We began writing and performing sketches in college in 2000. After graduating, we spent another year in Pittsburgh playing in open mics, bars and a couple of theaters. Then, 7 of us moved to Chicago. We made the Windy City our home for 4 years. We lived in two apartments, one above the other (or diagonally above-and, for some reason, the people living in the top apartment had keys to the first floor apartment, but we didn't have keys to their apartment...hmmmm).
We played on big stages (like Caroline's on Broadway, UCB NYC and Second City's Donny's Skybox), small stages (like the stage at Frankie J's in Uptown Chicago where you had to step over a toilet to get on stage) and that stage in the Miami Science Center for the Miami Improv Festival (which wasn't big or small but was more like a random space set aside in a science center where a cryogenic freezing room (in which temperatures could be dropped to cryogenic-freezing levels with the push of a button) was made into our makeshift dressing room). And we traveled around the country in planes, trains and vans that smelled like Wisconsin cheese curd and body odor.
We befriended sketch comedy cousins (I guess that's more be-family-ing than befriending) in cities across the country and are still close to many of them. We had some epic all-through-the-night hangouts with those people at sketch festivals in San Francisco, Seattle, Saint Louis, New York, Bellingham and Chicago.
When on the road, we learned that you could shove all the hotel furniture against the wall (and stack some on top of each other) to convert your room into a workable rehearsal space. Also, if you don't have a mini-fridge in your room, you can just crank up the AC and leave a pizza box and vegetables on the AC unit. Then, your whole room's a fridge that smells like aging pizza and vegetables.
We spent most of our 20s with each other. We've got more inside jokes than we can keep track of and there are a volumes-worth of songs that I'll hear that will instantly evoke vivid memories. We giggled and we laughed til we cried. We had fights and quietly stewed in disagreement. We worked crap jobs so that we could have the freedom to do what we wanted. We did some things absolutely right and some things absolutely wrong. We saw sunrises and sunsets together in many different cities and many more from our own porch or fire escape in Chicago (where Mike fell through one of the stairs and Dave Hale, sitting on the rail, drunkenly fell backwards and saved himself by holding on with his legs until we pulled him up).
And we pursued a dream together.
All in all, we spent 7 years, in some combination of cast or another, writing and performing sketch comedy. People like to say "I wouldn't have changed a thing." Looking back from what I know now, I think I would have handled some situations differently. But, that's the luxury of looking back and I suppose a lot of what I learned came from the times that I would have handled differently. In the end, if handling things differently meant not having all the wonderful memories, then, I probably wouldn't have changed a thing either.
These people are very much my family.
Here's a video opening montage/slideshow we made for our final show, a big ol' reunion finale in 2007 if you just want to skip to the music and pictures: