Jason Specland: Consultant, Comedian

Making it up as I go along. Always.

Category: Uncategorized (page 1 of 2)

Upcoming Drop-In Classes at the PIT

I’ll be teaching some drop-in classes at the PIT in March:

Listening and Reacting with Emotion: Sunday, March 18, 2018, 3-6 PM
Objects Have Power: Friday, March 23, 2018, 7-10 PM

Only $20 for 3 hours!

Check out the PIT website for more info.

GEORGE/MARTHA Extends Run at the Peoples Improv Theater

GEORGE/MARTHA has extended its run for three more shows at the Peoples Improv Theater.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017 at 7 P.M. [Purchase Tickets]
This show will be at the PIT Underground, at 123 E. 24th St., between Park and Lex.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017 at 9 P.M. [Purchase Tickets]
Tuesday, December 12, 2017 at 9 P.M. [Purchase Tickets]
These shows will be at the PIT LOFT, at 154 W. 29th St., between 6th & 7th Avenues.

2016 Year in Review

The year 2016 is nearly over and has been legendarily awful. But the things that were awful were big things. Things over which I had little control. When examining the things over which I had more substantial control in 2016, the year takes on a significantly rosier hue.

Things That Remained Awesome in 2016

My wife, son, and I remain in good health, and my wife and son continue to be amazing people.

My friends are not only amazing human beings, but are uniquely funny and talented. Sometimes I take for granted what an amazing creative group I’ve surrounded myself with. I forget what rarified air I’m privileged to walk in.

I continue to have an excellent job with an excellent company that is intellectually challenging and pays enough for me to comfortably raise a family.

Things That Became Newly Awesome in 2016

I went to England for the first time and spent two weeks with my wife’s wonderful family. I’m fortunate to have an exceptionally good relationship with my in-laws. And England is pretty awesome all by itself.

My talented wife was cast by the Harlem Repertory Theater, so she was in a bunch of incredible shows and got paid for it. It’s about time that the world recognized how gosh darn talented Paula is.

Paula and I finally got a hold on our finances this year. We weren’t doing badly, but we were living slightly beyond our means. In 2016 we made significant progress in our finances, and we’re on track to be debt-free in 2017.

I ended my PIT house team exile, and was recast on a team. I strongly believe that I was recast, not because I became significantly better at improv, but because I turned around a self-defeating attitude, so being recast represented a significant personal victory. But, I wasn’t just cast on any ordinary team. I was cast on “Regina,” one of the greatest groups I’ve ever had the pleasure of being a member of. I’ve been cast with plenty of funny people before, but never before have I been with a group of funny people who work so well together and share a common artistic vision.

Speaking of talented people I get to work with, Adrian Sexton and I finally put up our “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” improv show we’d been talking about for years, and it was a rousing success. Rory Scholl and I got to do a killer set at a two-prov tournament in front of Armando Diaz, my very first longform improv teacher. The three of us are going to create some killer comedy in the new year.

I coached a group for much of the year, and it’s been a delight watching them become stronger and more confident in their performances. As is often the case, the teacher is also the student, and coaching this group has finally given me enough confidence to pursue my dream of teaching improv.

I got to perform my first two out-of-town gigs and my first out-of-town festival with the Austen Family Improv Players.

At work I was promoted to Architect. (software architect, not building architect) There were some difficult projects in 2016, but they are now behind me and the future looks exciting and challenging. I didn’t get to do as much conference speaking as I’d like, but the one talk that I did give went extremely well.

Things (beside the obvious) that Sucked in 2016

My dad has cancer. He’s not out of the woods yet, but thank God his treatment is going well.

I had several bouts of deep depression. I had terrible anxiety attacks, one of which prevented me from enjoying the company of some friends I hadn’t seen in years. I didn’t see a therapist even once, even though I clearly should.

I spent way too much time on unproductive pursuits, consuming an abundance of media that was ultimately unhealthy.

What About 2017?

So it’s looking like the big things — the things over which I have little to no control — will be pretty terrible in 2017. But on a personal level, things look like they’re going to be pretty okay. I’ve recommitted myself to accomplishing concrete goals. (But hey, doesn’t everyone do that this time of year?)

I just pray that the truly big, historical forces aren’t so terrible that they collide with my personal sphere.

Thursday Links

Nothing about the “Future of SharePoint” here. That’s been covered to death.

Making Your REST Calls Simpler by Changing the Metadata Setting by Marc D. Anderson (sympmarc). Help your SharePoint REST calls be a little less “chatty.” But, as Anders Austad points out, it must be enabled for use on-prem. (Also, it requires SharePoint 2013 Service Pack 1. You are on SP1 by now, right?)

FREE Office365 and AzureAD for Developers course on Udemy by Sahil Malik. Haven’t gone through it myself yet (it’s 7.5 hours long) but the source is an extremely well-trusted one.

Death by GPS, at Ars Technica. People blindly follow technology, get into trouble. Film at 11.


Computer Geeks to the Left, Improv Nerds to the Right

Since I was tired of conflating my two online personalities here, I’ve created a new blog about SharePoint and other technologies that I work and fool around with.  If you wish to follow it, you can find it at http://www.jayspecthetech.com.  If you’re Twitter inclined, you can follow @jayspecthetech. The rest of you improv nerds and people actually interested in my personal life, you can stay right where you are.  🙂

Never Tell Me the Odds

Like many, I purchased a Power Ball ticket today.  I usually buy a single Quick-Pick ticket for every drawing for which the prize is greater than $100 million.  I know the statistics are way against me, but for $2 I can fantasize for a while about what it would be like to be utterly, ridiculously wealthy.

I used to wait for it to go to $175 million, so I’d have a positive expected value.  Then they changed the price of the Power Ball to $2, raising the expected value bar considerably higher.  Then I realized that the expected value calculation is meaningless since I’m not immortal, and drawings don’t occur every nanosecond.

Part of the fantasy relies on the fact that the odds are so utterly, completely remote that human beings can’t possibly conceive them.  So I tried a thought experiment to see if we can get the sheer incredible unlikelihood of winning into something I can comprehend.

Imagine you’re in a completely full football stadium, filled to the brim with 100,000 people.  They announce a raffle, in which they’re going to randomly pick a ticket, and whoever is sitting in that seat wins.  You’re one person in this football stadium.  How do you like your chances?  Not impossible, sure, but it’s not like you’re going to be the farm.

Now imagine that there are not one but ten, completely full to the rafters football stadiums, each filled with 100,000 people.  And they’re still going to pick only one seat from only one of these ten stadiums to see who wins.  Really try to imagine it… Ten football stadiums, filled utterly and completely with fans, all right next to each other.  (Oy, the traffic when this contest is over!)  How do you like your chances now?

Got that image in your head?  Feeling the sheer remoteness of winning a contest with this one-seat-in-ten-football-stadiums scenario?

Now imagine 1,752 completely full football stadiums.


Get Out of Your Head By Making a Fist

Found on kottke.org by way of the Next Draft Newsletter:

Study: Athletes Perform Better Under Pressure When They Make a Fist With Their Left Hand

Apparently, the act of squeezing your left hand focuses the activity on the right hemisphere of your brain. The right hemisphere is focused on the mechanics of taking action. It also disengages the left hemisphere, which is where “freaking out under pressure” is concentrated.

Can this work for improvisers? It might be impractical to justify why you’re making a fist all the time. But maybe I’ll give it a try once or twice and see…

Upcoming Shows: 9/20/2012

I’m doing a lot of stuff this week at the Peoples Improv Theater. (123 E. 24th St., between Park and Lexington Avenues.)

PITch (Musical Improv open jam)
The PIT Underground
Thursday, September 20, 2012, 6 PM
Join me and some of my musical house team friends for an open jam of improvised musical mayhem. A perfect way to get your feet wet in a fun, low-pressure environment.

East Side Orphan Riot (Musical Improv)
The PIT Underground
Thursday, September 20, 2012, 8 PM
$5 (FREE if you get you attend PITch and get your hand stamped)
Watch us make up a brand new musical before your very eyes! Who needs a “score” or a “book” or “any idea what we’re actually going to do before we do it?” Followed by the sexily talented group “Harvey.”

The PIT Mainstage (Striker Theater)
Monday, September 24, 2012, 7 PM
It’s a massive puppet variety show! Watch us bring fur and felt to life in a completely silly manner. Special non-puppet guest star Glennis McCarthy of the Gorgeous Ladies of Comedy.

The PIT Underground
Monday, September 24, 2012, 9 PM
I team up once again with my non-musical house team buddies. For a raunchy good time, call 1-800-LONDON. Why raunchy? I don’t know. We’re like a bunch of high school kids when we’re together. But it’s funny, man.

I Trust… Beth White
The PIT Underground
Tuesday, September 25, 2012, 7 PM
In “I Trust…” The PIT’s amazing Donna Lobello picks a new partner with which to perform two-prov. Additionally, she brings in two other two-prov groups to share the evening with her. That’s where Kathryn and I come in. Our two-prov group, Marmalade, makes me so giddily happy it’s not funny. Well, actually, it is funny. That’s rather the point.


New Personal Rules

Based on recent experiences, some new rules to live my life by:

1. My worth as a human being does not depend on the quality of my performance.

I’m no good at judging myself by them anyway. A good show results in an inner monologue that says, “Hey, that wasn’t too bad,” and continues on its merry way. A bad one results in days upon days of depression and self loathing.

2. Sleep is important. I will not neglect this essential need.

The difference in my mood and productivity after a good night’s sleep is astounding. Why do I keep neglecting this essential function?

3. When I perform, I will do so with purpose and conviction.

I’ve performed on stage consistently my entire adult life, and I have performed improv for most of that time. I do not need “stage time” for its own sake. If I get up on a stage it will be in service to a show with a clear purpose, and not just to “screw around.” Following through with Rule 3 will probably help with Rule 1.

4. I will work towards my dreams every day.

My life is too short and too valuable to screw around doing nothing. The Internet is a drug that works by stimulating the part of the brain that craves novel information. I will not let this drug enslave my mind and obliterate my dreams.

5. I will clearly envision and refine my dreams every week.

I will take time to steer the ship, and make sure that the things that I’m doing are pushing me towards goals that I actually want to accomplish. The vivid vision of the artist I want to be will propel me through the agonizing self-doubt that comes from actually doing creative work.

My Continued Employment Endangers Air Travel

Five years ago, on the day of my five-year employment anniversary luncheon, Cory Lidle fatally crashed his plane into the side of an apartment building on the Upper East Side.

Today is my ten-year luncheon. Yesterday, a helicopter crashed into the East River around 34th St.

Coincidence? Yes.

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