My name is Jonathan Hess. I am a Film and Television Production major at NYU Tisch School of the Arts. I like to make movies--but really I like to tell stories. I like to make people laugh and, somehow, I'd like to combine both of those things (movies and comedy) into a career someday. I'm currently studying Improvisation and Sketch Comedy Writing at the UCB Theatre to help myself achieve this dream.
I also studied at the BBC Academy in White City, London, UK and interned at the BBC's Comedy Department in London. That was a lot of fun.
I was just on the phone with my dad, talking to him about a recent compliment I’d gotten from my editing professor. It gave me a moment of reflection on what I now deem a really great semester.
This semester has been an incredible confidence booster for me—something that I’ve really needed.
Through all of the encouragement, advice, and notes that I’ve gotten from my writing professor and from my classmates, I am slowly becoming more confident and more comfortable in my own skin as a screenwriter—this is totally new for me.
The same holds true for me, as an editor. I’ve always been fairly confident in my skills as a film editor but this semester has allowed me to branch off as a more marketable editor. I have begun to take on a LOT more independent projects, with the possibility of one or more features, and that feels really good! The best part is that a lot of these projects have sought ME out and not vice versa! So, not only do I believe in myself as an editor, but others do as well!
As a director, I’ve always been confident that because it’s what I want to do for a living, I can use that passion and determination to communicate my artistic vision to a cast and crew. However, just because I feel that way doesn’t mean that everything I make will be good. Believe it or not, Sight and Sound: Studio has made me feel more confident as a director (and as a comedy writer…sort of). I know that what I made in that class is good and that it is funny and knowing that I directed it, that I translated my artistic and comedic visions from my head (and from the head of my writing partner) to the page and then to a cast and crew is so exciting. I can happily say that I am now a much more confident director.
Comedy! This has nothing to do with NYU but since January, I’ve been taking improv classes at the UCB Theatre. I’m almost finished with my 201 class and I absolutely love it. Seriously, improv (and comedy as a whole) is a drug and I am a proud addict. I’ve always liked to think of myself as funny but until 2012, I’ve spent a lot of time second guessing myself. I’ve still got way more to learn in the ways of becoming a comedian but I can say that, if nothing else, I am much more confident in my abilities to make people laugh and to improvise a series of scenes.
None of these things are meant with any tone of arrogance. I know that there’s way more for me to learn as a writer, editor, director and improviser (one day comedian, I hope). I still need to work on honing my comedic AND dramatic voices, I need to get more experience cutting more high-profile/feature length material, I need to get out there and just make more movies, and I need to keep practicing and keep LEARNING comedy if I’m ever going to make my comedic dreams come true!
I need to keep practicing and learning about all of these things if I’m ever going to make any of my dreams come true. That said, I’m feeling really good and really confident about my progress this year. I’m glad I had that reflection.
Sorry, I know that was long…if you read all the way, thank you and congratulations.
So first of all, I’m not really one to Tumble original stuff…I’ll usually just reblog things. Today was way too special not to talk about…I just wanted to share it with my friends, and I hope some of them will read it.
Today was, without doubt, one of the best days of my life.
Today was the day I performed in my first ever long-form improv show—my first ever comedy show in New York City.
For the past few months, I have been diving deeper and deeper into the world of The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre and the incredible community that it has built. I have become close with many performers there and have experienced firsthand just how close and supportive the community is.
But I am still new.
I think the nice thing about UCB is that, for all of its fame and for all of the alumni who have gone on to become some of today’s most prominent comedians, it hasn’t lost its touch as a haven for the weirdos of New York City to congregate and to celebrate something beautiful: laughter. The people there are truly a community with one another. It is a net of people that will catch the rest of us who jump in, the newbies who are just starting to explore the world of the UCB, and welcome us with open arms.
At it’s beginning essence, improv is about feeling comfortable enough to try something risky and new because you trust those around you to catch you after your leap of faith.
Today, I got to see that for myself.
Honing my ability to make people laugh has always been a dream of mine. I would love to be on SNL one day or on a sitcom or in movies where I get to make people laugh for a living. Until I came to college, I didn’t know how to make that happen. Then I discovered the UCB Theatre and, after a while and after becoming friendly with a few performers there, I decided to sign up for an Improv 101 class.
Probably one of the best decisions of my life.
I’m not going to go into how learning to improvise changed my outlook on how I live my life. That would take too long and nobody wants to be reading this forever.
What I will say, is that this was not only an incredible experience because I finally took a chance and started to learn how to be funny, it was incredible because I took a chance—a leap of faith—and people caught me.
That’s what this blog post is about. Did I reach a milestone on my way to achieving my dream of becoming a comedian today? Yes. But I wouldn’t have even come close if it hadn’t been for so many people who taught me so much along the way.
Anthony Atamanuik was my teacher. The man is brilliant; he’s one of the best improvisers I’ve ever seen and he took a kid who knew nothing about doing long-form improv and turned him into a confident improviser (though I will absolutely and immediately admit that there is beyond so much more for me to learn). I have to thank him for helping me achieve one more step towards my dream.
I also have to thank my classmates. Tony, Tim, Woody, Cindy, Tamsi, Tam, Lauren, Dylan, Jess, Jason, Jaimee, Natalie, Nicole, Kellen, and Addie, you’re all amazing. We’ve come so far as a class and I’m so proud of all of us.
Without the encouragement from people like Phil Jackson, Dave Bluvband, Matthew (MURF) Meyer, Dru Johnston, Noah Forman, J.D. Amato, Nick Feitel and Chris Gethard, I probably wouldn’t have been nearly as confident onstage as I was today. It’s such a privilege and a pleasure getting to hang out with all of them every Wednesday. The fact that they’ve let me into their lives and have been so welcoming and so willing to give advice and even to discuss improv as peers is so amazing to me. You guys are the best and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
There are so many more people to thank, especially my friends (especially Rose Bochner and Kate Marie Engberg for coming to the show!!) and most importantly, my family…but that would be too many names. They know I love them and that I appreciate their love and support more than anything else in this world.
This was a huge day for me. I’ve officially performed comedy in New York City. I’ve successfully put myself on the path to achieving one of my greatest dreams, and you know what?
It feels amazing.
I still can’t believe I did an improv show today. That’s beyond me and I’m so proud to say that I think I did a pretty good job! There’s SO much more to learn, and I can’t wait to start!
On to Improv 201, then! I can’t wait. For the first time in my life, since getting in and going to NYU, I feel like I’m on my way to something bigger and better.
And it’s so exciting.