterthe lady to my right is at it. It's actually kind of amazing, too–I'm actually able to DO yoga. The other day I got my ankle over my head. No kidding. I actually could do that before, so it didn't happen in two weeks. Reminds me of the joke: "Doc, my wrist!" "We'll have to operate." "But will I be able to play the piano afterward?" "Yes." "Wow, that's amazing, because I don't know how now!"

Want to watch my progress? I've been putting 30 second updates on Youtube about it every other day.  Here's to fit spiritual condition and awesome abs.

Om,

Alicia
Making Light

Fake it till You Make It (Laughing, That Is)

 

IStock_000002713101XSmall You and I both know how good it feels to really let go and laugh.

 The science behind that feel-good feeling it isn’t all that complex. The human body releases endorphins in the act of laughter, and those endorphins relieve stress. It is a natural physiological responseTurns out, the body has no way of knowing if your laughter is genuine, or if you’re a big faker.


A study done way back in 2003 documented its participants' emotional state after 60 seconds of "real" laughter and then compared it to 60 seconds of "faked" laughter. Turns out that both kinds of laughter have the same affect on the body. Check it out:  http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2003/03/31/1048962698891.html

So… If the human body has no way of knowing if the laughter is genuine you can reap all the same benefits by faking it. Fake laughter turns into real laughter in my Laughter Yoga class all the time.  Go ahead, just try it. 

 

Laughter + IVF = Babies

ClownLaughter yoga, it's not quite…

So a study of a couple hundred women undergoing IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) near Tel Aviv found that women entertained by professional Israeli clowns right after embryos were transferred to their wombs had more success in giving birth than those with no Israeli clowns.

The study, published in Fertility and Sterility, found that 36 percent of women with Israeli clowns became pregnant, as compared with the 20 percent of clown-free embryo transfer procedure.   Not surprisingly, women conceiving the conventional way were found to have a much lower success rate with Israeli clowns in their room at the time of conception.  I'm just saying… 

Leader of the study, Dr. Friedler said he got the idea for the study because laughter is a "natural anti-stress mechanism."

Friedler, who is based at Assaf Harofeh Medical Centre in Zrifin, Israel, said,"Patients suffering from infertility undergoing IVF are incredibly stressed. So I thought that this intervention could be beneficial for them at the crucial moments after embryo transfer."

Friedler added that if studies at other centres back up his findings, fertility clinics elsewhere might try it too.  I'm just hoping I'm fertile enough to keep the clowns out of my own uterine activities.  Do you think clowns that speak Hebrew are funnier than French or English ones?

Is your laugh genuine or strategic?

Did you know we've been laughing for 7 million years?

The Quarter Review of Biology recently published a study on laughter.  There are two kinds.  (Of course, Osho wrote about four kinds, so science is still lagging behind on this front…)

Thee first kind of laughter is a) spontaneous and b) stimulus-driven.  The study says that just because someone is laughing with you, doesn’t mean that it is spontaneous or stimulus-driven, which is the natural kind of laugh that mirrors ape play, which arose around seven million years ago.

The second, “dark side of laughter” kind of laugh is strategic and sometimes can be cruel. "One type of laughter arises spontaneously from the perception of a certain class of events, while the other is used strategically in interaction to influence others or modulate one's own physiology," said Gervais, who is a researcher in the Evolutionary Studies Program at Binghamton University in New York.  Here's where I read the article.

In laughter yoga, I aim for my laughter to always be the first kind of laughter.  But I don't think this study gets at the whole picture.  Laughter needs to be practiced to become part of one's life if it's been missing for a long time.  That's why in laughter yoga, we encourage one another to laugh, through exercises designed to create that spontaneous first kind of laughter.  Don't feel discouraged if it takes time to remember how to laugh spontaneously.  It's still a practice for me.  I'm even starting to laugh at standup comedy again after years of training myself to slap the table with a straight face and say in a deadpan tone, "That's funny."  But it takes practice.

So come practice.  Come take a laughter yoga class with me.  Or come see a standup comedy show!

-Alicia

Divulging the Material that Will Create Your Solo Show

Writing the story of your life (or any other made up story for that matter), and then performing it for others, can be a difficult task.  A one man show or one woman show however depends on your ability to reveal the nitty gritty of your story in a way that is fascinating and entertaining, as well as perceptive and often humorous as well.

via www.creativeheartcoaching.com

Whether performing standup comedy or making a new painting, your creative process feeds on bits of truth from your subconscious. Here's how to dig inside and get the goods…