The number one reason that I do improvisational theatre is the idea that it is an art form where myself and the actors with me onstage have full creative mindset in making something amazing happen in the moment.
That will always be the number one reason.
The number two reason that will never waiver is simple: Those actors onstage with me.
This I will scream from the rooftops and in the middle of the street and in random bars all over the country: You cannot get a better group of people when it comes to improvisational actors. It takes a very special type of person to expose themselves so openly onstage to perform this style of theatre. To walk onstage with only you and fellow performers with literally nothing and from a suggestion (and sometimes not even that) create a piece of theatre right then and there.
It's an openness. A willingness. A supportive nature to everyone in that room that in so many cases extends off the stage and into real life.
Such is the case of my friend TC Cheever.
A man who knew how to sing and live. Me and TC Cheever at the Chicago Improv Festival 2009 singing Paradise by the Dashboard Light.
I have gotten to a certain age (and a whacked disease) where I cannot remember where or how I met TC. Was it Austin Texas with Renegade Ducks? Was it in Boston performing with Renegade Duck? Did we become closer online via the improvisational community of Yesand? Was it subsequent visits to Boston?
I don't know anymore. All I know is this: We are both improvisers and have known each other for a damn long time. The outrageous flirting I have done with the guy was to the point where it just cracked the both of us up. I say something really over the top and always end it with a flourish of "I'M A WHORE!" which always made him laugh. Then we ask each other how our respective loved ones were doing.
I have (with most of my friends) "Yenta'd" him half to death when our lives changed as we got older.: BLACK WOMEN LUVS YOU!! I would tell him as he would laugh and laugh. "YOU NEED TO HIT THE HOOD! THEY. WILL. EAT. YOU. ALLLIVEE!!
I'm that friend. The one with no filter.
TC in the worst of times in our lives always exuded positivity. Like a true improviser. Everything was acceptance and yesanding and the joy of being in the moment.
To experience that with him when I had my breast cancer scare, to make each other laugh when he went to the hospital for his stomach, my diagnoses of M.S. and finally, him calling me to tell me almost a year ago he had Pancreatic Cancer was not a place of sorrow.
It was a place of knowing how to make the best out of the worse. Usually...with laughter. It's what we both did. Try to be supportive and of course make each other laugh:
Me: I'm going to embarrass the living daylights out of you at your memorial, you know that right?
TC: I know you are, Shaun. It's has to be really bad, tho'.
Me: I think there needs to be an inappropriate hookup in the bathroom of the memorial (both of us laugh) just two people who don't really know each other spying each other from their chairs and right in the middle of someone talking about you just head off to the bathroom to bone each other!
TC: That would be amazing (doing what he does best) What do you want at yours Landry?
Me: Inappropriate hook up is good. None of my favorite music but everyone else', because you know...I'm dead and won't be there to enjoy it. I would love for someone to just break down and start screaming and throw their body on the floor inappropriately. Oh. I would love for someone who I have not seen in years walk into the memorial and say "Hey, has anyone seen Shaun..." look around and realize what is going on and say "Oh shit"...then leave.
Both of us laugh. TC says this sounds like an amazing memorial. I tell him he has to plan it as I expect him to outlive me. He chuckles and said to me "Don't think that is gonna happen"
I go quiet and without him knowing on the phone I start to cry. I say to him "Man. Death fucking sucks, doesn't it?" I repeat back the exact same thing he said to me regarding my scare: Oh. And FUCK CANCER" he says "Death does suck and yes. Fuck Cancer hard"
I promised I would fly out no matter what before he decides "To leave"
This weekend I get the call from Cheryl Singleton telling me he was not going to make it through the weekend. Word gets out. Emails and Facebook and Twitter hashtags are formed in his honor. It's the most amazing connection for one incredible man I have seen in a very long time.
It gives me hope again not only in the improv community of keeping why I do what I do at number two? It give me hope once again on how amazing the internet can be.
Next thing you know there is a party. In the hospital of people celebrating his life. I'm sure a wonderful boisterous one filled with tons of inappropriate noise way too loud for the other people trying to make the same journey.
But we are improvisers. It's what we do. Supportive. Caring. Joyous. Silly. Him in the middle of it all with all of his might holding on.
I really honestly hope that somebody inappropriately hooked up in the bathroom of the hospital.
It is now Tuesday. TC is still alive. His mind is still being joyous and saying yes to the silliness. I fly in on Wednesday. I doubt I will see him to say goodbye.
I just hope he knows that I'm at least in his city to be next to those joyous boisterous lovely caring, giving honestly genuine improvisers hopefully doing something really super loud and boisterous in his honor. Supporting each other in this time. Hugging and caring for each other.
You know. What improvisational actors do the best and why I keep doing this form of theatre.
Maybe I will inappropriately hook up with someone in the bathroom of the bar. Because, that is funny. I'm doing it for TC, you know.
Also because (big flourish) I'M A WHORE!
My love to his family, his beautiful children and closest loved ones. my love and hugs to everyone who ever posted on Yesand.com
And to you TC. You need to hit the hood of heaven when you get there. Those angel ladies will EAT YOU ALLIIIVE.
Causes Shaun Landry Supports
The Alzheimer's Foundation, NAACP, Breast Cancer Foundation, Gilda's Club.