On this week’s episode, we have actor Cynthia Mann Jamin (Friends, Ahh! Real Monsters, Angry Beavers and many many more) and we discuss her journey as an actor and director. We also talk about how the two of us met as well as what it’s like working together. Tune in for so much more.

Show Notes

Cynthia Mann Jamin IMDB: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0542699/

Cynthia Mann Jamin on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/prime-video/actor/Cynthia-Mann/amzn1.dv.gti.ca37e830-61b1-44db-8fe5-979422acb482

Cynthia Mann Jamin Shop: https://www.twirlygirlshop.com/

A Paper Orchestra on Website: https://michaeljamin.com/book

A Paper Orchestra on Audible: https://www.audible.com/ep/creator?source_code=PDTGBPD060314004R&irclickid=wsY0cWRTYxyPWQ32v63t0WpwUkHzByXJyROHz00&irgwc=1

A Paper Orchestra on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Audible-A-Paper-Orchestra/dp/B0CS5129X1/ref=sr_1_4?crid=19R6SSAJRS6TU&keywords=a+paper+orchestra&qid=1707342963&sprefix=a+paper+orchestra%2Caps%2C149&sr=8-4

A Paper Orchestra on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/203928260-a-paper-orchestra

Free Writing Webinarhttps://michaeljamin.com/op/webinar-registration/

Michael’s Online Screenwriting Course – https://michaeljamin.com/course

Free Screenwriting Lesson – https://michaeljamin.com/free

Join My Newsletter – https://michaeljamin.com/newsletter

Autogenerated Transcript

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
If it wasn’t something that was organic for you, it would be torture trying to become this person that you think other people want to see, or you got to position yourself like this other person over here. But it really is about finding your unique voice because that’s all we have.

Michael Jamin:
You are listening to What The Hell Is Michael Jamin talking about conversations in writing, art, and creativity. Today’s episode is brought to you by my debut collection of True Stories, a paper orchestra available in print, ebook and audiobook to purchase. And to support me in this podcast, please visit michael jamin.com/book and now on with the show.

Michael Jamin:
Hey everyone, welcome back to another episode. I have a very special guest today, the very beautiful and talented, I’m going to call her Cynthia Mann, although she’s now currently Cynthia Mann Jamin and she’s my wife and Cynthia. I met years ago, I was a writer on a show called Just Shoot Me, and she was the guest star and she was a working actor and she worked on many shows including she was a recurring on Friends. She had, I dunno, five or so or six episodes on Friends Recurring on Veronica’s Closet, Seinfeld, er Suddenly Susan Will and Grace, all those shows of the nineties, all those musty TV shows. She did almost all of them. And now she is the director and producer of my one man show as well as the audio book. So I thought a paper orchestra. So she did all of that. So I thought we would talk to her about that and about her experience working in Hollywood as well as directing and producing my audiobook for all of you people who aspire to do something similar. Hello, Cynthia.

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
Hi Michael.

Michael Jamin:
Hello. My beautiful wife. She’s in the other room. We’re pretending we live far apart, but actually we live very close to each other.

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
You could say we’re roommates.

Michael Jamin:
This is my roommate, Cynthia. So thank you so much for doing this. Thank you, most of all for producing and directing my show. And I don’t know, where do we begin? What should we start with?

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
Well, I think it’s, the thing that’s interesting is people might want to know how is it working together and why do we work together?

Michael Jamin:
I don’t have an answer for that. You’re cheap labor. That’s why we work. I don’t have to pay you. Why is that? Why we work together?

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
Well, it’s funny because it goes all the way back to when we were first dating. I think if you want to talk about that because Go ahead. Well, we love doing projects together.

Michael Jamin:
Projects, we call them projects. How the Canadians say It. Project,

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
Yeah, projects. And when we first met it was kind of like, well, we had this common interest of he’s a writer, I’m an actor, but it’s like you can’t sit around all day and just write and act. So we would find common things that we like to take walks, we like to do hiking. I taught you about Run Canyon, you were running in the flats. And I’m like, what the hell are you doing? Why are you running in the flats? Why don’t you run up a hill?

Michael Jamin:
I didn’t realize you could. It was so steep. And then you said you ran it. So I said, oh, alright. I guess I could try running it. I

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
Totally ran it. I ran it all the time. I had, I had really muscular legs. You

Michael Jamin:
Did. I

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
Know you did. Yeah. And I still do. But yeah, so we would find little things to do and I would take you around LA and get you lafy and teach you what Celestial seasonings

Michael Jamin:
And

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
Stuff. Yes, tea

Michael Jamin:
Is and also Whole Foods and Mrs. Gooch’s. Mrs.

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
Gooch’s. Yeah. This is way back. We

Michael Jamin:
Would go to all this. She didn’t approve of the supermarkets that I went to. So you

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
Can go in there. I’m not going to get my food there you there though.

Michael Jamin:
And so many ways You helped me a lot with art because you are an artist. You were a starving artist when I met you.

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
Oh yes. Yeah. Well, barely getting by. I would say would barely getting by. I’ve had every survival job you can think of. I’ve done singing telegrams with the monkey that goes like this, and I’ve done sold shoes and I’ve waitressed and I’ve done a million survival jobs. So in my thirties I finally started to get acting jobs and I was a professional dancer for a while. And Grit didn’t go to college right away, only finished two years of it. Later in my thirties when I met Michael, I was going to college and working and going on auditions and all of that. And when I met Michael, it was one of those crazy auditions where the casting director, Deb Burki, who I’m forever grateful for, she brought me in just to the callback. She didn’t even read me first because we had had a relationship and she always appreciated my work and thought, oh, this is good for Cynthia.
Let me just bring her in straight to the producers. And I remember Steve Levitan was there, probably Andy Gordon and Eileen because it was their episode and Eileen Khan and I got that job. She called me the next day and just said, yeah, you got it. And I was like, oh, yay. I’m so excited. And they only booked me for three days. So when I went on the set, it was at Universal because I didn’t really know what Just Shoot Me was. It was a new show and I don’t think it was airing yet. It was just the first six episodes. So nobody really knew what it was about or the tone or anything. And I just went in, did my scene, went home prepared to come back the next day for shoot day. Really? And you guys sent me a script at nine in the morning or something like that and said, we rewrote your scene because we found a better way to write this scene. I don’t know, you can tell me the behind the scenes of that. I don’t really know why you did that.

Michael Jamin:
I don’t really remember why that was rewritten. It was a long time ago.

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
I think it was. Maybe it just wasn’t exciting enough or something. And you wanted the dialogue to be between me and Laura more.

Michael Jamin:
I don’t

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
Remember. Instead of the roommate. And so you guys had me into the writer’s room before, which is very unusual. You never really go into a writer’s room to work out a scene. But because we were shooting it that day and we had to go straight to the run through and I think the network was going to be there. You didn’t want to mess around. And so you gave me notes and we rehearsed it and Laura was there and the other scene partner who, I’m so sorry, I forgot his name. Chris,

Michael Jamin:
I want to say.

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
Yeah, Chris. And then we just went and shot it. And then I shoot the scene at night and I’m like, oh my God, this was so much fun. And it was great. And I’m like, all right, I’m going to go. And who’s standing right next to me as I’m walking off the set and kind of hanging back and it was you.

Michael Jamin:
It was me,

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
It was you.

Michael Jamin:
And then you said you wanted to marry me. I said, I don’t even know you.

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
I complimented your tie. That’s right. And then you said, I did a really nice job. Yeah, you did. And I said thank you. And then we were talking about, I think you said, so what do you like to do for fun? Or something like that. Yeah. We went and I asked you that and you said you swing dance. And I had already been swing dancing at the Derby many times with my friend Brendan. And we would go and swing dance. So

Michael Jamin:
My

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
Knees went weak when you

Michael Jamin:
That’s right. I took, it was either you or Brendan I took you.

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
So then long story short, there was a couple of weeks that went by and you called me and said, hi, this is Michael. And I said, I don’t remember that name, but you’re making it up because he has that name. And then you said, no, it’s me and I would like to take you out for coffee. And I said, I don’t drink coffee. I drink tea.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, we had tea instead.

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
He said, that’s okay, huh?

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, yeah. Right.

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
And then I remember this, Michael, on our first date, I hung back in my car because I think I saw you walk in. I’m like, I got to be a little late. I got to make him wait for me a little bit. So I made you wait just a little bit. And then I go in and the woman comes and says, so do you want a chocolate chip or oatmeal cookie, highland grounds? And it’s not there anymore, I don’t think. And you took the longest time figuring out what flavor you wanted. For me it was easy. It was chocolate chip or peanut butter. That was the other one. And then you go, I go, why did it take you so long to order the cookie? And you go, because I wasn’t sure if there was anything to be gained by lying.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. I was trying to impress you with the choice of cookies.

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
Weirdest thing anyone said to me that you cared enough about. The cookie choice is crazy.

Michael Jamin:
And then we’ve been together ever since.

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
We’ve been together ever since. And to go back to the projects, we started with tiling a table that now our daughter has at her college apartment. And that was our first project. And then we decided to have kids, and that was our second project.

Michael Jamin:
Then

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
I started my business Twirly Girl, which I ran for 15 years. Still going, but not as big. And you helped me with that. You wrote all my commercials and did all of that. And then you wrote a book and then I’m helping you with that. So I think we’re better when we’re working together, honestly.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah,

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
I do. I think it’s, when I was doing Twirly Girl and you were working as a writer and all of that, we never really connected on any kind of common ground aside from the kids because you were always doing your thing. I was doing my thing. But then when you started to write the commercials, I think our relationship went to another level because it’s like you’re appreciating the other person for their gifts and what they bring to you. But it’s also like you’re helping me with something that really means a lot to me. And it was like this back and forth that just felt so great. And I trusted you more than anyone to put me in the best light. And I think that’s the same with you trusting me with your words because I care about them and I want to present you in the best light and I’ll work tirelessly to get it.

Michael Jamin:
And you have produce the audio book and you had to learn how to do all that. What do you have to tell people? What do you have to share? What wisdom can you share with people on starting something like this?

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
I would say, and I was talking to Lola about this last night, and what occurred to me was that when you have the pinch or you have the idea, just the idea to do something and it’s filling you with a lot of joy and passion and it almost creates its own engine in you, and you just feel so motivated to attack it and see if you can accomplish it. It almost doesn’t matter if anybody else likes it because it’s something you need to do. And I felt that way with my business. I remember creating these dresses and going, I know they’re special. I know they are so special. And I don’t even, the icing on the cake is that other people love them, but that’s not why I’m doing itm doing it because I need to do it. And it’s bringing me so much joy and it’s fulfilling something in me that was missing or that I didn’t even know that I needed.
And it brought me so much that I could have more than I could have ever thought, oh, I’m going to make dresses because it’s going to give me a sense of self. It’s going to fire that entrepreneurial spirit. It’s going to make me feel connected to those around me. I’m going to share my story about it. I couldn’t have thought that I just followed the desire to make something. And then all these things kind of cascaded. And that’s what I’m telling you. That’s how I feel about the audio book. When you said, all right, you’re going to direct and you’re also going to edit it and you’re going to do all these things, I’m like, I don’t know how to do Pretty much, I knew how to direct because of the acting background, but I didn’t know how to do an audiobook. We didn’t know how we wanted this to come into the world and what it would look like. But I felt that desire, that same joy to just achieve this. And we love it and we know we did an amazing job, and the fact that it’s resonating with other people is icing on the cake because we couldn’t not do it.

Michael Jamin:
But you still had to learn a lot of skills to do that.

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
Well, I think I love, I’m one of those people that loves learning by doing. You would tell me, watch the videos on how to do it. And I was like, this is not going to go anywhere for me because I’m not going to retain it unless I need it. If I need to know how to do something, then I’m going to learn it. So I learned by doing it. And that process is so exciting to me because I know that I’m also growing as a person if I can accomplish something really hard that I don’t think I know how to do or I’ve never done before. So that challenge is also really gratifying for me.

Michael Jamin:
And now there’s the next challenge, which is taking it on the road.

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
And we have no clue how to do that either. Yeah,

Michael Jamin:
We’ll figure it out. I guess we’ll just make it happen.

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
Yeah,

Michael Jamin:
It’s really just about putting your energy into something and then watching as things start falling into place.

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
Exactly. You don’t know what you don’t know, but you’ll find it out. And then that thing will lead to another thing. And we have very different styles. You and I, what my sense of what you do, and you tell me what you think mine is, but my sense of what your approach is is you throw a hundred percent of your energy into thinking about it, and you’re almost like tunnel vision. You have to be so hyperfocused on it until you get it to where you want it to be and nothing distracts you. What do you think my style is? I’m just, is that I have that right?

Michael Jamin:
I’m not really sure. I guess so I’m not really sure I, I guess I work on it until I’m done.

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
But it is like you have this hyper focus about it. And for me, I kind of feel guilty if I’m not like you just sitting at the computer and studying it and figuring it out, then to me, I have to walk away and I have to kind of let it settle. And then I have to really check in with my intuition in a way and go, okay, what’s the next right move? Where do I need to spend my energy is just spinning my wheels, trying to figure it out, doesn’t work for me. And I feel like you are good at that. You’re good at like, okay, I’m going to figure this out. And you just keep working it and working it kneading the dough. And for me, I have to leave it and come back to it.

Michael Jamin:
All of it was every single part of it. None of it’s easy. I don’t know why people expect it to be easy. We all want it to be easy, but it never is. The creating of it is never easy. And then the marketing of it, putting it out there and getting people to, that’s half the battle.

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
And I think the main thing that we discovered, and I think you working with Twirly Girl really helped you with this project because you saw how being authentic and really communicating with your audience in a very real way resonates. And there’s no other way to do it because how could you post every single day if it wasn’t something that was organic for you, it would be torture, trying to become this person that you think other people want to see, or you got to position yourself like this other person over here. But it really is about finding your unique voice because that’s all we have. There’s a million books out there. There’s a million dresses. I created dresses. There’s a million of them. We don’t need another one. But what we don’t have is the dress that I can make. What we don’t have is the book that you can write. And I think leaning into that perspective is really, really empowering and crucial to the creative process.

Michael Jamin:
We would speak a lot. We would go on walks and speak a lot about, in the beginning we would talk about what the function of art is, what’s the expectation and what the market is. I remember talking about, because David Sedaris is the one who inspired me to write this. I love his writing. And it’s the same genre, personal essays, and I remember talking to you, but we know what he writes. People love, we know there’s a market for it. So I be doing that.

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
Yeah, I, but he’s kind of paved the way, and that was inspiring. I think inspiration is so healthy, and that’s what you were inspired by. But the whole thing that you talk about is finding your voice, and it took you a while to find the rhythm. And people, when they read it, they’re never going to confuse David s and Michael Jamin. They’re never going to, because your background in TV gave you this whole different way of going into a story and entertaining an audience. And that’s just in your blood. It’s in your makeup, it’s just who you are and the details of everything that you write. It reads like a film or cinematically because there’s no moment in there where it’s not leading to something else

Michael Jamin:
You are listening to. What the hell is MichaeliJamon talking about? Today’s episode is brought to you by my new book, A Paper Orchestra, A collection of True Stories. John Mayer says, it’s fantastic. It’s multi timal. It runs all levels of the pyramid at the same time. His knockout punches are stinging, sincerity. And Kirks Review says, those who appreciate the power of simple stories to tell us about human nature or who are bewitched by a storyteller who has mastered his craft, we’ll find a delightful collection of vignettes, a lovely anthology that strikes a perfect balance between humor and poignancy. So my podcast is not advertiser supported. I’m not running ads here. So if you’d like to support me or the podcast, come check out my book, go get an ebook or a paperback, or if you really want to treat yourself, check out the audio book. Go to michael jamin.com/book. And now back to our show.

Michael Jamin:
I wish it was a genre that was easier to explain to people, because when people say, what’s your story? What’s a book about? I have to try to explain, well, it’s personal essays, but it’s not an essay. Essay sounds like homework. It’s not a memoir because I’m not important that it’s my memoir. They’re stories, but they’re true. But what is that? It’d be just so much easier if I could say, well, it’s YA fantasy or something. And people go, oh, okay. I know what young adult fantasy is, but it’s not that. And so that’s part of the uphill struggle that we have is explaining to people, getting people to understand enough just to take a chance and read it.

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
But I think letting people catch up to what is what’s important, what it is, is important because you’re assuming that you have to spell it out for people. And I’ll equate it again to Tuley Girl, the dresses I made were so hard to explain. And we were like, but it’s not this. It’s not fantasy, but you can wear it every day. And I had about 5,000 different taglines because I couldn’t communicate it. And then finally you came up with the most amazing explanation of what it was after probably about eight years of doing it, which was, what

Michael Jamin:
Was it? You could say it. You could say it.

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
Well, we don’t create dresses. We create your favorite childhood memory. Happy childhood. We’re creating happy memories,

Michael Jamin:
Happy childhood memories.

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
Dress isn’t just a,

Michael Jamin:
You got it wrong. We create happy childhood memories. That’s what

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
It was. Right? Happy childhood. Well, I’ve had a year doing the audiobook, so 12 Girls in the Distance there.

Michael Jamin:
But that was another thing I remember. We saw a wonderful special by this guy named Derek DelGaudio called In and of itself, it’s a wonderful, it was on Hulu. It was like a one-time special, basically like an hour long or something.

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
Well, it started as a

Michael Jamin:
Stage play. It started as a stage play. But when I tell people, when I try to describe what it’s about, it’s almost impossible to describe. And that’s part of the problem. It’s hard. It was such a uniquely wonderful experience, but it’s impossible to tell people to describe it because it’s its own thing.

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
Yeah, I But you would say it’s a one man show and a very unique experience,

Michael Jamin:
But there’s magic and it’s participation, but it’s not magic. It’s something else.

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
Yeah, it’s not a magic show.

Michael Jamin:
No, it’s not a magic show. So it’s really hard to, putting something in a box makes it easier to sell because people can understand what the box is. And I feel like that’s part of the struggle I have with a paper orchestra, which is, and everyone who reads it, they love it, but they still don’t understand what it is until they actually read it.

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
But see, I think what you have on the cover is perfect. It’s true stories about the smallest moments that you sometimes forget. What if the smallest moments were the ones that meant the most? So that says everything to me. That’s all I need to know.

Michael Jamin:
That’s what the book is. It’s just about, hey, here’s a small moment in life where I point out, which easily you could have forgotten about because it’s so small. And it turns out, if you look back at that moment, everything changed because of it.

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
And I love that you talk about the fact that it’s really not about, you have to have these catastrophic or monumental things happen to you to be a changed person. Most of us don’t have those huge, huge moments and so tender and intimate about it and relatable because you didn’t come from an unusual background. You’re pretty average with child of divorce. That’s kind of average for our job, do.

Michael Jamin:
So those are the kind of stories that I tell, and I said before, I really don’t think the stories are my stories. The details are mine, but I’m really trying to tell your story. But maybe you haven’t figured out how to do that. But I do that because I’m a writer, so I know how to do that.

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
Yeah, yeah. And I think we’re just, it’s nice that we’re able to work well together in so many ways. And I think it really does stem from having that deep respect for each other’s gifts, and we’re able to really be very upfront with each other when we don’t like something or when we question it. And I’m not married to my way doing it my way. I’m really looking at the bigger picture. I want a paper orchestra to be great. What’s going to serve that? And I think we both have that in mind. And in terms of the tour and taking it on the road, I mean, I think you’re more than ready to perform it. And I’m so excited for people to be able to experience it in that way as well.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, it’s a different kind of, that’s why, because the show, it is a theatrical show. And I do think there’s something more intimate about, people say, can’t you record it and play it? Yeah, I could, but

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
Well, that’s the audio book. But that audio book is going to be different.

Michael Jamin:
But in terms of even recording the stage show, you’ll miss the intimacy of being right in front of me, being in the room and feeling the energy. You don’t feel the energy. That’s probably the thing with tv, it’s great. It’s a wonderful form, but you don’t have the same energy as you do seeing live theater. And I wish there’s a better way because many people don’t want to see live theater, but it’s different. It’s a different experience. Good theater is great. Bad theater is terrible. That’s why it runs the whole gamut. There’s that expression. Nothing lasts forever except for bad theater, and that’s because of the energy. So it goes both ways.

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
And when we were working together on the audiobook the first time, we were trying to convey that performance that we do live. And after listening to it again and showing, having our daughter, Lola, listen to it, and her listening to literally the first three minutes, and I had already edited the whole thing. She was like, oh no, this isn’t, I can’t, you got to bring it down. And we were like, yeah, I had a feeling because when I was editing it, I was like, I don’t know. I dunno about this. We just got to see.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, we had to do it again because we wanted the performance to be more intimate because you’re listening to it on headphones or alone in the car, and it’s a different, you’re not listening it in a group of people, which is what the theater show is. So I’m literally in your head because you’re wearing headphones. We had to bring everything down and make the performance much more intimate. It’s a different, and we’ll have to see how that affects my next performance with my live show.

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
You’re totally different. I know, totally. But see, when you say we had to bring it down, I don’t like saying it like that because it makes it sound like it’s sleepy and it’s not.

Michael Jamin:
You had to bring it more

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
Intimate. But it’s like I really wanted, it’s more like you contained the energy. They took this kind of energy that needs to project out, and we harnessed it and shoved it into a little two 12 by 12 area inches.

Michael Jamin:
But this is all acting stuff that I could not have done without you because you’re an actor. I have couldn’t have figured this out on my own, I don’t think.

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
No, I think it would’ve been really hard because your tendency when you would just start to read it before I would kind of steer you in the right direction or go, oh, you’re going down the wrong path. Let me take you over here. That’s pretty much all I needed to do in those moments. But your natural tendency was to just start reading it. And I’m like, where are you? I don’t hear your personality. I’m not engaged in the story because you are not connected to it. So it really required the same amount of energy, Michael, that does for you to do this on stage, but you had to have the same amount of energy but contain it.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. I mean, it’s a whole different art to it, not an actor. So I had to learn how to do, how perform it to keep people engrossed in it. So I dunno, it’s a fun performance. We want to travel because this is what we want to do next. We want to travel together and put it up and continue. So if anyone wants to come see it, you can go to michael jamin.com/upcoming and enter your city, and then we’ll let you know. When we get to your city, we’re figuring out how to, this is the next thing we’re figuring out how to actually make it happen so we can do this effectively. Bring it to people’s, bring the theater because it’s a whole, again, people will say to me, whoa, can you sell it as a tv? Maybe it could be a TV show, maybe it could be a movie. And I’m always thinking about, why can’t it just be a book? Why can’t it be an audio book? Why can’t it be a theatrical show as if TV or movies is somehow better than the experience that we’re creating now? I don’t think it is. And I work in television and film, I don’t think it’s better.
I think there’s a betterness to what we have.

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
Yeah, there’s a pureness to it. There’s something very simple and pure and the pacing of it. Everything is consumed so quickly right now, and it’s almost too much. It’s just too much. And what this does is it helps us to slow down. Yeah,

Michael Jamin:
There’s a power in the pause. There’s so much energy that you can portray. This is something that took me a while to have confidence to do, but you can act. You’re talking, you’re saying you’re doing whatever, the whole dog and pony show, but in leaving that pause and saying nothing, there’s this anticipation and the audience is just waiting for it. And it’s like a loaded gun.

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
Yeah. I don’t like that analogy, but what is it? Well, it’s like you’re on the edge of your seat and you’ve got us in your hands, and we’re just captive. We’re a captive audience. Time stands still. Time stands still, and we’re just with you. And it really is allowing our being to kind of just be in that moment. It crystallizes the moments. And those are the moments in theater that why it’s so impactful is because we’re in this communal experience together where we’re experiencing time at the same time, and we’re also being together at the same time. It’s very profound. And I remember working with you on the audio book and you were really hesitant to take us with you. I remember that. I kept saying, take us with you, Michael. It was like, but I’m going too slow or I’m going too fast. Or it was like, it didn’t matter. The pacing. I would arbitrarily tell you, take us with you. And you would say, but I am. I go, yeah, but even if you’re slow, or even if you’re fast, the intention is to connect with us and make sure that we’re with you. And it’s hard on an audiobook because there’s no audience, but with an audience, you can feel.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. But with the audience too, I’m in front of a bright light. I don’t see them. I can sense them, but I can’t see anybody. But

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
That’s what’s important is you sensing it. You can totally sense it. You can sense it because you can hear the Oh or that, or you can hear laugh, or you can hear the silence is different than a regular silence. It’s like a pin drop.

Michael Jamin:
There’s that moment at the end of the Marissa disclaimer where I confess to something and the audience is so disappointed. I remember the first time we performed it, they were just like, oh,

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
We all go. Oh

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. Everyone was so disappointed in me. But that’s so effective about it, is that they were along for the ride. And yeah, and that’s another thing. You gave me a couple of things that helped me before each show. You printed out Ellie Zen’s, what is it called?

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
Letter to the actor.

Michael Jamin:
Letter to the actor. And I read it before where I talk about, where he talks about what my responsibility is to the audience as a performer, what my responsibility is. And so it doesn’t feel, it’s not like, because it can come off as being self-absorbed acting. It could come off as being narcissistic. Look at me. But you can’t look at it that way. You have to look at it as this is what I have to do in order to give you what you want,

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
A gift. You have to give the audience a gift, and you have that responsibility to leave it all on the stage. And when you’re an actor, it’s no longer about you, Michael. It’s about the words on the page. And you need to fulfill those words on the page. And as an actor, we’re taught that the words are sacred. We don’t change the words. We don’t try and outthink the words. They are everything. And our job is to bring that to life and bring ourselves to the piece.

Michael Jamin:
And it’s exhausting, though, at the end of the show. It is exhausting. Don’t people appreciate how much energy I have to be in every moment so as not to check out or phone in, or just at the end of the night, I’m exhausted from an hour show. It’s like, God,

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
And you’re not expected. It’s impossible in a way. And the greatest actors will say this too, that it is a job. So what do you do if you’re not feeling it? And in that moment, you’re thinking about what you’re going to have for dinner, or, oh my God, I can’t wait to just go home and lie down because it requires so much energy. And what you do is you go with that truth inside. I don’t even want to be here right now. You use the truth of what you’re feeling in that moment, and that brings you back into the piece. You have to connect to something real. Whereas if you’re denying it and you’re going, oh my God, I suck right now. I need to force myself to have this energy, then you’re going to overcompensate and you’re going to force it. And it’s not going to be truthful. But if you really go into the moment of like, ah, damn, I’m just, I got nothing. I feel nothing. How does that make you feel? Feels pretty shitty. All right. I’m just going to say the next line from this place, because this is where I’m at. And then it takes off. Then you’re off again. I mean,

Michael Jamin:
But what if the line, you’re not supposed to feel shitty on

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
It. The audience buys it because the audience knows truth. As long as you’re truthful, we’re going to take however you read it and go, oh, that must be what that means. Oh, the character must feel this way. They’re not going, oh, Michael.

Michael Jamin:
But the character is not supposed to feel the character’s excited to be at a party,

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
But it could look like this. Oh my God, I am so excited to be here. It could look really intense and focused when I’m feeling like God damnit, I’m not feeling anything. Instead of the idea of, oh my God, and I’m so happy to be here. Why does it have to come out that way? Even if I came out and was like, I’m really excited to be here. What does that come out? It could come across. I’m a little nervous or I’m excited. I’m afraid to show

Michael Jamin:
It. But it feels truthful. You’re saying?

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
Yes, as long as it’s rooted in some kind of truth, the audience will interpret it however it needs to go with the

Michael Jamin:
Story. This is some high level directing shit for people,

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
Don’t you think? Yeah. I mean, I appreciate that. I think a lot of it to me is very, how I was trained was always going with what is. And you hear a noise, somebody, it’s not about everybody being quiet all the time and oh

Michael Jamin:
My God. So what happens if you hear a noise backstage during your show,

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
You incorporate it. Even if you don’t want to draw attention to it, you as the actor, because the audience is all going to hear it. So if you hear that, I have to just kind of go, all right, I don’t have to comment on it. I just have to take that moment and allow it to be there. Because again, if you deny it,

Michael Jamin:
But doesn’t that break the fourth wall? If you hear a banging backstage and then you turn your head and you acknowledge it, it’s backstage.

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
But it could be if you’re the character and you hear something backstage, that’s the world you’re in. It could be in the next room.

Michael Jamin:
You have to, if you don’t acknowledge it, if you don’t acknowledge, it’s like, well, why aren’t they acknowledging?

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
And then there’s a giant elephant in the room and stuff like props falling over. Oh my God. There’d be the worst thing an actor could do. One of the worst things is like their hat falls off and it’s not supposed to fall off. And the whole time it’s sitting in the middle of the stage, the audience is worried about the hat. Now we’re going to be thinking about the hat. So the worst thing an actor can do is to deny that the hat fell off. You know what I mean? Use it. Use all of it. All it is for the moment to fuel you. And sometimes the best. When I was on friends, David Schwimmer and I were rehearsing our scene. You did a bad thing. Very bad. Very, very bad. Yes, I know that scene. And we were rehearsing it and we screwed up, but we didn’t sit there and go, oh, wait a minute.
We screwed up the line. Let’s take it back. No, you just go with it. And Marta and David, the show creators were standing right off to the side, and they’re like, wait a minute, guys, what happened there? It was like, yeah, we screwed up the lines. Well, that’s going in. We’re going to do it that way now. And so the best, the happy accidents are when you don’t plan it and you’re going with it. And Michael, you have some amazing moments in the audio book where you can’t speak. You’re so full of emotion that you can’t speak. And I’ve listened to it a number of times in my car, and my heart goes into my throat because I can’t see you. And a lot of times I don’t remember. It always catches me by surprise that that moment is happening. And I think, oh my God, did the audio track drop out? Because there’s such a stillness. And then all of a sudden you come back in and your next line is just, you can barely even talk. And that resonates through the frigging speaker. We’re not even seeing you. That’s how powerful our emotion is if we just allow it to take us and to trust it. And it’s transformative. It

Michael Jamin:
Really is a time machine for me, because when I’m retelling those stories, it’s like I’m living it again. Again. And people, the funny thing is, people after that show, when I do this, some of those stories, people are worried about me.

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
Yeah, yeah. Because that’s what IA Kaza talks about, is you just leave it all on the stage. Yeah. Because why else are you there? Why are you there? If you’re not going to go there, then why are you there?

Michael Jamin:
That’s why I feel like one of the things that I like about personal essays, which is so hard to explain to people, but when they read it, they get it. Is that a novel? The characters are made up. They’re fictitious. And the worst thing that can happen to your charact, they’ll die. But again, they’re just made up, so everything’s fine. Your favorite made up character just had something horrible. Again, they’re just made up. But with these personal essays, I feel the stakes are higher. I feel like it’s a unique art form because the stakes, it’s a real person telling real stories about themselves. The stakes are higher because they’re not made up.

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
And that’s the beauty of you performing your own work too, is that you can really shine in that way. You don’t have to worry about becoming a character, putting something on, but I think it is hard for you because you have to psyche yourself up to really go there. It’s like your energy has to be up. You have to be willing to investigate that. And if you’re not feeling it, you got to go with the truth that you’re not feeling it it. Then see where that leads you. It’s scary.

Michael Jamin:
It’s also, the funny thing is I don’t really have any desire to do anybody else’s to act in someone else’s show. I don’t have a desire to become an actor. It’s just really more like I have a desire to pursue this art.

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
And why do you feel the pinch to want to perform it? And I’ve asked you this in the end of the audio book too, but it’s not so much. What is it in you that needs to be seen and heard, or

Michael Jamin:
I’m not entirely clear on it. I just want to, I suppose it’s because, and I’m very happy. I’ve had a long and successful career as a TV writer, but part of me also feels like there’s just something missing from what I write.

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
Interesting. Yeah. Yeah. Maybe it’s similar to when I was a dancer. I was like, I need more expression than this. I have to act now because dancing just is part of the expression, but it’s not allowing me to fully express everything. So maybe performing is part of that for you. It’s not enough to just have people read it or listen to it. You want to experience it with them. You need that connection, that expression.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, I guess. And I also, I kind of want to just do something special. That’s all. Because I wonder sometimes before when I go on, I go, why am I doing this? I just want to create something special that people will like. And I think people get it from the book and the audio book, so it’s not necessary. I don’t think it’s necessary for me to perform, but maybe it’s a plus. I don’t know.

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
Yeah. I think more will be revealed as they say. You’ll see why. And that’s another thing about following those creative impulses. I know because I have this hindsight with Twirly Girl, after doing it for 15 years, I can honestly look back and say that I would’ve never expected to have experienced what I experienced in the way that all the gifts that it brought me, there’s no way I could have predicted that. And I think it’s the same thing here. You just don’t know where it’s going to lead you, but you feel the need to do it. And I think that’s enough. I think that’s all you need, honestly. It takes on a life of its own too.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. We’ll see where it goes, but we’ll just put energy into it and see where it goes.

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
Yes. Onto the next project. But this project now,

Michael Jamin:
Well, maybe that, is that where we conclude this podcast? Is there anything else to cover?

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
I don’t know. I don’t know anything else for you.

Michael Jamin:
I don’t know. I’m very grateful for all your help doing this. I couldn’t do any of this without you. And for everyone listening, it really helps if you have someone helping you with whatever your project is, it does help a lot. And so you have to find the right person, whoever that is.

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
Well, I’m so grateful for you and everything that you’ve brought me, and this is just a joy and everything I want it to be. It is. And I’m so happy to be working with you.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, you’re sweet. Alright, everyone, there you go. A paper orchestra signed copies are available@michaeljamin.com. You can also find the link to the paperback, the ebook, the audiobook, the audiobooks on Audible, Spotify, and Apple. It’s called The Paper Orchestra, produced and directed by Cynthia.

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
Yeah, but here’s the thing, guys. If you want to see him in person, we would love to meet you. So keep in touch with us.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, sign up at michael jamin.com/upcoming. Okay, everyone, thank you again. Thank you, Cynthia.

Cynthia Mann Jamin:
Thank you, Michael. I love you.

Michael Jamin:
I love you.

Michael Jamin:
Wow. I did it again, another fantastic episode of What the Hell is Michael Jamin talking about? How do I do it week after week? Well, I don’t do it with advertiser supported money. I tell you how I do it. I do it with my book. If you’d like to support the show, if you’d like to support me, go check out my new book, A Paper Orchestra. It asks the question, what if it’s the smallest, almost forgotten moments that are the ones that shape us most? Laura Sanoma says, good storytelling also leads us to ourselves, our memories, our beliefs, personal and powerful. I love the Journey. And Max Munic, who was on my show says, as the father of daughters, I found Michael’s understanding of parenting and the human condition to be spot on. This book is a fantastic read. Go check it out for yourself. Go to michael jamin.com/book. Thank you all and stay tuned. More. Great stuff coming next week.

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Michael Jamin, Showrunner, TV Writer, Author

Michael Jamin

For the past 26 years, Michael Jamin has been a professional television writer/showrunner. His credits include King of the Hill, Beavis & Butthead, Wilfred, Maron, Just Shoot Me, Rules of Engagement, Brickleberry, Tacoma FD and many more.

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