Evanston comedian talks fatherhood, self-doubt in latest one-person show


Source: Lauren Carrane

Jimmy Carrane on stage. The comedian is bringing his one-man show, “World’s Greatest Dad(?)” to Judy’s Beat Lounge on Nov. 2.

Jennifer Zhan, Reporter

The same year that his own father died, comedian and improvisation teacher Jimmy Carrane became a dad himself. His latest one-person show, “World’s Greatest Dad(?),” examines fatherhood and how it’s helped him come to terms with the bitterness he felt when many people he had done improv with like Tina Fey, Stephen Colbert and Andy Richter, became comedy stars. “World’s Greatest Dad(?)” debuted this summer at Judy’s Beat Lounge in Chicago and will return to the space every Saturday from Nov. 2 to Nov. 30. Ahead of the show’s opening, The Daily chatted with Carrane about how he uses his “self-deprecating” style of humor to address his personal life.

The conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.

The Daily: Your last one-man show was 18 years ago. What prompted you to revisit the format?
Carrane: Improv is so spontaneous and can be a lot of fun, but when you write a one-person show, you have more time to say something. The other thing is, it’s just you up there for 45 minutes. You’re either gonna succeed by yourself or you’re gonna fail by yourself. You have nobody to blame, and that is both terrifying and exciting.

The Daily: “World’s Greatest Dad(?)” premiered in June, the same month as Father’s Day. How was the audience’s reaction?
Carrane: What I love about storytelling is that people can identify with your story, even if you think, “Oh my god, this is so specific to me.” For example, I talk in the show about my father, who went to prison for white collar crime. People came up to me after the show and said, “My dad did something similar, but he never got caught.” (Sharing personal experiences on stage) can be nerve wracking at times, and it’s better if people can identify and laugh with you.

The Daily: You started presenting short pieces of “World’s Greatest Dad(?)” around Chicago about two years ago. How has the show’s story changed through that process?
Carrane: I’m a very serious guy, (but) this is a very funny show. I wanted the show to start a little lighter, a little funnier, so I changed the beginning. Another thing is (when I talked about) the funeral for my dad, I didn’t like the eulogy I’d given. I was like, “You know what? I’m just going to keep it simple. I’m not going to try to pull on people’s heartstrings with the eulogy, I’ll just tell it exactly how it went.”

The Daily: What do you want audiences to take away from the show?
Carrane: One message is for first-time parents. For me, falling in love with my child didn’t happen automatically. Sometimes, having a baby — you’re supposed to be happy and people don’t want to hear, “You know, it’s really hard for me.” So (it’s about) getting over that shame. Eventually I fell in love with my daughter and it was the best thing I did, but it took me a long time to get there.

The Daily: “World’s Greatest Dad(?)” grapples with the idea of success. What advice would you give to someone who feels inadequate and always compares themselves to others?
Carrane: If you’re going to compare yourself, compare yourself to people you think are not as talented as you. That’s partially a joke, but it’s also true, because I always compare myself to my friends that are in Los Angeles or New York and have won Oscars and Emmys. The more serious response is: Get help. My career was stuck until I got into group therapy and found people that could support me in my art. Performing is such a vulnerable thing. You need people that are gonna constantly reinforce you and say, ‘Keep going, you can do it” and also be honest with you and say, “Hey, that didn’t work.”

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Twitter: @jenniferzhann