5 With: Levi Weinhagen

June 4, 2014


I read a lot of interviews where people give advice from the perspective of having figured it all out. In contrast, I don't know anyone who has figured it all out. I'm grateful that my friend Levi candidly shares that making a life doing what you love is equal parts great and hard. I admire him so much for Making It Happen, using jealousy to full advantage (my favorite method), and being both a creative powerhouse and an awesome human being. 

What do you make or do & what drives your desire to do these things?
My art practice and the personal career I’m building are all about being interested in ideas and people. It expresses itself in a lot of ways, but at it’s core I want to spend as much time as possible getting excited about people and ideas and sharing that excitement with the rest of the world.

I’m a theater maker, comedy writer, live show and event producer, a podcast producer, an interviewer, and in the last few years I’ve added an emphasis on fostering public engagement online via conversations and creative prompts.

I started performing improvisational comedy and writing sketch comedy about 15 years ago. A few years into that work I decided to go to college and get a degree in Anthropology. As a result of these two passions my work has really moved towards using comedy and performance to understand and connect with people and to help people connect with one another.

What is your biggest creative challenge?
My biggest creative challenge is myself. I am filled with self-doubt and magnificent at not letting myself focus on the thing I ostensibly want to be doing at any particular moment. Though I know logically that most creative output is going to be either pretty bad or completely terrible, and that pushing though to get at the little bits of good stuff is how it works, I still have to remind myself of this every day. 

How do you make it all happen?
I don’t know. This question is hitting me at a significant time of flux in my life and work. Less than two months ago I made the decision to leave my daytime job and put more energy into my creative work after nine years of having a 40 hours a week obligation that had little to do with it. Now I have a bit more time to do the things that matter most to me, but my financial base has changed significantly. I’m lucky to have a spouse who makes a good living, but decisions about taking on passion projects that don’t generate any income have become even more challenging. 

Mentally and emotionally the only way I’m able to keep doing work that is so much a part of me is by having a daily exercise routine that keeps me sane and gets the sad out. And I have a tremendous creative community upon which I can call at any time for support or a kick in the pants. 

My best trick for actually getting work done is to have so many projects that if I’m procrastinating on one thing or don’t feel like doing that work, I have plenty of other work to choose from. 

Give some advice:
The best advice I could ever give is to remind you that there is always someone doing what you want to do or doing things how you want to do them, so find that person and steal everything. I don’t mean steal their ideas, but steal their way of working or way of approaching the work. The best way to find these people is to figure out who makes you the most jealous. 

I’d recommend reading Seth Godin’s blog every day. He also has a bunch of great books. Poke the Box is short and particularly insightful.

I would also highly recommend reading How to be Black by Baratunde Thurston. It’s a comic memoir but it’s also much more than that. (You should also seek out and watch or read everything Baratunde has done because he is how we all should be.)

I love podcasts so my last recommendation is Bullseye with Jesse Thorn. It’s a pop culture audio program but it has tremendous depth, heart, and sincerity. 

What's next?
Co-writing Kafka Nuts, the show my theater company, Comedy Suitcase, is producing for the 2014 Minnesota Fringe Festivalco-writing a new comedy web series that won’t become a real thing until probably this winter; launching a daily creativity activation tool that’s an extension of the questions I’ve been posting on my Facebook wall for the last several years; working on a new comedy podcast about the Cosby show, and dreaming of making a comedy and culture festival in St Paul. 

You can find Levi and his work at thatlevi.com, or find him on twitter @thatlevi. Find his podcast, Pratfalls of Parenting (100 episodes strong!) over here.

[You can read more interviews here.]

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