Anne Libera is an author, writer, comedy professor and researcher. She created the Comedy Studies program at Columbia College Chicago.
Ms. Libera worked for over 32 years at The Second City, the legendary improv theater where Mike Myers, Steve Carell, Tina Fey, Key and Peele, and Stephen Colbert first cut their teeth. Public speaker for Recode, the Aspen Ideas Festival, and the Stanford Graduate School of Business, as a Director, writer, and professor, Anne is also one of the creators of the Second Science Project, a partnership between the Second City and the Chicago Booth Center for Decision Research at the University of Chicago, studying through improvisation how individuals can improve their behavior by learning how to risk, how to fail, how to listen, and how to take a chance—at being human.
"Thinking about 'how to be funny' is about empowering other people, my students, my children, to go forth and do better work, to do it in the right, healthy way for themselves."
— Anne Libera
Photo: Phil Dembinski
Anne Libera (guest): The work that I do—thinking about how to be funny, thinking about how to improvise—is about empowering other people, empowering my students, empowering my children to go forth and do better work and to do it in the right way and in the healthy way. That's what's important. If I look back at my life, and continue to look back my life, I'm thinking about the skills I empowered other people to take forward with them. I love to see the success of my students as human beings and as artists and that's hugely what is important.
Simone Salis (host): I am Simone Salis and this is Hoomans, with today's guest: Anne Libera. Anne Libera is the creator of the first college degree in Comedy and Director of the Comedy Studies Program at Columbia College Chicago. Overseeing the BA in Comedy Writing and Pperformance, she has worked for over 32 years at The Second City, the legendary improv theater where Mike Meyers, Steve Carrell, Tina fey, Key and Peele, and Stephen Colbert first cut their teeth. Public speaker for ReCode, the Aspen Ideas Festival, and the Stanford Graduate School of Business, as a director, writer and professor Ms. Anne Libera is also one of the creators of the Second Science Project, a partnership between the Second City and the Chicago Booth Center for Decision Research at the University of Chicago, studying through improvisation how individuals can improve their behavior, by learning how to risk, how to fail, how to listen, and how to take a chance at being human. Anne, 32 years at the Second City. How was your first day there?
A. Libera: So my very first day at second city I was, we're doing surveys. They were, they were doing cold calling of people in the northwest suburbs to see if we should open a theater in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. Which by the way, the answer to that, it was no. Uh, but we did it anyway. The second city Schomburg. It was second city rolling meadows. There you go, there you go. Uh, and ironically I directed the show that closed second city. Um, but, um, so my very first day calling people in the northwest suburb zip codes to find out whether they were interested in coming to second city and I had, had not seen a show at second city yet. Did you know what Improv wise? So I knew about improvisation and I had done improvisation at northwestern. Um, and in fact had worked with, I was part of a, you know, one of those classic, you're right out of college theater companies.
A. Libera: Start thinking that you're going to become the next step. And Wolfe, oh, of course called the journeymen theater ensemble. And we developed a terrible show through improvisation that got just unbelievably bad notices of all the Stephen Colbert was in. It was good. It was a really good company. Kelly overby who, um, is uh, an actress who was actually just here in Chicago, shakes playing Queen Elizabeth and Mary Stewart and she's going to be on Broadway in Mary page. Marlow, uh, was also in that company. I mean, there's some really very, very talented people doing terrible work, just the wrong configuration elements, listening well and also being 21 and doing all the things that you are not playing to your strengths and all those things. What did you want back then? I thought it was going to be a very serious theater director. Okay. Performer and I grew up as a performer.
A. Libera: I was A. I was a child actor. I did a musical theater and I was in the sound of music as to and I did all these sort of classic things. Kind of thinking that I was an actor and the, you know, there's a thing that you do sometimes in. In retrospect I think I did really want to be an actor. I thought that if I did something that was a little bit harder for me, then if I failed at it, we'll set comedy. Well, I don't think anybody ever thought that I was going to be a comedian. In fact, if you talk to to anyone I grew up with, I'm the last person that you would say, oh, she's going to be the one who works in comedy, but it is a little bit of like, I think that I was afraid to take those risks and so that rather than that I sort of fell into this world where people didn't necessarily have the same skills that I did in terms of being analytical.
A. Libera: I think I really am a director truthfully in, at, at my very base in terms of my artistic functioning and it is what I've done at the second city, but there'd been very little analysis of process. People sort of kept their processes very tightly closed and didn't think about it and I was interested in doing that and that sort of led me through a lot of my work of being someone who was just sort of able to talk about the work in a way that hadn't been talked about there before. Oh, you grew up in Minnesota and you were a child actor. Was your mom a child? Actors? Mom? Not at all. Oh No. You know, my father was an economics and statistics professor. Okay. Hospital, one of the most awkward humans you've ever wanted. He was very introverted. He was very self conscious and was working really hard not to be, but he was also, you know, is interestingly a really early feminist, a very early social justice person.
A. Libera: My parents met at a Dorothy Day society event. My mother was a nurse. Neither of my parents are funny at all. You had to compensate and my sister is also married to a second city comedian and she's also very funny and there are moments where like, how did this happen? Yeah, I see a pattern. And so it was interesting. My parents were not my, but I had my, my younger brother and sister are twins. My brother was born afterwards. I didn't breathe right away, so we had cerebral palsy. That really became the focus of my mother for my mother and both of my parents though very much sort of letting me let us do what we wanted to do. So neither were they stage parents at all, and in fact that's probably in many ways why I hide as much success as a child actor as I did was that my parents were cool.
A. Libera: I don't know that I thought of myself as an actor. I think I'm more enjoyed the sort of backstage was fascinating. Yeah. Okay. Well, you're also a writer and a director. Did you have any interest in storytelling or writing when you were a child? Oh yes. Oh no, that's exactly what I mean. I was an actor, but what I was really interested in is storytelling. I have boxes and boxes of journals from when I was 10 and a lots and lots of stories that are basically copies of the stories that I read. That was a huge reader. I was one of those kids who have walked to school with a book in front of you while you're walking and then you walk on a pole. Yes, exactly. The kind of. And you hurt yourself. Yeah. And, and, uh, when did you start to acknowledge the, if is an analytical interest for the first time intersecting?
A. Libera: You talked a little bit about college and realizing that you wanted to to analyze and shared the process and and the and eventually this, what you're doing now as an adult to an incredible extent, but did you work knowledge that consciously at some point like you were like, this is, this is how my brain would, my brain finds interesting as I went through college. I certainly knew that the, the places where I had success with analytical places where the places where I was looking at something and saying, hey, how does this work? What, what are the triggers that makes us work? And I think, you know, one of my downfalls as a theatrical director was that I was more interested in sort of the underpinnings of the thing that existed rather than imposing my vision vision on something. I probably think that that's the right way to work that your job well and certainly the job of the second city director is to follow the follower, right? Your job is not to impose your vision and in fact the opposite. Your job is to support the vision of the actors and of the playwright and that's I think I personally believe that that's the role of the director, but it's not a showy way. It's not something that's gonna get you. People aren't going to jump up and down and say, oh, look at the thing. You did this analytical process. How did it grow?
Speaker 4: Let's say you're the first person again. Then I'm aware of. I think it is the first worldwide. There's a couple of other. There's one in Salford. University of Chester has a degree in how many writing performance? There was a two year associate's degree
A. Libera: in Canada. Okay. But yeah, I kind of created
Speaker 4: this thing that was certainly the first in the United States by the way. It was the first in the United States. Emerson? Yeah, like to pretend they were the first, but they were not the first thing that susie lived there very far. I mean, I think it's easily verifiable that you just take a look at the dates that their classes started and when the Colombians and that's it, but don't say it. How did he grow in through you, this passion? When did you realize, this is my thing, I wan to, not disrespect but analyze comedy. What was your path from getting into the box office at the second city and then arriving here? I know it's 30 years. It's a lot.
A. Libera: Well, you know, my first passion was improvisation. What I became really interested in as a director at the second city, so I was. I was an improvisation performer. I was the head of the training center and I was a director and what I was really interested in was taking whether the time was kind of an an oral tradition making and formalizing it and it was. It was partially just kind of bossy thing of feeling like, well, this exists. It should get written down the the, that we can share this information that this information doesn't belong to people. It belongs as information. And so a lot of it was kind of just just like, well, nobody else is doing this. Somebody got to do this. And for the, again, from that perspective of there's this enormous wealth of information out there about improvisation and how to do improvisation better. They were, there were books like truth and comedy, but that again, that told you what happened but didn't necessarily tell you why it happened that didn't go deeper than the explanation of like, here are three rules and here's how to play the game. It's like observing the
Speaker 4: effects of physics laws without having the laws like know that an item has been fallen and he fell. But how so you started to observe that at the second seat and you were like, I want to unfold and not, not just unfold first, like jotting down the rules that were oral tradition and then starting to the second them.
A. Libera: I mean that was really the, the, the basis of my first book, which was the second city Almanac of improvisation. Yep. But you're not for certain northwestern university press. But that was really, that was about, that was about really digging into improvisation. And, and part of my, I think, my deep goal as a, as a human artists in the world is connected to this idea of how do I teach people these practical skills in places where, or areas where there's not a lot of teaching where people tend to think it's magic.
Speaker 4: Yeah. The first time you watch an Improv show personally, now how the hell did they do that? How they improvise a song again?
A. Libera: Yeah. And comedy to right. People think the number of times through my journey as someone who sort of been developing comedy curriculum, the number of times somebody has said to me, well, you can't teach comedy, right? People are in the funnier they're not the fact. The matter is that of course you can teach comedy. Then there's that horrible. It's not horrible. I love you be white. But there's the quote about the frog that dissecting comedy is, is frog a nope. Nobody cares very much in the frog dies a bit. Yeah. And which by the way means that every third book about dissecting comedy has a frog on. It's covering in the fact that there's that. So beside the point, the point is, and you know this because you were my student, if I studied well, the point of studying comedy, the point of teaching comedy is to get better at creating it.
A. Libera: It's not to make any individual joke funny again, you study comedy so that you can be a better comedy creator. And in a really deep level, that's the base of what I want to do is figure out in improvisation, that's my home, right? Second City, improvisation in second season, my home. What are the deep levels that I can take this apart so that I can teach it better so that this is not about my ego and me being the, the, you know, there's a lot of comedy and Improv teachers who are, uh, who are gurus, right? You have to spend some time in my aura and by just being around me, you will discover the great truths on a really deep level. What matters to me is to find those things that are not connected to me being the wise guru for the mountain, but find the things that I can give to you, the student.
A. Libera: So that you can make this thing happen yourself, that it's not magic. It's not something that somebody has and that you can't have. Again, I'm not funny, but I'm funnier just by the way the title of my new book. I'm working on a book. Okay, that's funnier because. Because I really do believe that. I believe that, that there are mechanisms, there are things that you can do, practices that you can have understanding, that you can, can follow, that can make you. I don't know that it's ever going to make somebody who has no sense of humor for me. Funny or the source. Again, beside the point also, I will never be able to hit a ball with a bat. I have A. I have no. I had coordination with a lot of practice. I could get better at that, but it's not. Again, not the point. I'm not talented. Baseball. I'm talented as the theater arts,
Speaker 5: IMC, Monta Ellis, and this humans with today's guest and libra, comedy writer, director and researcher.
A. Libera: You can't teach a life experience. That's. That's the amazing part, right? That's, that's the point of the original point of view, in fact, right? You can teach people to honor their life experience. One of the ways in which I personally became aware of how I could be funny was actually in working with my little Galman, working in one of his process workshops and having that sort of Aha moment that the life experience. I have the running tape that goes through my brain when I'm going to be late and the lies I start to make up a about why I was late. Whether or not I say them, you know all that. That's funny to people that are hersel you're going to make that. That's funny to people that the detail that comes from my own upbringing, my own. So I had. My sister and I were growing up.
A. Libera: We were horrible to my brother. My brother, as I said, my brother cerebral palsy. He couldn't walk. He of when he was younger, he sort of hopped around on for for legs and we would have. These are the days before remotes. We would, we would want to see our television program and we would take the changer and we would move it to a high shelf that he could get it or worse. Oh, worse. He had these braces that he wore when he went to school and he would come home. My mom would still be at work and we were supposed to take them off of him so that. And we would like argue about who would take the braces off and then neither of us would go while he was there. Yes. This is what I'm saying is that, is that, that detail that you know, how horrible small children can be to their siblings, their handicap siblings.
A. Libera: Yeah. Yeah. Is Funny to other people and that was the sort of Aha moment that I had, which was that I a, I didn't have to work so hard. I didn't have to create something finished. I just had to be authentic and be myself and that my life experience was enough and share honestly. Yeah. And so to me, you just said is that life experience? Everybody has it. You know, my, my little comedy theory is a theory of comedy as opposed to a theory of humor. So if humor is, if a humor theory is about why people laugh, right? Why people are amused by anything. A comedy theory is a theory of created comedy. What elements do we use when we build a thing to have other people laugh? And my theory around that is that there are three elements. The first element is truth or recognition. Um, the thing that, that I understand and by the way, recognition can get a laugh all on its own. And we've all been in a comedy show where somebody said, uh, a reference to a television show. We all know and we all laugh. Oh, I know that.
S. Salis: Yeah. So singing of nostalgia or it's common knowledge that it gets a knowledge like in between braids.
A. Libera: So, and there's other lots of recognition. We laugh when somebody moves in a way that we sort of recognized kinesthetically. I mean to me that you're talking to Adrian a while back, but to me that's a lot. There's a lot of clown that's about that sort of recognition of sort of body recognition of emotion or movement, right? So it's not just, it's not true, it's truth, but it's recognition. It's this element that that has to be. You can't laugh at a joke unless you understand it, and the jokes that make us laugh the hardest are the ones that have this kind of deep reservoir of, Oh wow, I know that you know,
S. Salis: are you ready in between human beings. There was a piece from George Carlin, which was the little things that make us human and he was all about like looking at the, well now I'm going to deselect the frog, but not even.
A. Libera: Well, go ahead. That's is. This is my job. Yes. Join me and dissect that way. I think it's also true that that all comedians dissect the frog. Yeah. We'll pretend. Oh No, no. He ruins it. No bullshit.
Speaker 4: I remember, and I don't want to lose your train of thought of the three elements. I remember I was fascinated when I was like 12 or 13 were never realized that comedians and send a comedian's didn't just like walk on stage and they were funny like meg, that there was a magic moment to me. It was like, oh, that's dated the same monologue over and over and over and over and over and over again
A. Libera: tightened it, took out a half second of a breath, put in an extra two syllables. I mean, it is in so much ways. It's not magic. It's math, right? Which is ironic for all of us like music. It is. Oh absolutely. In fact, rhythm and rhythm, um, I think that there are sensual element to comedy that actually mirror what's happening in music. Very, very director. All of those things are the things that make us human. Right? So, so, so one aspect of comedy is this aspect of truth, this aspect of recognition. The second piece is pain. That all comedy contained some aspect of it, and it can be a lot of different kinds of pain. It can be literal pain as in slapstick [inaudible], right? Where somebody falls, slips out of banana peel and falls in their ass. It can be cognitive dissonance to things that are together that shouldn't be, but somehow they make sense together. Um, I mean, a lot of comedy is about that moment of like something was wrong.
A. Libera: It can be tension, but you know, this idea that there's this, the, that something's about to happen, you know, which is, which is the connection by the way, between horror and comedy and that idea of this, this waiting for a thing that's about to explode. So there's all these different kinds of pain, emotional pain, physical pain, mental pain, and then there's this recognition. And so, but if it's just those two things, then it's not common. I can be a horror. You can be a tragedy. So comedy is the third piece. It's a context that allows us to see this truth in pain, not internally and emotionally, but intellectually and from a little bit of a distance. The detachment. And that is what allows us to laugh at it versus to cry. And, you know, of course there's all that stuff about, about, uh, you know, tears of a clown and sure, but I actually, and you know, my own personal theory is that one of the things, there's a couple of things that happen to people who go through trauma, one of which is that we become people who go through trauma, become very aware of behavior, right?
A. Libera: It's the people who go through trauma, see a lot, and they learn to pay attention to a lot of things. I know you're, you're like,
Speaker 4: I'm saying like, oh, I know, but this is the human condition, right?
A. Libera: So that's number one. And then the second thing is that people who go through trauma develop, not everybody gets the trauma or the, but a lot of people go through to develop as a coping skill, psychological distance on the trauma. And it's that distance. The combination of those two things, right? This awareness of detail and the psychological distance that allows us to laugh at something versus cried. You know, and, and anybody who's ever been through the death of a family member or a friend knows that there are moments of tremendous sadness that are also followed by moments of tremendous laughter, that that's gallows humor, right? The awareness that like, oh my God, this is the worst possible thing that could ever happen. And we left in those moments because it gives us psychological space. Ultimately it's those three things that truth and pain and distance that a comedian is manipulating. Right? Like almost like faders on a, on a mixing board analog. Yeah. Okay. Right. So that, so, and there's a bunch of other things that developed distance, a exaggeration, patterns and repetition also creates distance. It makes it feel like a game rather than read it. It gives us the sense of it's not really happening, it's play.
Speaker 4: Uh, it's, it's a, it's a loop that, that can either end up how. I know it already can surprise me, but either way I'm going to have an outcome at some point. Yes. And so it gives you also recognition for that. Yep.
A. Libera: So mean. And all of these things can kind of cross over, but the fact that there is ultimately to me, like if you as a comedian know that first of all, and this goes back to what you said, point of view, uh, first of all, it allows you to start to find the things that can generate comedy so that if you can really just start making lists of things from your life that are painful to you, I think details from your life, a weird details from your life, right? Yeah. Did those become the raw material of comedy? And then you can ask yourself, how do I create distance? How do I create psychological distance, temporal distance, distance through exaggeration to take those things and make them not painful but, but funny. So there's that. And then secondly, you can then use that, those three elements again, as part of the iterative process. Wow. The reason the audience isn't laughing is because they don't recognize this, right? So how do we give them the information that they need to know in order to recognize it?
S. Salis: Of all the things you said, yeah. I want to see how improv intersects. The study that you're doing with the University of Chicago, both, uh, is about a behavioral science and uh, what interests me is how does improv intersect with those elements because it sounds like that it might give you the tools to generate enough distance from yourself and from what you're doing. So you can do. I'm just thinking of self debugging on like you can look at yourself, understand, uh, the flaw and knowing that you failed. How you can improve in an iteration both with yourself and if you are a comedian. Is that, is that what it does and how it intersects. I had just decided to,
A. Libera: this is really interesting, is that there's so many intersections between improvisation in behavioral science and between improvisation in between comedy and behavioral science. Well, before we started working with the folks at Chicago booth, I had read Daniel Dan economists book thinking fast and slow and was just like running around saying to everyone I knew, including including my husband, this is brilliant. This is, this is all the things we do. Okay. Because what improvisation does is it gives you exercises that allow you to recreate recognizable human behavior onstage that at its essence is what actually both swollen and Johnstone we're looking to do with their exercises and it allows it. It's the deep work that is all the things that improvisation can do because impro improvisation helps you create recognizable human behavior. It can then allow you to practice human behaviors that you want to have. It can help people with autism practice behaviors that are not natural to that, um, it can help scientists or interested in human behavior to study the way people behave in certain situations.
A. Libera: And then vice versa. And this is what the second science project is all about. It's this sort of twofold piece of we can use improvisational exercises to recreate human behaviors that scientists can study. We can also then use the insights of behavioral science and create improvisation exercises that help people practice being aware of the insights of the biases and mistakes we make as human beings and to practice under recognizing them and do practice. Then maybe making a different choice. Okay. That's the self debugging part. And it's both to air does that moment of like, oh, this is something that I assumed was right and it's not [inaudible] and yeah, and, and recognizing Mrs Behavioral Science thing, recognizing that our, that we make up stories about things that we justify, we justify where we are generally. This is actually an Improv game or like a really swollen and pro game.
A. Libera: But this was a game I played as a small child, um, called statues were basically one shop like spins, another one around and throws them someplace and you end up in a position, a position and then you have to create a character justify to just like freestyle. But we will literally do that as humans. We will find ourselves in a position and then our brain will justify why we got to that position. So our brains don't actually, there's, there's a fair amount of evidence right now, by the way, there's very little subconscious, like there's very little deep. We are all constantly improvising.
Speaker 6: IMC, Mona, Sally's humans. You can listen to every episode on your favorite podcast app or with the full transcript are available on humans. Don't afford, today's guest is and libra, creator of the first higher education curriculum in comedy studies.
A. Libera: The second ct has a hilarious shows, but it looks to me that this is the actual treasure that is hidden under the stage. Absolutely is. It's the. You know, when I was the artistic director of the second city training centers, people would come up to me. People go through the [inaudible] program, so people who maybe thought they were going to be be comedians, but really, you know, took classes because their mom said they should and they would correct me and say, you know, it's amazing. I have been through these classes for a year and I don't know that I become funnier, but I am better at my job. I have warmer relationships with my friends and I don't know what it is I did. So it wasn't even like we were doing this, this deep intentional work that we are trying to do now. The just by virtue of coming and improvising once a week for three hours with other human beings that those practices internal, they internalized a bunch of practices that showed up in their everyday lives and that is, and now imagine if we do it intentionally, which is part of what we're doing with second science project.
A. Libera: Also, Kelly and I were working or working with a group called caring across generations. Um, what is it about developing a program, um, that we just did at the Cleveland Clinic in Las Vegas, a six week program called improvisation for caregivers. So it, there's twofold to this. This is for people who are working with people with Alzheimer's and dementia, family members who take care of people. There's two parts to it. The first part is to be with a group of people and to have that connection that improvisation gives you, that keeps them from feeling alone. That keeps them out of depression, but it also gives them skills that they can take to their interactions with people with Alzheimer's and dementia. It's a bunch of classic improvisation. Things are really useful when you're working with people with Alzheimer's. One of which is not asking questions, which is a sort of classic Improv rule that you use to keep something going.
A. Libera: Practicing not asking questions is actually and not asking questions. It's actually a really important way of someone with Alzheimer's or dementia. When you ask about a question, you've sort of put them in a place of being unsure and scared and instead saying, we're going to do this. This is what's happening is the way you should talk to them. Okay. Keeps focus on all of these is going to be in your upcoming book. Oh, I don't know that. Then the book itself, the book itself is taking a lot of the framework that I created for the comedy nature. Okay. Because the. One of the big questions was what does it mean to teach comedy? How do you teach comedy? And the three philosophies that we talk about in the comedy Major, which is Ensemble and ensemble, not as any specific group of people, but ensemble as a practice.
A. Libera: So that's one. The second one is risk and that you must risk to get to the next step of, of comedy. And then the third thing is completion, which is that iteration aspect that if you're a comedian, you've got to get your idea to a certain place in order to then test it in front of an audience and iterated that you can't just have a good idea that you have to make it into a thing. Which by the way is how I'm currently writing my book. Jen Ellison, who was making fun of me. She's like your Nano Wright Ramo in yourself. I'm not sure. We don't piss off of the floor. Right? So that said so, but it's all the things. But it's also the, the um, you know, the, the sort of organizing principle. People tend to think comedy is just being jokes or do physical comedy. That comedy is jokes. It's a physical comedy, but it's also character jokes don't travel across countries, uh, or time. But it seems like characters do. It seems like, like there are basic human characters that we've all recognized from,
Speaker 4: you know, well, you taught us, but I come from the country of committed love. What's great about Canadian? Yeah,
A. Libera: is that you see it in early Greek comedy and you see it in today's had cubs and you don't just see it in America or Italy, but you also see it in China and Japan where the comedy is completely different. Yes. There's something I think unique in comedy or at the very least it's true in other things, but but is is common in almost all comedy, which is this sense of a brain, another human brain, the Hind, the joke that what makes it funny to us is not is not the character but is the observation of the thoughts that you simone a saw and then decided to show to me. So there's a lot of that stuff and it's not written down anywhere and no,
Speaker 4: nobody else has written it and I and we are looking forward to it looked at and said, I better write it before before a bunch of other people go, oh, we thought of that. Lots of people come to the second ct also because it's the place where Tina fey and oldest names are and that's great, but when you go there, you don't necessarily know that you're going to improve onto yourself and that might be one of the important things that you get out of it, but you expect that you might become famous. Then you want to go to snl. It's not that true anymore necessarily, but uh, you definitely probably know those students and also those adults that turn into people that were students for 15 ears or trying to audition again and again. Again, just kind of things. What, what do you think? Do you, after all these years teaching and studying in seen students goodbye and evolve as people, do you see any skill that makes performers happy throughout the years independently of reaching a satisfactory point with fame and olders
A. Libera: expectations thing? I always say, and it's really true, okay, is it the people I know who are successful and that includes the famous people, but it also includes a lot of people who aren't famous. They all did one thing and what that thing is is that they intentionally looked around at the world and said, what's the next thing that's going to excite me that's going to challenge me? Who are the who are going to make me be better and excite me and challenged me, and they went and they worked on those things and with those people and while they were doing that, they were with them and intentionally doing the work with those people and then when that thing was over, they looked around and said, what's the next thing that's going to excite me and it's going to challenge me and it's gonna. Make me be better and be maybe be a little bit hard and who are the people who are going to excite me and challenge me and I'm going to make me want to be better and work a little harder.
A. Libera: And then they did that. The people I know who genuinely did that found themselves someplace they want to be and it sometimes with Saturday night live and it sometimes was something completely separate from theater or improvisation or comedy. They found themselves working in a new way, in a new place and those are the people who have something that belongs to them because they're not worried about being a thing, you know, they sort of like, I want to be a movie star, I want to be on Saturday night live, I want to be at second city. You can only ever do right and not be. And if you keep doing the things that excite you and challenge you and make you want to get up in the morning, then you're going to find yourself someplace that makes sense for, you know, that's so, I mean, look at me
Speaker 7: still doing it. I'm done doing this whole, this whole
A. Libera: weird, a behavioral science thing that, that, that is completely separate from the comedy thing, but you keep moving and that is the successful. That is the successful career. Right? And certainly the successful life. A straightforward death. Are you a spiritual person? I was raised Catholic, but I'm not a practicing Catholic, but I do have and have had a meditation practice for. Wow, okay. Uh, easily 25 years off and on 25 years. So I'm going to try to guess the Uddi a 10. No, no, no. It's my basic sort of Jon Kabat Zinn, mindfulness meditation. Um, I'm interested in Buddhism but not specifically a practicing Buddhist. I, there's, um, there's a fellow named Phillip Moffet, um, who has a book called dancing with life that I read at like sort of a critical juncture of your life. Yeah. And, and there were a number of points in that that sort of resonated with me.
A. Libera: So I, I believe in something greater than us. Mostly. I believe that there is something that is so much larger than us that we can't comprehend it and that if in fact there is a, a spirit that of course we wouldn't be able to comprehend it. Your logical, this sexy, what is your meditation practice like? Um, sometimes good and sometimes not. Know what I mean. Like I, I am trying to be a consistent meditator. I am not a, I would do, I sit and I, um, do the, do the breath practice of and I do a bunch of different things. Sometimes, you know, I, I allowed myself to not be a perfect meditator. I try to do it every day for at least 20 minutes and then beyond that, sometimes it is, you know, the Vipassana, you know? Sure. Just breath. Sometimes I'll do like a loving kindness meditation.
A. Libera: Um, there was a period of time where I did a lot of that. Um, sometimes I count and I don't have a mantra. I don't have any of any of that. It's sort of the really don't judge a basis. No, it is, it's being in the moment with myself. That's your goal. That's the reason why you do it. How did it work for you so far? In 25 years? I'm going to like of me being consistent than more consistent crutches throughout different moments of your life, but what has it given to you? The choice of being consists of with this practice. Okay. Well, I have a long experience with depression. Okay. I'm almost my entire adult life just sometimes much greater depression and sometimes much less. Sometimes with medication I am less depressed. I am more focused. I am less likely to spin out into some negative thing when I'm meditating and it is as simple as that, so it, I don't know that I've gotten better, but I do know I say to my students, you know, treat yourself like a baby, say to yourself, you know, what is an need?
A. Libera: Well, what an needs to do in the mornings. She has to get up and workout for 20 minutes and like not good workout, like just move and then she has to sit between minutes. Thank you for sharing for whatnot, for split over because I'll tell you this, I think the two biggest things that I recognize in my life helped me with mood and are definitely like meditation, which I'm totally inconsistent with and physical exercise, whatever it might work for you. Solid eight hours of sleep. Like those three things are the most invaluable thing and be like not being in a spin of negative thoughts and 100 percent and they all work together. Often on my lifetime I've had a various physical practice and about a year ago may I was feeling not connected. I was feeling not like my brain was working and I really attached to my brain.
A. Libera: I really, you know, like when I'm not on my, when my brain isn't working the way I want it to do, it feels the worst. And so I said I'm going to start and I started exercising and said I have to exercise at least 20 minutes, at least four days a week and it doesn't have to be good. It doesn't have, you know, literally I just get up and do it and here's the thing that it makes me meditate more. Yeah. Then it helps me sleep better. It, those, all three of those things happen in tandem and I have been doing it that practice for a little over a year. Now. You can look at my little fitbit out, but it's. But it makes a huge, it makes an enormous difference. Those three things and they feed each other and vice versa, right? When you're not, when you're not meditating and you're not working out and you're not sleeping, then you also start to drink more and you start to do all the other, you know, and you start to gossip more. You do all the other bed.
Speaker 4: It is just, yes, it's just, you know, uh, destroy it. It's a destructive spiral are slightly, it degrades the quality of the interactions. And also I started to pick up fights, verbal or even just those fights in your brain, right? Where, where something happens and you had this huge reactivity. Yeah. Where, where you go into fight mode, even if the person is like on the other end of the email, oh, what, what matters to you and libra now has achieved a lot and you constantly change and take a look at the next thing. Let's say that at some point that the journey has the same destination for everyone. Uh, so what, so what is the thing that you do? You want to be able to look back and, and not going to be like judgmental on it, but maybe like that. That was a good investment of my time. I'm happy that I focused on this thing. I'm happy that I worked on for this thing for myself during this journey.
A. Libera: Well, I think it edit, Edit Bay, so you know, when I have kids and my children are part of this, right? But I also have students. My students are part of that. Um, I'm tearing up the work that I do, thinking about how to be funny, thinking about how to improvise is about empowering other people, empowering my students, empowering my children to go forth and do better work and to do it in the right way and in the healthy way. And ultimately, as I sort of look back on my life, that's, that's what's important, right? What's important is supporting that generation in a way that's not about me. I said that earlier, right? But it's really important. It's, it's, it's not about, oh, oh, I had an liberal and blah, blah, blah. No, I don't care if I were. If I look back at my life and continue to look back at my life, I'm thinking about the skills. I empowered other people to take forward with them and that hugely, hugely what is important to me. That's what I love about the work I do. I love to see the success of my students as human beings and as artists and that I have given them tools that allow them to do that in a way that is useful to them.
S. Salis: She teaches how to be funny. Trust me.
Speaker 7: Hey, I came out of that, those classes and I,
S. Salis: I feel really happy that I had the chance to talk with you today. Thank you. Thank you so much. And Libra. Today on humans. I also discussed with and libra the impact of the me too movement on the work of iconic comedians like Louis C, k or bill cosby, together with a new generation of comedians bringing a fresh and diverse perspective on today's comedy. If you want to find out who they are and why you should listen to them. The reasons more 15 minutes episode that you can listen to this Monday for free on hoomans.org.