CSz and Me
It should be mentioned that the title "a note from the owner" is a tad misleading. For the millions of adoring fans dying to know how things are run over here, CSz Houston is now actually co-owned by myself and my good friend/business partner, Chad Minchew. But I like how that title sounds, you know? A note from the owner. Important yet...ominous...and here you are reading it, so good for us! I should also mention that good friend/business partner couldn't possibly sum up my relationship with Chad. If I have to pick two other terms to define our friendship right now, I'd say brother in the trenches and fellow cat herder do a nice job.
Anyhow, I'm here to announce the start of a project that is very dear to me and, as time goes on, I hope it will mean something similar for you. This new part of our newsletter is going to feature stories from people from all over the World who have been impacted by CSz Houston and ComedySportz. From New York to LA or Aruba to Prague, ComedySportz has most certainly left an impact on the improvisors that grew up here, both literally and figuratively. It's impact is vast; it reaches across thousands of miles and every walk of life. CSz has filled our lives with many experiences and stories, and we want to share those stories with you! Cool? Cool.
AND GUESS WHO GETS TO START?!
I'm a sports fan so I'll give you the down and dirty like this:
Name: Benjamin "Benji" James Cooksey
Hometown: Houston, TX
High School: Stratford
Weight: 16 stone
40 Yard Dash Time: n+however long it takes me to walk 40 yards. (n= time spent crying)
ComedySportz Rookie Year: 2012
A lot of people ask us what our favorite part of being in ComedySportz is. For me it's two fold and the first part gets the majority of the story:
I loved growing up here. I was given the adventurous path of having crazy parents and four siblings, whom I was, and still remain, very close with. On top of the chaos of having a big (and eccentric) family, we moved around a ton, once even to Durango, Colorado, and we were always changing schools. Meet people, make friends, rinse and repeat. Apply this strategy 7-8 times. So as we moved, being the second oldest, my siblings became the testing ground on how I would approach a new group of friends. We would switch schools and I would literally ask myself, "Do I want to be the funny Ben? Maybe the too cool Ben? Maybe the crazy Ben who refers to himself in the third person Ben." My sisters will tell you that I was dorky/middle school angsty Ben who had a borderline personality disorder. Fortunately by high school, I got swept in the craziness of Stratford High School theatre where I was allowed to be any or all of those Bens at once**. That was a good lesson. I also dawned the name Benji as an attempt at uniqueness and an homage to my dad who made the opposite move when he was my age.
That was also about the time I found ComedySportz High School League...and man was that a fit. Telling a young me that I could have all of the fun of being in a show without any memorization of lines and all the perks of getting people to laugh? I was sold; It was a perfect fit. I made the team, and then roughly 12 dedicated years of ComedySportz later, here I am!
If we all had the power to go back and smack our former teen selves on some dumb decisions we made, I think we all undoubtedly would. For me, one choice that stands out is the fact that I found something that was perfect for me in ComedySportz, and I didn't even give it the time of day. You know what I did instead? I quit ComedySportz! I was so wrapped up in goofing off and barely passing classes to do plays, that I just said ComedySportz "wasn't my thing." Although I would prove this point to be (very) wrong many years later, I was pretty darn sure then. This would be a good time to point out that being smart has never been my strong suit.
I think it's easy to see where this story is going to end up, so I'll cut to the chase, but I hope this resonates with any of you High School Leaguers who are getting ready for graduation. I spent years after high school, in college and in my young adult life, trying to figure out what "my thing was." I tried fraternities at LSU, moving to New York City to be an actor, moving to Austin to be a hippie (yep), staying in Austin to be a hippie (yep), and then moving back to Houston to give college another try, and then again to get into business and just about a million other things. I got fed up and burnt out. I was so caught up in trying to create this person that other people wanted me to be that I never sat back and asked myself if I was good enough being the person that I was**.
So I did just that. For me, that meant quitting all social media and diving head first into something that wasn't creating a new me, but was bettering the guy I was. Also, all of my friends had moved away by this point, so I really just wanted to make some friends. Here we re-introduce ComedySportz auditions. Yes, it is the dumbest reason ever, but I tried out for ComedySportz again because I didn't have any friends. I was so nervous. Not only did I think that my entire self identity hung in the balance, but I hadn't auditioned for anything in years. I also have a tendency to shake and sweat when I freak out... It's tough being so cool.
AND I FREAKING MADE IT!
I still get that excited when I think about getting the phone call from the big boss, Dianah Dulany. I walked out of the closet space in Hedwig Village that was my office and talked to her in the bathroom for about 10 minutes. I then proceeded to tell all of the Moms I worked with in the real estate office that I had made an improv team! They all proceeded to congratulate me for my decision to waste my time as an amateur stand up comedian at the Improv Theatre in the Marquee.
This was all fine and dandy until practices came around and my new fear set in.
"Great I fooled them into thinking I could do this at the audition, but what's gonna happen when they see me really perform? I'm gonna be terrible. They're going to judge being my friend on how bad I am at improv, and then I'll be back to square one. Great."
This is one of my favorite thing about ComedySportz. Nobody was anything like that. This group of people welcomed me in with open arms. Socially, I have found some of my best friends, and personally, I have grown more in my time here than anywhere else in my life. Fast forward almost 5 years of my life and that continues to be the case week in and week out. You quickly realize the very nature of being a good improvisor goes hand in hand with being an accepting person, a person who listens and is interested. Crazily enough, these people have flocked to one another! I cannot tell you the amount of trust and belief I have in this group of people, and at the many groups like us at CSz Theaters across the country and beyond. Many of whom you will hear from as we continue this part of our newsletter!
Thanks guys! My intention was to let you guys know a little bit about me and CSz and kick off this unique feature. I hope that reading this made you reminiscent about the one decision that changed your life for the better and that you continue to enjoy the stories we are lining up for you. Some will be a lot shorter and some may be longer, but all will share a similar positive experience with CSz Houston! If you have stories you would like to share, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
All for now,