At Second City, having a blast is mandatory... and so is staying safe.
Congratulations! With all that’s going on in the world, you’ve decided to go ahead and pursue comedy filmmaking. Cool! Before you begin your journey, there’s just one more hurdle you need to clear: informing your parents of this big decision in your life.
I remember my own experience fondly. (Or, I assume I will once it happens. Both of my parents currently believe that I am attending medical school, which, since I still live at home and never wear a stethoscope, they should have figured out is a lie.)
Anyhoo, here are some of the most effective ways of sharing the news. Bring along some tissues, because this conversation will make them burst into tears*!
Emphasize the word “school”
This might just mean saying the words “comedy” and “film” in an extremely soft voice, followed by the word “school” in a louder voice. Making sure that the word SCHOOL is emphasized makes your happy news sound smarter and more academic and minimizes the number of follow-up questions parents might pose, like “Are you okay, honey?” or “Why?” or even a declarative statement such as, “No child of mine!”
Stressing the word “school” is the approach I took with my parents (but instead of differing the volume of my voice, I just replaced “comedy film” with “medical”). I suppose it just depends what level of denial you are in. Other techniques might include coughing and/or sneezing over certain words.
If you’re not a very good liar, you might…
Mention the comedic elements in Oscar-winning films
From How Green Was My Valley to Out of Africa to Gandhi, the world’s most respected Academy Award winners are filled with gut-busting comedic moments sure to impress even the most skeptical of parents. Just think of the physical comedy of Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln! The deft comic timing of Daniel Day-Lewis in My Left Foot! Most parents don’t realize that “dramatic acting” is really just another word for “British humor!”
Make sure to slip the word “Oscar” into the conversation to grab their attention. If you know anyone named Oscar, mentioning his name is a major plus. Serving your mom and dad Oscar Meyer wieners, giving them the news while you stand on a red carpet and wearing a tuxedo are also encouraged, as they create an ambience sure to distract them from wondering if this is all their fault.
Show them that you’re really, really funny
Research shows that the funnier you are, the more laughter you will receive. Get your parents laughing and in good spirits to show them that you have the comedy chops to succeed—and also as a way to soften the blow. As the old saying goes, when someone’s laughing, they’re more susceptible to attacks from behind!
Pay someone to inform them for you
I feel like this one is pretty self-explanatory. Getting your friend Oscar to do this would be the absolute best option as he will, again, conjure the image of an Oscar statuette in your parents’ minds. Using a sibling might work too, and you might be able to pay them less than someone professional, like Oscar winner Daniel Day-Lewis.
Best of luck on your journey, and check back here for next week’s article: “So You’re in Comedy Film School… How to Cope.”
Ed Heffernan is a writer/filmmaker/performer, a member of the founding class of The Harold Ramis Film School at The Second City Training Center, a 2015 graduate of Stanford University and a member of the sketch comedy group Wilson!