Improv, Comedy, Women, Melbourne and everything in between.
Unlike contestants on reality shows, I DID come here to make friends.
I understand that everyone is different, we all have different needs to be met — some people constantly need a romantic partner, some people need a BFF and all the labels that come with it, some people need to be alone, some people need huge friendship groups, or to be at the top of said friendship group. Some people need friends in high places. Some people didn’t come here to make friends. Some people, like me, need a small bunch of amazing pals on call to support and be supported by.
Friendship has always been so important to me. I treat my close friends like sisters and brothers. I have real love for my friends. I’m always hesitant to call people my best friends (because labels are spooky, and I always feel that perhaps I’m not they’re best friend), but I know I have them. I have a best friend for every need. I believe you need multiple best friends — career pals or people who have the same interests as you, a childhood/teenagehood unconditional support person who you don’t see often but it’s always magic when you link up, someone who’s not a part of your main friendship groups so you two can vent about your respective groups together, and many other types.
My year level at school seemed to be divided up into three large groups: the popular kids, the “weird” kids (who I now realise were living the dream in high school by embracing who they were/are), and the people not cool enough or “weird” enough to fall into either category — that was where I belonged. I had close friends in every one of these groups, and could hang in any of them. But I always felt the most safe, happy, and free to by myself when I was hanging with my best friend Renee. She was a legitimately stunning model, cool girl, and she was so kind and funny. I didn’t like her when I first met her because everyone crowded her because she’s so pretty. One day we were walking together and talking about what classes we were in. We worked out we were both TERRIBLE at maths and were in the lowest maths class together. This was nice. From there we became closer and closer, and we’re still close. Even though we rarely see each other since school finished 6 years ago.
I met Clarissa Joy Woods on my second day of uni in 2011. It was a dreary Tuesday, I was freshly 18 years old and she was 17 years old (which is RIDICULOUS and university is wasted on the young). We were both studying Arts at Monash Caulfield, which is a smaller (and better) campus of Monash University. However, all the creative classes were at Monash’s central campus, way out in Clayton. Every Tuesday I would have to venture out there to take my theatre electives, and she would study flute in the same building at the same time. But back to that dreary Tuesday — I was alone at Clayton for the first time with a couple of hours to kill. As I was 18 at the time and fresh out of high school, I hadn’t yet grasped how to handle being alone in public, so I bought a coffee and sat on a bench for two hours, freaking out about how big Monash’s Clayton campus is, and how I most likely won’t be able to find the theatre building. A gorgeous, tall, blonde girl sits down on the same bench as me. She’s wearing a red skirt, which I recognised from earlier that day as I had followed “Red Skirt Girl” to my communication lecture followed by a literature seminar at Monash Caulfield in the morning (Tuesdays were a HUGE day in my timetable, and involved two classes at Monash Caulfield in the morning and two classes at Monash Clayton in the afternoon). Red Skirt Girl pulls out Frankenstein and starts reading. It’s the same book I’m supposed to be reading for literature. The amount of anxiety I’m feeling at this point about being in a huge campus, alone, in CLAYTON, compels me to ask Red Skirt Girl if she knows where the theatre building is. She tells me she’s not sure, but she also has music class there, so perhaps we can find it together, because she kinda thinks she knows where it is. I then reveal I noticed her in my classes. She’s from Ballarat and commutes everyday. Monster by Kanye West is playing and I talk about how much I love Kanye West, and she talks about how much she loves Justin Vernon of Bon Iver (who appears on Monster). She takes me to the theatre building possibly the longest way possible (I later realise the bench we were sitting on is literally around the corner from the theatre building). We exchange numbers and meet up every Tuesday to do the same thing. It’s been six years and she’s one of the most important people in my life. She’s my best friend, and she’s been through a hell of a lot and is still so positive, caring, and sweet.
I’m so glad I was terrified enough that day we met to tell a stranger I recognised her from class. And I’m so lucky she was nice enough to not think any of it was weird.
It’s December, 2013. I’m done with university and I’ve finished all the levels of improv classes, so I’m on an ensemble team now, performing regularly. I’m standing at the Improv Conspiracy’s annual end-of-year Christmas picnic. I’m talking to this guy, Mario Hannah, who had been in the level above me. He’s a funny dude. We’re standing alone at the picnic discussing Neighbours, for some reason. Well, “discussing” isn’t the right word — we were actually pitching really fucked Neighbours plots to one another. We were laughing a lot. Another guy, Simon McCulloch (also a funny dude), wanders over to us and joins in. The three of us stand there for ages, just pitching weird Neighbours arcs and then moving on to our mutual interests in niche comedy. It was a weird, new thing for me to meet two very special people who, for the first time ever, had all the same interests as me. I felt very connected and instantly adored these guys.
In May 2014, we’re at Simon’s house because he’s hosting a little meet-up for a bunch of improvisers who are heading to Chicago that July/August. Again, I find myself in the corner of the party with Mario and Simon, discussing all our favourite things. The next day, Simon starts a group chat with us because he’s sharing some dumb indie-rock song that neither Mario or I (we are rap fans) really care about. We keep messaging in that group chat. I ask them if they’d like to form a little improv trio for Small Plates, The Improv Conspiracy’s upcoming Melbourne Fringe show where small teams perform improv. They say yes and we train together in Chicago. We call ourselves Trillcumber because of a joke Simon made. Then we sign up to write a sketch show for Melbourne International Comedy Festival 2015. It’s called Is This Intimacy. We continue to make shows and sketches together.
It’s New Years Eve, 2016. Well actually, we’re 15 minutes into 2017 at this point. Some drama has gone down on the New Years Eve countdown. I’m panicking a little. I tell Simon what’s happened and that I’m freaking out, and he says “let’s get a beer” and we hide in the kitchen, away from all the celebrations. I have an anxiety attack. He gets a cool washcloth and puts it on my head. I’m still panicking, but I feel calm knowing he’s there.
I rejoin the party, barely keeping it together, and sit down next to Mario. We rap Andre 3000’s verse in Greenlight together and for a moment I feel fine. Then I tell him what happened. He says “wanna go for a walk?” and we go outside into the crisp air. It’s nice. He buys me a water from 7-11 and we sit outside the party for a while as I try to calm my breathing. He lets me know I’m okay, and I believe it.
I get home and I feel very grateful to have Simon and Mario in my life. I love us when we’re all together, and I love my relationship with both of them separately. Together we are collaborative, open, productive, hilarious, and supportive. They are my favourites.
Moving out of home
I first took notice of Taylor Griffiths when I saw her waiting for an improv class. We were both wearing all-white Adidas Superstar Supershells, black jeans, a long stripy top and a Gorman raincoat. It was alarming. Months later, I ask her to tech Trillcumber’s 2016 Comedy Festival show, Paradise. She does, and we get to know each other better. She tells me she’s looking for housemates and I tell her I’m looking to move out soon, but not yet. At the end of Comedy Festival I say “fuck that” and ask if I can move in, and she says yes. We live together now, and she’s become a sister to me. She tolerates my moodiness, my pretentiousness, and my pettiness. She pulls me out of bad moods. We laugh hard together and emphathise with one another. We worship Nicki Minaj and Beyonce together. She’s amazing, kind, sweet, and hilarious. I love her.
Friends are important. Don’t choose relationships over friends. Don’t ruin friendships over sex, exes, or things that have an expiry date. Friendship is a true form of love, appreciation, and support. Nourish your connections. Nurture your relationships. Check in with your childhood besties every couple of months. Listen when your friend is whining about a tough day, because you’ll know it’ll be you whining about the same shit any minute now, and they’ll listen back.
Treat your friends how you wish to be treated.