Proud of “Other People.”
The craziest thing about growing up is that while it’s happening to you, it’s simultaneously happening to the people around you as well.
One of the many reasons I chose to work with kids as my profession for so long was how much I loved being a part of their growth process, and doing whatever I could to make just an inkling of a positive impact on it. When I was working as a summer camp counselor and eventually helping to run a camp full time, I was in my late teens into my late 20’s - and coming into my own, much like the kids I was working with.
As time has passed, the kids who I spent entire summers with, counseled through homesickness and heartbreak, coached, and mentored (as best I could) are now my contemporaries in the “real world.” It’s nuts, and incredibly cool at the same time.
I have former campers out in the world that are now…
- Popstars and Songwriters in LA
- Actors I see on TV daily
- World renown opera singers
- Political bigwigs, assisting the likes of Chuck Schumer here in NYC
- And insanely successful entrepreneurs whose products are constantly spotted on the biggest names in the world
In addition to the kids that somehow transform into real people, watching the “grown-ups” evolve is equally awesome. So many people that I either worked alongside with or managed have capitalized on the talents that was so obvious when we watched them in action as young adults.
One of my friends in particular came to Camp Micah in 2004 and you could tell something was special about him - he was a humble, rising star from California named Chris Kelly. Chris ran the drama program and turned the plays into must-see spectacles that campers flocked to be in, and parents raved about on Visiting Day.
Every week at Saturday campfire, I led “The Micah Update” - essentially a spoof SNL “Weekend Update” filled with embellished camp news, funny imitations, sketches and songs. Every summer I had a sidekick who would write the Update with me. With other co-anchors, I typically drove most of the material, recycling previously used schtick and imitations, but Chris elevated the game every week, thinking of brilliant bits and concepts… he was on another level.
We’d sit in my office hysterically laughing while hashing out ideas, and I would always look at him and say, “when you hit it huge, will you tell people that I was your comedic mentor…even if it’s not even close to the truth?”
Chris spent three summers at Micah, building his quiet but legendary status every year. As sad as it was to see him go, it was almost a relief as we all knew he had way bigger things to conquer. And he quickly did.
When I moved to New York, Chris and I would meet up for lunch while he was working at The Onion - the perfect landing spot for him. He was slowly catching fire, and then hit a big roadblock when his Mom got sick, and moved back to California to be with her. He asked everyone in his world to take pictures with encouraging words for his Mom, and my family was quick to do so.
Sadly, Chris’s Mom lost her battle with cancer. Following her passing, we lost touch for a while. I remember checking in with him, but also tried to walk the line of giving him and his family space during a very difficult time.
A few months later, I started seeing Chris tagged in Facebook posts with links to SNL sketches. I did some digging in the hopes that he was tagged because he actually wrote them. And sure enough, he did. Chris was now a full-time writer at Saturday Night Live - every comedy writer’s ultimate dream - and he never personally broadcasted about it as that just wasn’t his style.
Out of nowhere, he invited Jacq and I to a show…a comedy FAN’S ultimate dream! It was unbelievable to follow Chris through the historic hallways of 30 Rock, telling people to “have a good show” and hanging out with him and the cast at the after party.
A few weeks ago at Sundance Film Festival, Chris debuted his new film, Other People, about a “struggling comedy writer, fresh off a breakup and in the midst of the worst year of his life, returns to Sacramento to care for his dying mother.”
I followed on social media as Chris was tagged in post after post from Sundance; rave reviews from entertainment publications, pics of him and the cast:
And most notably, his Mom’s friends who had made the trek just to be part of the debut:
Words can’t describe how cool this was to watch from far.
Saying that you’re proud of someone feels very young - like something I’d say to my 3 year old daughter - but I can’t help it. The feeling of pride I have for all these people - whether it be Chris or my former campers turned successful adults - is immeasurable. Proud of their accomplishments, and even more proud to have been a part of their lives…and of course to humbly serve as Chris’ comedic mentor along the way. :)
Pictured above: The Camp Micah 2005 comedy squad. Scot, Chris and the hilarious podcast host, Erin McGathy.