Tell Me About Chris Churchill

I love interviewing people. I just wish I knew more awesome, famous people. πŸ™‚ But I know at least one and he’s super awesome and almost famous. To me anyway. He’s brilliant, creative, fascinating, funny, talented, accomplished and so, so friendly. Embracing. Welcoming. Decent, kind, inspiring. He’s my friend, Chris Churchill.

He so kindly agreed to let me interview him. He has quite a few things out right now. Book, songs, documentary. Thanks for reading and checking out my friend, Chris. He’s the coolest. Thanks, Man! for letting me probe your brain.


Background about Chris:

I’m an artist of many types of art. Writing, visual art, music, comedy, film-making. But, of course, not many make a living doing these things. So, I give tours and have recently started teaching.
Where did you start performing?

Started performing in high school. School plays, etc. Also tried, here and there, to play in bands. Wrote a lot of stories and little plays. In retrospect, any shiny artistic object, pulled me away from the previous one. I saw a good friend in an improv show in 1992 or ’93. I thought, “That’s really funny. And I’ll bet I could do that.” So, I auditioned for Lighten Up Improvisation Company and got in. This is where I met your husband (Guy Maggio).

How did you get to Chicago? What led you there? Anything you miss about KC?

I miss everything about KC. Home is always home. When I come home, the wind is the right kind of wind. The birds and insects are the right kind. The sky is the right sky. The Chiefs. The Royals. And all the people of course. My whole family is
still there.

I got to Chicago because I met Adam McKay and David Koechner at an improv fest in Austin, TX (I was performing with your husband and others). They were teaching an improv workshop which I took twice when I was there. Once as a participant. The second time, I just sat in the back and watched. I had never had a conversation with a famous person before. And Koechner had this amazing, positive, “you can do it” energy. He told a group of us that if we were serious about this, we had to move to Chicago. Eventually, I did.

What’s the best thing about following your love of and talent in music? Improv?

The best thing is that you can go to a place on your heart that needs massaging, when it needs massaging and massage it. Flood yourself with serotonin when you need it. The finished product has never really gotten me too far. The process makes me happy, though.

What inspired you to come up with β€œAbraham Lincoln: The College Years”? What is just improv or something you thought about?
When I was recovering from a psych issue I’d had a few years ago, I finally got to the point where I could artistically express myself again and it helped me get back to “normal”. At this point, I just made up the worst ideas for television pilot episodes and wrote 12 of them. For fun. Because I was crazy.
Later, I decided to have staged readings at Second City for four of them. Well, obviously, they’d need theme songs. So, I made up these silly theme songs and recorded them. Originally, I thought I’d just play them at the live show but, since I already had an audiobook on Mint 400 Records, I asked them if they’d put out my “Doomed Pilots” soundtrack. As far as the Lincoln song goes, I started with the lyrics, searched within the lyrics for the rhythm and recorded that. I added the simplest of bass-lines so that when I sang the lyrics I’d be on key. Or at least I’d know where the key was. Then, from within that framework, I improvised the recording or the rest. The guitars, the backing vocals were improvised because I don’t like planning too much when I’m in creation mode. I think it worked out. It’s one of my favorite things I’ve ever recorded.
How did the project β€œTell Me About My Mother” start? (check out the video here)

My siblings and I constantly find ourselves telling these old family stories over and over again about how crazy our mom was/is. After I’d had an internship at a video company and had begun to make more of my own independent stuff, my sister Deb said, “This should be your next project.” And she was right. It turned out really well. It’s been getting a lot of emotional responses from people.

I’m sure it was difficult reliving the past, was it healing or just messy?

It was definitely healing. My mom needed validation for a lot of what she went through. It was nice to hear my dad’s side. Even though some might say he doesn’t come off smelling like a rose in this movie. And my siblings, as usual, served as comic relief when necessary. Some of these stories are pretty intense.

Do you think that your past/childhood set you up for how you live your life now in terms of music, improv, life goals, career choice, or creativity in general? Do you think it propelled you? Or do you think it was a detriment?

My childhood gave me both the artistic tools for survival as well as the need to use those tools to keep my sanity (most of the time). The problem and the solution are wrapped up in the same thing. My upbringing was alternately exciting and fun and sad and lonely. In terms of being able to make any money, it’s never really happened for long stretches. That is probably just a case of not having the right backing, connections, luck and also, let’s face it, I’m not making mainstream anything. I don’t know how to do that because I don’t feel the same way most people do.

What are you working on now or hope to be hearing about in the near future? What’s coming up for you?

Always working on something. Thinking about raising money so I can edit the rest of the story of me and my family and release the whole thing on DVD. Mixing an album for the label. Writing for an online magazine called Literate Ape. Teaching one college course and still giving tours of Chicago.

Thanks, Chris! You’re amazing. ❀
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Prompt and Circumstance

Funny story: My husband and I formed an amateur improv troupe for a short time under the name–Prompt and Circumstance. Actually, that’s not that funny. Neither was our troupe. Ha! JK We only got to go a coupla times. We had other troupes–Elderberries (our format was called the Kevin, a long-form that was 6 degrees of scenes ala Kevin Bacon separation that looped around on itself, kinda cool), Sofa-King (two-person couch prov, scenes on or around a couch, yes, it’s that boring), but could never get anything off the ground. Maybe some day. We’re like garage-band improv wanna-bes.


So, I’ve been doing something lately that really boosts my productivity in writing. I take a picture, or use an old picture, and write a poem.

It doesn’t have to be Shakespeare. But it’s an almost-daily exercise that’s really stretching my creativity and discipline out.

It’s not really a goal I stated out loud or even in my mind. It just sort of moved from “small, indulgent poems that are fun to write” to this amorphous, intangible idea/question of “Can I write a poem every single day using a photo prompt?”

Well. You can. You most definitely can. You have to let go of the well-crafted poem and everything-I-write-should-be-published ideal, but it’s fun. It definitely disciplines and increases one’s productivity.

If you don’t have a prompt, or a picture, you can certainly use mine.

bird in flight.jpg

Here’s my poem that I wrote months ago, prompted by this photo:

Wings wide.
Feathers flying.
Riding high.
Going hard.
Beating the air with all my strength.

Simple. Un-Shakespeare-like. But a blurt of a thought and stimulating of those writer-y muscles. To see the world and set it down, even for a moment.

I would love to see your poems, prose or thoughts on this. Leave in the comments or tag me in your post? Thanks! Love your brains!

Also, what’s your process?

Also, would you like to start an improv troupe with me?? LOL What would you call it? πŸ˜€

Swimming, Drowning

Swimming through the past. An ocean of negative feelings and tremendous waves of guilt, doubt, hurt and resentment pound you against the sand of time.

I swam in several oceans. Just this morning.

If you can read this, it’s because I trust you.

No.

It’s not.

Well, sort of.

It’s because I’m willing to give you one chance before I don’t. So I trust you. For now.

It’s funny because I trust this online group of fellow writers more than I do my own flesh and blood. I trust you more because you and I are the same.

You understand the tiny intricacies and intimacies of out-loud emotion. Sensitivity to environment and relationships. You observe life and tell it again. Live it again. An editor said to Susan Weidener, “Writing is living twice.”

Writers are brave enough to live, even the bad parts, twice. Suck the marrow.


β€œI went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms…”  Henry David Thoreau


YOU (Reader/Writer)=Preservationist. Historian. Testifier. Guardian. Lover of words, people, experiences, life.

I understand. Mad respect.

This morning, I crushed a tiny flying insect between my index finger and thumb. Without thought. It continued to fly around my face and it was extremely annoying. S/he landed on my shirt and I took my chance.

Somehow, now and again, I feel just like that bug. Crushed without thought by some annoyed acquaintance.

I’ve mainly felt that way around certain creative types who have enormous ego and too little time to care for another. Improv actors. Improv actors are good at one thing. Thinking up jokes on the spot. Otherwise, adulting is just too hard.

The trouble is impulse control. They have none. I should know. I married an improviser. Ironic, I know.

The same impulse that tells them to say something funny or true on stage? That’s the same impulse in life that gets you socked in the gob by a gnarly stranger. Most of us learn to control that impulse to blurt out something ridiculous. Improvisers are rewarded for such behavior with laughter, slaps on the back and applause.

My husband’s improv friends for the most part were a tightly-loomed clique of quick-witted attention whores who constantly tried to one-up each other. If you couldn’t hang, you were just a hanger-on.

I’m damn funny. But not an improviser. I’ve tried. I’m not an improv-er mainly because I have strict impulse guidelines and fear rejection. Plus, my brain just does not work that fast. My judgment slows my reaction. I can improv. Just not at the same level as my husband.

For years I tried to fit in, be supportive, hang on. But it is wholly unsatisfying to be surrounded by adult toddlers most of the time. It’s exhausting.

No one ever seemed to be able to hold more than a five-minute conversation. Never about anything real either. It was usually a 5-minute joke-off/caffeine/smoke break. And they certainly didn’t care about your personal details unless it benefited them in some way. Exhausting.

Most successful improv-ers IMO have compartmentalized lives. Improv is over here. Family, life, job is waaaay over there. And that’s just not me. I want to be fully integrated. Real. Whole. And I want my husband to be, too. He’s working on it. Doing really good. But we haven’t seen that whole improv crowd for years.

I mainly swam around in regret for a few minutes this morning because I just finally deleted most of those people from my LinkedIn page. Seeing all those faces again just made me sad and mad all over again. The rejection of my true self, the rejection of my ability, the rejection of my offer of genuine friendship. Tears came fast and hard without warning, without rationale.

But, I’ve written about it and I feel okay now. Plus, I am too busy to tire myself in this choppy ocean of feelings. I’m sure you understand. πŸ™‚