photo by Caitie McCabe
I am very pleased to present you with this month’s payday. This is Chris Grace. Chris is an improviser, rugby player, teacher, stand-up comedian, podcast-creator, video-maker, Chipotle-lover (right, Chris?), web-tech-er and cat dad. And I think that might just be the first half of the list.
I remember seeing Chris Grace perform improv when I first started hanging out at the PIT five years ago. He’s one of the funniest, most capable improvisers I’ve ever had the pleasure to watch and I think I speak for many of the performers who’ve come through the PIT when I say that we’ve all learned a lot by watching him play. He makes it look really easy. (And it’s not always that easy.)
I’ve never seen him play rugby, do stand-up comedy or hang out with his cats, but my guess is that he’s pretty good at that stuff too. Aside from his status as a renaissance man, he’s also very nice, quick to laugh and is a great conversationalist.
You can see Chris perform on Wednesday nights at the PIT, with his team, The Faculty. And you should visit his website where you can find his videos, podcasts, newsletters, Twitter, info about upcoming shows and an up to the minute local weather report. (Nah, there’s no weather report. But there could be.) I have recently become a fan of his podcasts which are silly, sometimes rambling, sometimes very informative and always interesting.
So as I’ve been motivated by a recent push he’s made in his life to generate more creative content this year than he ever has before, I wanted to ask him the payday questions. He maintains a desk job while he does SO MUCH other stuff with his life and that alone is inspiring.
Here are his answers to the payday questions. It’s a good one, you guys. Enjoy the read:
1. How do you earn a paycheck?
I make some of my money from teaching improv and commercials, but I make the rent as a deskbound web developer.
2. Do you enjoy what you do to earn a paycheck?
I like web work, and it’s cool that I get paid for it, but it’s really just a hobby of mine that happened to be a job. I’ve done it for long enough to know that it’s not a passion of mine. On top of that, the place I currently work is a soulstomping bureaucracy.
3. How did you get the job?
Through an online friend. She needed an assistant and I submitted my resume. This is back when online friends didn’t try to murder you.
4. Did you go to college and if so, what did you study? I got a theater degree. I’m not sure if I would do this again in retrospect… some of the training has been useful, but I’m still paying it off, and I’m not sure if the skills I got there couldn’t have been learned here in New York or simply through experience (without 15 years of student loan payments to follow).
5. If you could have any job in the whole entire world, assuming you’d instantly, miraculously possess the the training, opportunities, and expertise to excel at it, what would you do? Ack. That sound you just heard was some minor explosion of anxiety inside of me at the thought of choosing between being a Los Angeles Laker, late night talk show host, or starting flyhalf for a World Cup-winning rugby team. Of course, most of the time I avoid that anxiety because two of those options are wholly impossible, based on the current state of my… body.
6. If you didn’t have to earn a living – money was no object, but you had to be productive for 8 hours a day, what would you do?
I would create things… films, plays, stories, clubs, communities, meals.
7. What are your hobbies and interests?
Aside from performing, which in the end I consider more of a career than hobby, I love sports (basketball and rugby in particular), technology, video games, and food. I think the big interest that is the umbrella for everything is that I am really interested in learning.
8. How do you spend your free time?
I either noodle around eating, napping, and playing games while I think about being productive, or I get stuff done creating things while in the back of my mind I look forward to noodling.
9. What do/did your parents or guardians do to earn livings?
My dad was a nuclear engineer and my mom helped him run some of their independent businesses, which included a grocery store, a few restaurants, and a mobile home park.
10. What was the conversation or climate surrounding work and work ethic in your home when you were growing up?
“When you come home at the end of a day of working, you should be so tired that you only have energy to collapse into bed.” I have both incorporated and fought against this my entire life. My dad often substituted working long hours for working smart. That said, I do think a consistent application of work and practice is invaluable for developing skills. But I feel the idea that success is “earned” through sweat equity is sometimes dangerous in the amount of judgment and resentment you carry around when people get ahead of you. I don’t think it’s useful to see people’s ups and downs through the perception of who deserves what based on how many dues they have paid. I think this reverence for “hard work” also leads people like me to abhor self-promotion, with the idea that you just do your best and wait to get noticed. That’s one of the traits that I’m consciously working to change in myself.
11. How does your family feel about how you earn a living today?
My mom would definitely like me to succeed on a creative level, I’m pretty sure she’s indifferent to the jobs I do just to get by. My dad for some reason doesn’t think my web job is stable or something and keeps asking me to live with him in South Carolina while I get a computer science degree and find a girl to marry. There are at least four things wrong with that idea.
12. Do you have siblings and if so, what do they do for a living? Do you have a personal reaction to what they do, like maybe you’re envious or inspired?
One of my sisters is a television news reporter in Houston, the other works in alumni fundraising at a college, and my brother does IT work. I figure we’re all pretty good reliable people and on some level we each found a groove that keeps the lights on.
13. Generally, what time do you go to sleep? What time do you wake up?
I go to sleep around 1 am and get up about 8:45. I’m specifically trying to do 1:10 to 8:40 to keep things in 90-minute increments, which I heard is your natural sleep cycle. I have no credibility in this department because I basically just do whatever I read on web sites. For example, I just bought a bottle of pills called “Wake Up On Time” because it had a picture of a rooster on it.
14. Do you want to leave your current job for something different? If so, can you imagine yourself doing this? If so, will you do it?
I’d like to quit this job and make my living fulltime from creative efforts. My plan is to do this next summer (2010) after I’m out of debt. If we get universal health care before that it might happen sooner, but I’m not holding my breath.
15. What is more important to you in a job? a big paycheck or personal fulfillment.
Fulfillment. Simply put, I want to wake up looking forward to my day.
16. Do you think your idea of personal success has changed since you entered the work force?
No, I pretty much always knew these day jobs were not the end goal. For a few years I lost sight of what I really wanted to do but my focus is sharp these days.
17. When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
For a long time I thought about being President. I liked the idea of giving speeches that connected with people. It wasn’t a sense of being all-powerful, but there was an appeal to leading people through your own vision, the spark of which I think still informs my passions today. I love the process of creation, the moment when you put a sequence of words together that really clarifies a thought. Or you throw some stuff on the wall and it turns out better than you expected; it came from inside of you but you couldn’t have consciously done it.