I took classes for a long time there and at Second City and the Annoyance. I was horrible at first. My first show I invited all my friends and family. A lot of people were like, “Oh, my first improv show was magical and it was amazing.” Mine was one of the worst nights of my life. I remember afterwards my dad gave me that look that was basically saying, “It's not too late to not go this route.” But I stuck with it and for about three years was doing four or five shows a week; loved it. And then I eventually moved to Amsterdam and that was the end of my Chicago run. I still miss it, though. God, I still miss it. It's so fun.
When was this actually?
This was like '96 to like '99. That's when I did my three, four years.
I probably saw you in shows back then.
If you went to the Improv Olympic or the Annoyance, there was a probably a pretty good chance you saw me. I was probably 45 pounds lighter, I had more hair and less bags under my eyes, but it was me, baby. That was me.
I remember seeing Tim Meadows at a resale shop buying an orange chair back in the day. Years later I interviewed him and I told him and he goes, “Oh, I bought an orange chair there!”
I started performing with him a little bit in L.A. at the Improv Olympic and I said to him, “You're the reason I'm here. You're the reason I got in to this whole thing 'cause you were so funny and I had to do it.” He goes, “I'm so sorry.” He's pretty good; he's a funny guy. He's a funny guy, man.
And you were at Boom Chicago in Amsterdam with Seth Meyers?
I actually replaced Seth out there. I had no intention of going out to Amsterdam. I really wanted to do more free theater and not get paid for it in Chicago, but my roommate at the time was auditioning and he said, “You should come to the audition.” I went down there and it was kind of a fun audition. And they called me later on like, “Hey, do you want to do it?”
At that point I was 21; never been to Europe, and I thought, “This could be kind of fun.” I went there and then my mind just like exploded. It was crazy. Like I got there and like “Incense and Peppermint” started playing, and I saw like beautiful tall women and marijuana. You're getting paid to act and it was the best. It was like a year and a half or two years of just utter, utter fun. Yeah.
And with some really great people—Seth always kind of came and went, Jason Sudeikis was there, Jordan Peele from “Key & Peele.” ... Liz Cackowski, Kay Cannon. These great, great, great performers kind of were there and it was just a really special time to be there. It was really fun, from what I remember.
There are whole chunks I don't remember; whole chunks. I was in L.A. with John Meyers—Seth's brother—and we were at some bar and the bartender was like, “What's up, man?” I was like, “Hey, how are you?” Totally bullshitting, like I had never seen him before in my life. And he's like, “Oh, it's good—I haven't seen you since Amsterdam.” I was like, “Oh, yeah, yeah.”
He walked away and Josh goes, “You don't remember that guy?” I said, “No.” He goes, “He stayed with us for three weeks.” Never seen him before that night; never seen him in my life.
What were you doing that you couldn't remember?
You know, I don't want to get in to specifics but marijuana—and a hearty amount of it. Yeah, there was a lot of that going around at the time. But it was Amsterdam; it was legal.
It’s totally legal.
Totally legal. I got a picture of me smoking a joint next to a bunch of Dutch cops. I mean, you could just smoke anywhere. I think they're cracking down on it now but ...
I think it has changed now.
A little bit, yeah. The laws are a little more stringent, but back then, I mean, Jesus Christ, it was just—I mean, it was unbelievable. We would find different ways to smoke it. “Oh, you cut a liter of Pepsi and put your head in a bucket of water and the smoke shoots out!” And, “Oh, if you take the weed and rub it on your eye!' You know, we'd just find new ways to take marijuana.
Did you go directly to L.A. after Amsterdam?
I went straight to L.A. Me and my writing partner, this guy named Dave Stassen, who I went to school with; I grew up with in Chicago. I write with him on many projects. We always said we'll move to L.A. together. We wanted to be writers. And me and him and Seth Meyers and Josh Meyers, the four of us moved out to L.A. together.
At first it was a nightmare. It couldn't have been more destitute. Seth was the first one to get a job at like a sushi restaurant. I couldn't get a job anywhere. But I saw Seth got a little part on “Spin City;” he did one episode and I remember thinking, “Wow, you can get work here. It's so great. So great.”