He’s an actor who’s spent most of his life performing in theater, TV, film and radio. Those of us in Vegas have seen him as a Blue Man, a clown, Hedwig, a one-man show and more. He made us laugh at the Second City Improv and Comedy show. He’s a teaching artist for the Disney Musicals in Schools Program at the Smith Center for Performing Arts. And he’s a performance coach with a mastermind called “Express and Connect.” He’s a lot of things, and he is Marcus Weiss.
Marcus: Happy New Year!
Amanda: You did go into the red right then. So that’s that yelling volume we talked about.
Marcus: That’s gold. It doesn’t matter if it’s too much. What’s too much? It might touch somebody. So you gotta keep it. You can’t box yourself in. Don’t let it technology… you’re letting zeros and ones from a computer limit your entire life. You jumped out. Oh, it went in the red. I gotta cut it. It’s a computer. It’s just a thing. Don’t let it stifle your heart.
Amanda: Perfect. See, that helps. What I was actually going to say before I started recording is, I don’t know if you run into this as a performer. Like I said, being an introvert, before I do anything, even if it’s one-on-one like this, where you and I have known each other forever. It’s just a conversation. But I get really nervous and I start flittering. That doesn’t happen for you, I imagine, as a performer. Or are you the performer that gets stage fright anyway, even though you do it all the time?
Marcus: I don’t get stage fright per se. If I’m nervous about anything, or if I get any kind of hesitation before I do a performance, or before I do a speech, or before I meet somebody, it may have more to do with doing what the stage manager asked me to do, or the director asked me to do, and that kind of thing. But I have no sort of inherent, or sort of vague, foggy fears about communication or about expressing myself or about connecting with other people. But that’s super common to have a nervous thing. I’ll tell you something I’m a little trepidatious about right now, is that you’re doing a great job looking into your camera. Should I be? But then I can’t see you. Is it okay if I go back and forth between? Now I’m looking at Amanda and now I’m… what am I looking at now?
Amanda: It’s the most awkward thing about recording this way because that’s how it is. If you want to face the camera, you have to look directly in it, but then you can’t see the person you’re talking to. So I think it’s totally normal to go back and forth. So I can see you or
Amanda: You have to just do whatever you’re comfortable with.
Marcus: Yeah, absolutely.
Amanda: Or maybe this is payback from the time when you were performing in “Every Brilliant Thing” and you made me be part of the show and come down and be in the middle of everybody, and be part of the play, which is way out of my comfort zone. And you made me do it, which I’m grateful for. But maybe this is my payback. I’m gonna put you slightly out of your comfort zone.
Marcus: Oh, yes, it is. Oh, putting me out of my comfort zone. Whoo! Did I go into the red right there again?
Amanda: I wasn’t looking. I was actually looking at your face this time.
Marcus: Okay, fantastic. Yeah, I lit up my face. You know, out of the comfort zone I went, “Whoo!” kind of like on a roller coaster. Because you know, there are those and, you know, I’m working on it just like anybody else. There are those who consider being out of your comfort zone to be like a negative thing. And then there’s those, and you can sort of train yourself, who consider coming out of your comfort zone to be an exciting thing. Like, Ooh! I am out of my comfort zone! I’m going to be growing, you know, I’m going to be learning something. And it’s a learned skill, I think. A lot of us consider our comfort zone the only place we want to stay. Unless you’re on a roller coaster. Do you like roller coasters?
Amanda: I have not been able to partake in a roller coaster in many years because I have neck issues.
Marcus: Okay, that’s a bad example.
Amanda: For me, it doesn’t work.
Marcus: Okay, how about something like skiing, something that really sort of thrusts you into an exciting sort of physical thing? Surfing? Sledding?
Amanda: I did go wakeboarding one time. And that was to push two fears because I don’t like being underwater, and because of all the neck issues, I have some hesitation about anything where I could get hurt any further. But one day, I thought I’m going to forget about both of those and do it anyway. And it was fun. I got up one time, and I lived through it, so I’m all good.
Marcus: Right? So it was fun. It was fun. There was something exciting about it.
Amanda: I’m a big fan of getting out of your comfort zone, even though I don’t like it and I’ll fight it. Usually if I feel inside that I’m that hesitant, it’s almost something that’s pushing me to say, okay, you’re scared of it, so you have to do it.
Marcus: Yeah, right. Oh yes. There’s a whole thing about like, when you feel you can’t, you must. It’s like one of those things, but that’s, I suppose, attached to this notion that growing is something that is good for us, that makes us feel alive. So I think it’s inherent, sort of to that. I don’t often have comfort zone awarenesses. Maybe it’s because I’m always slightly, slightly on edge, or maybe I’m always slightly like, uncomfortable just like eeeh! Maybe it’s, I’m always in a state of that? I’m not sure.
Amanda: So I have a question, because it seems like you always knew you were meant to be an actor. You’ve taken it very seriously, in terms of you got your BA in drama from Dartmouth, you got a master’s in acting at Temple University. And because I’m always curious about people who study creative endeavors in college, did that formal education give you a good foundation for your career? Or have you learned more of what you’ve needed to know through the experience of actually doing it?
Marcus: Ooh, that’s a great question. I think I’ve learned different things. I think it definitely gave me a foundation. What school gave me, and sort of the freedom that I experienced, ultimately, in a training environment, I was gonna say an educational environment or a training environment, gave me sort of the Spirit, the foundation of the Spirit, and the foundation of the Creative. And to me, that’s always the source, that’s always the Spirit. And I try to infuse no matter where I go, my performance, or my entire being, my presence with that, with those ideas that I got when I was an undergrad, or in graduate school, or even in high school, in fact, all the way back to, you know, elementary school, that meaning of expression, and connecting and moving people and hopefully being moved together. That’s always been the foundation.
And when you get into the professional world, we get into the world where it becomes about doing a job for somebody or doing something that somebody else wants you to do. Then it’s sometimes it’s more challenging to hold on to that spirit. But it’s always been really important to me. And that’s what that’s always meant to me. And so, in the professional world, or in the post educational environment, I’ve learned to sort of reconcile that spirit and that feeling with being in those other contexts. You know, if that makes sense, because I always have to feel integrated to be at my best.
Amanda: Yes, that whole balance thing that is important with pretty much everything we do. And because it’s kind of contradictory. You hear a lot of times about people who study music or performance or things like that, they have to almost get away from their training, because the training makes them too regimented. You think too much about what you’re doing. And sometimes you have to just be in that moment and forget all of your training and just do what feels right. So you kind of have that balance of discipline and freedom.
Marcus: Oh, yeah. Okay. Yes, yes, yes. I hear what you’re saying. Oh, absolutely. It’s so interesting, because I teach a lot, too. And what I try to convey to my students, and I suppose the way that I look at training, is I just have more tools of expression. I find, you know, so when I get a tool, or when I become aware of, oh, I can use my hand to do this, or my fingers to do that. And that becomes just another way to express with more intricacy, or with more detail. I feel more empowered, the more I learn. For me, more training and more knowledge creates more freedom, because it gives me more room. It gives me more toys to play with. But I can see what you mean. But absolutely, that if something gets in the way or somebody discovers I’m like, oh, no, that’s not helpful. Or okay, I got it. I learned that, but now I know what I don’t want to do, what doesn’t serve me. For me, I keep it in the room in case I need it, you know?
Amanda: Kind of in the same line of thinking, how has your Improv training played into all of the other things that you do? You do a lot of different things. I mentioned a few of them in my intro before you got on. You do a lot of things. And most of those are involving people and something artistic, but it seems like… For me, as more of a business person, that Improv would be helpful in a lot of areas that don’t seem business-related or don’t seem interpersonal communications-related, but that being able to think on your feet and be very quick like that, I assume that’s translated into other areas of your life.
Marcus: Oh, absolutely. I mean Improv… and I’ve taught Improv, too, and I try to convey this… has that foundation of a “Yes, and” mindset, which means that things that you see, things that you experience, people that you meet, conversations, situations, there’s always a “Yes, I’m going to embrace that. And I’m going to add to it.” In other words, I’m going to take what’s happening, and I’m going to incorporate it. I’m going to welcome it. And I’m going to change what my idea was. And I’m actually going to use that thing, rather than use that thing, that moment, that person, or that person’s input as a “Woah! Woah! I was doing this! Hang on for a second!” use it as “Yes, I’m going to be expanded by that. And we’re going to create something together that didn’t exist before.” So it’s a technical thing, but it’s also a mindset.
And I’ve recently almost likened it to a monkey, too. Like a monkey going through, climb through a tree, those like almost like flying monkeys. And they’re getting someplace, but they might be going in it, they might be grabbing onto this, grabbing onto that, swinging over there. But they’re so used to grabbing that one thing that’s in front of them, and using it to where they want to go. And they created a path that they may not have memorized ahead of time. They don’t know every single branch, but they’re ready to grab it when it presents itself.
Amanda: And the idea is that if you say no… and when you’re doing a scene with one other person, and they ask something or do something, and you say no, now you’ve shut it down. There’s nowhere left for it to go.
Amanda: I think that is a mindset that a lot of us need. Because it’s really easy to shut people down with something very simple. If they’re really excited about something and they get up the courage to tell you about it and you don’t embrace that with the same level of enthusiasm, sometimes that one “no,” even if it’s not the word “no,” it’s just a perceived “no,” can completely shut people down. And then they don’t even ever try to do that thing again. And it’s scary when that happens.
Marcus: Yes, thank you for that. Being succinct, incidentally, is clearly not one of my strengths. And summarizing things. I love that. So it shuts the other person down, it shuts the situation out, and it kind of puts a damper on the potential of creating something that neither person had the idea of before. Like if you and I made up a story, went back and forth improvising a story, we would get to an end that neither one of us could have imagined alone. That’s another part of what Improv does. You can go ahead and tell a story and get satisfaction out of it, and that’s beautiful. And if somebody else comes along… yes, you’re right. If they say no, yes, they’re shutting you down, but they’re shutting down the potential of that collaboration. So you never know, if you never take that road, you don’t know where it’s going to lead. So being flexible and saying yes to the possibilities of any situation can be really important. Or the times that we’re in now, we can choose to see what’s happening around us and see how it can, what we can say “Yes, and” to. Like, what are the ways in which our current lives are… I was gonna say serving us. I hesitate, because that sounds sort of egotistical. I just mean, like, in what ways is it making us more aware? Or is it uplifting us? Or is it bringing us closer together? Those are all versions of saying “yes, and” of improvising.
Amanda: It is very much a mindset, and you have to get into the habit of doing those things. And I always use an example in business where you can say, “I am completely overwhelmed with all the things that I have to do right now.” And that overwhelm kind of seems like a negative thing. But you can be overwhelmed. Yes. And I’m also very grateful that I have so many clients who need my help right now. There are ways where you can take the negative… accept that, because it’s valid to feel overwhelmed or stressed or whatever it is. So you accept that, and you add something positive about that. And that starts that cycle of better things happening because you’re not focused on the negative all the time. You’re acknowledging it, but then counteracting it with something that’s also good in that same moment.
Marcus: Yeah, I agree. You’re accepting what is, which is a form of relaxing, right? In a sense. You’re already going like, okay, first of all, I’m going to accept this. And then you you’re shifting into a place of what amounts to gratitude. Or, you know, there’s the thing about, you know, change your expectations to appreciations. When things don’t meet what our expectations, we don’t feel good. Like I often focus from the neck down. Things that ultimately don’t feel good, don’t make us happy, and therefore, don’t make those around us happy. And we’re ultimately not making the world a better place or a more uplifted place. We’re not making the same kind of choices if we don’t feel good down here. So, like you said, all those mindset issues help with all of that.
Amanda: You were raised in Switzerland. Do you feel that that’s affected your career and your values as a human? In the sense that you do have the same values as I, who grew up in the US, do, but I find that’s a little too rare sometimes. Because people get really turned off by the idea of mindset. Because I think there are a lot of people out there who take it too literally, with the idea of the law of attraction and this and that, where they say, if you just say out loud that you want $1200, you can then go out in your mailbox and there will be $1200 right there. It’s not that, and you still have to work really hard for it. But I wonder if growing up in a different place had any effect on you?
Marcus: Oh, yeah. And you know, what’s funny is like, pre-COVID, I didn’t use the word mindset much at all. Like, I didn’t even go like mindset, you could just say attitude, or feeling, or whatever it is, I’m just talking about… when I reference mindset, incidentally… and then I’ll get to Switzerland in a second… when I reference mindset, it’s particularly feeling that I’m at the wheel of my life. Like, it has to do with choice, that when I feel like overwhelmed, like, ohhh! To me that’s just like, I’m out of my mind set. You know what I mean? Like, oh, I’m out of my mind, I can’t get, or I feel out of control. So when I say like, Oh, give me a mindset, it’s more like a heart set. All those things, but you’re absolutely right. You know, things take work, but there’s a lot that we can do in terms of how we sort of look at the world. There’s a lot we can do, in terms of literally and figuratively facing a certain way. There’s all sorts of sayings about keep facing the sun, and you’ll never see the shadows. Not that you can’t see the shadows, it’s okay, but it just means we have a certain amount of ownership over being at the wheel of our lives. I think sometimes it’s easy to lose track of that. And if all we’re doing is just going like… I’m going to choose right now to look at my cat, who’s being really cute and almost throwing over things on the table that you can’t see. You can just do that.
Oh, wow. Did you hear that?
Amanda: You called it! He’s performer, just like you. Imagine that.
Marcus: And you just said you can’t manifest things right away. I just manifested that.
Amanda: Okay, so maybe I’m wrong about that.
Marcus: Maybe you’re wrong about that. So about Switzerland? Oh, absolutely. I felt there was a completely different… or maybe I was making it up, too… but there was a certain philosophical, cultural, and political context that I grew up in that I perceived as very different when I came to the States. And interestingly, one of the things that hit me right away, was… I came back to the States to go to college, to go to Dartmouth. And then I remember specifically that there was this… it’s interesting that we’re talking about this right now… there was this, like, muscular, almost aggressive pursuit of like achievement, and happiness, fulfillment, you know? And then here we are talking about like, hey, it’s a mindset. And I remember coming from this sort of, what I then perceived as sort of European skepticism. Or I perceived it more as, sort of like, that’s life. It’s not always this. Because if you expect it to always be this, then what do you do with the in-between stuff? What do you do when the shadows exist? Why aren’t we talking about that? And just sort of, why is it not okay? Why does being a little melancholy or just being a little serious, why is that reason to pull the emergency brake? You know, like, what are you doing? Why are you?
Amanda: It’s this strange thing in America, because I think it’s unique to this country, this idea that you have to hustle. And people take pride in how busy they are. For me, the reason I left the corporate world was because I wanted to work less. I wanted to make more and work less, and that’s what I do, and I’m very happy for that. But there are people sometimes who asked me, “Well, wouldn’t you rather go back to a job job because there’s more stability, there’s more security in that?” Which I don’t agree with at all. I think in the times that we’re in now, those of us who do our own thing, and do many things, are better equipped to handle all the unknowns that keep happening, especially in a year like 2020. And so I don’t ever look back at that. But there is that thing that only happens in America. All my friends that I know in other countries, they think we’re crazy for it. Why do you work so hard? Why don’t you take breaks? Why is it such a negative thing to take time to yourself or be with your family? And that’s, in a pandemic, what a lot of people were forced to do. I do see that a lot of people have used this time to reconnect with what’s important, at least that’s my hope in all of this.
Marcus: Yes. What’s important? I think whatever makes us feel alive. This idea that if we’re not growing, then we’re not growing, or we’re passing away. Or if a plant’s not growing, it’s… I don’t like to use the words, you know, but it’s dying. And I think maybe, culturally, maybe in this country, but it could be happening other places, too, but there’s a notion that there might be a speed attached to the growing, or intensity attached the growing. You know, some plants barely grow in size at all. They’re just alive. They’re just replacing themselves, but they’re still alive. I mean, it’s just important to be alive. But some of us grab onto this notion of growing, and then we attach measurements to it, like, what does it mean to be growing? Do a little bit better tomorrow than we did today. But then we have to set those parameters, you have to tell ourselves, well, what is that? And that’s where maybe the temptation of… it’s all well intended… but that’s where that sort of judgment comes in, and like I gotta do more, once you start telling yourself, well, this is how I need to be growing.
Amanda: It’s balance again.
Marcus: It’s that balance.
Amanda: You have to be doing, but you also have to be not doing, in equal measure.
Marcus: Yes, sure. But I remember my grandma, incidentally, in Switzerland. She was gardening and she was retired and she was her own self. But when I sort of contrast that to what you were describing, sort of this almost aggressive pursuit of doing and yes, I’m so busy. I’m like, thinking, was my grandma miserable? She was doing the same thing every day. She seemed… I mean, I didn’t talk to her about these things, but, man, it’s a big thing. Because we’re busy. But I think we have to be aware of the really underneath of that. Like, if you stopped. What would you feel like if you stopped for an hour? Or an afternoon? Or a day or a week?
Amanda: It’s almost a question of does that busyness fulfill you? So are you happy with what you’re doing all the time? So being busy, is exciting and fun for you? Or are you busy doing things you don’t necessarily love because you feel that you have to be productive at any given moment, or you’re somehow doing something wrong?
Marcus: It might come down to what you feel you need to love yourself. Or to think that you’re, you know, all of us want to feel that we’re enough. I think everybody wants to feel that we’re enough. And survival aside – some people listening or watching might be like, well, you have to make a living. Yeah, you know, I understand that part. We’re talking about that bigger notion of if you did less, or if you were sort of less busy, what would you be feeling? What would you be saying to yourself? Because it all starts with what you’re saying to yourself, right? Like feelings ultimately have to do with the story that you’re telling yourself, and the way that you interpret situations. So I think that’s really interesting. You know, it reminds me sort of Iike, you know when you’re at a bar, or you’re at a party, or whatever, and there’s a lot of loud music and lights and stuff? And then when you leave, or when it’s over, or if you stay to the end. It feels… all of a sudden, you’re not filled, and it feels really empty. I’m sort of envisioning, you know, I’m sort of reliving things. Do you know what I mean?
Marcus: Oh, I see.
Amanda: Only because that’s… as an extrovert, that’s 100% how you feel. As an introvert, I feel agitated by the loud music and the sounds. So when I get out of that, that’s when I feel the relief. Not that I didn’t have a good time being around the people. To me, when it’s over, it’s relief versus emptiness. And that’s a big contrast between our different personality types. Not that one is right or wrong. It’s just, we process things in very different manners.
Marcus: Ooh, I love that, Amanda. Oh, yes, yes, yes. I love that. Yes. I mean, I happen to feel like for me, it really depends. I was, I guess, trying to reference those who feel the constant need to have that noise of busyness and sort of whether it’s a fear of not being busy, or if it’s a true fulfillment of being busy.
Amanda: And I apologize, I did not “Yes, and” your question. I shut it down with a no, Justice dad.
Marcus: Oh! You did! We just stopped talking! No, no. Hey, by the way to clarify, yes. I love that. To clarify, by the way the “yes, and” is that you don’t have to say… you can still say no, you just have to accept the reality of what’s being presented. So you did. That’s fine. Yes.
Amanda: Well, so we’ve talked about it a little bit, but as a performer, you’ve obviously been affected by the pandemic. So how have you adapted and kept motivated when you can’t be on a stage with a loving crowd all the time? Especially because you get that energy from being with the people and being on stage and providing us as viewers, in whatever format – because you’ve been in TV, radio, theater. You’re everywhere. You do everything.
Marcus: Yeah. 90% of what I did up to the slowdown, or the emergency brakes being put on everyone, 90% of that went away because I was teaching in classrooms live and I was performing virtually full time. And I had a lot of day jobs, you’re absolutely right. I was doing everything, and not being able to do that physically… At first, because we were in such crisis mode, I didn’t really register it as much. You know, A) you’re in crisis mode and B) it’s like being in between jobs. It didn’t become real until maybe a month or two in. I mean, yes, it was weird. I was in the middle of directing something, and that stopped. And I was in the middle of rehearsing something, and that stopped. So I was like, oh man. But it was like a show being canceled at first. It was like, okay. But the reality of not being able to connect with people in that way live didn’t really sink in until about two months, you know, March, April. I think this was the end of April. And I realized that that is something that I feel really attached to in my life.
Strangely enough, speaking of being an introvert, I also dream about living in a hut in the Swiss Alps. Just with my family, or all by myself… or, no, I mean with them, but all by ourselves. My son, incidentally, and this is a true story, like two days ago, we were playing the game of… it’s kind of like the Game of Life, but it’s called Life Stories. And you have these little cards and just say memories or stories, and it said, if you had all the money in the world that you needed, and you built yourself a home, what would it be? And your dream house. And I was like, oh, it would be this old, rickety hut in the Swiss Alps. It didn’t even occur to me to go like, oh, I would have a mansion with waterfalls and trampolines. I was like, it would be like a barn, an old hay shack. And so that was my instinct. And yet, I’ve always sought out connecting to people live. And so I connected to different sort of workshops online and things for growing – professional and personal – and I connected to Facebook groups. I started doing live videos, which brings us to your live videos, you know, being nervous about a live video. And I started doing a lot of that. And what’s weird is that you just have your phone, and you have stuff in the comments, but I suppose I began to make up a lot of that connection. And maybe it was filling a… I was gonna say a void or a hole, but it was its own thing. And I taught some classes online and on Zoom and it’s its own way of connecting, but a lot of it is filled in with the imagination. You sort of hope you’re connecting. When I’m live or even just looking at you… and I’m sorry, it’s difficult to look into the camera because I want to connect with you – like hear the little cues, the energy, and that awareness of like, okay, you’re taking it down a notch. I’m taking it down a notch. Now we’re going together. You breathe together, then you laugh together. And then you feel in that. I think that’s really important for humans to do whatever they can. I just… yeah.
Amanda: I think turning to the live videos was a good way, because you have that need to connect and there are other things in place right now that make the usual ways of connecting not possible. So we have that choice again. Well, then do you stay in complete isolation and let yourself go into that bad place because you’re not having any connection? Or do you accept that we can still connect, but it has to be through these computer boxes, and it’s not the same, and there are delays, and you’re not quite getting the same experience. But for now, it’s the best we can do. You just kind of have to make the best of it and keep searching for those positives, because the alternative is too dark of a place. And a lot of people I know have gone there, and I completely understand why. But you kind of have to do what you can to pull yourself out of it. And sometimes I think that’s why I get a lot of value out of this podcast myself, because I get to talk to my friends about things that I find interesting, which, because of just who I am, I’m not big on small talk. I don’t want to ask about the weather or anything like that. I want to know who you are as a person. And this gives me that opportunity, where it’s not, for lack of better words, it’s not the fluff questions. It’s who are you? What makes you move? That’s what’s important to me, so I enjoy it.
Marcus: Oh, my goodness. Oh, you have been… Yeah, you’ve been totally putting me on the spot. Like I feel completely inarticulate. This the first time in the pandemic that I felt like, oh my gosh, but I’m tearing up right now because it’s very moving. Because if we ask ourselves the right questions, or if we ask each other the right questions, we can get to the issues together. And if the intention of those questions is coming from a… I was gonna say a loving place, or a joyful place, but even if it’s just coming from a constructive place, or from an objective place, or from a place where we intend to solve things together, I think we can really go far, you know? As two people hanging out, or as groups, or as a culture, as a society and as a world, you know? So I tend to always take it. I’m terrible at small talk, too, weirdly enough. Five minutes into a conversation, I’m talking about other things. I can’t keep it with sports or something, not only because I don’t know anything about it, but it’s just like, I can’t. I have to be like, what do you think those football players are feeling when they’re… I mean, it’s a big deal for them to you know, I’ll be constantly like…Stop and just talk about the play! I can’t do it.
Some people have felt, and myself included, I was really kind of overwhelmed and stressed before COVID hit, with the five jobs and stuff. Even though it might seem from the outside, I don’t thrive on doing 17 things at a time. But I manifest it, right? I’ll take ownership of it. I’ll take responsibility for it, for sure. But putting on the brakes was… I mean, I know where it came from, and I’m super respectful and cognizant of that and the things that happened, and the things that continue to affect not just us, personally, but everybody – health, finances, and all other things that have been happening. But being alone is not the same thing as a feeling isolated, you know? Or taking a break and not being out there was a breather for a lot of people. In the school system, some students started thriving, in some ways, being remote. Not all, but some. I was talking to the principal of my kids’ school and some kids were really stressed out being live with people, and it’s allowed them some space. Some of my students came out of their shells in ways that they may not have. Long-term, I think that’s a question, but it gave some people a breather, too. But I think in the end, even when we’re… when we feel okay, I need space… I think we still need to feel connected. I think nobody wants to feel lonely. Everybody wants to feel there’s others there that care.
Amanda: You want to feel heard. You want to be acknowledged, just know that somebody out there besides the cat cares about you. It’s always a good thing.
Amanda: It’s interesting in all of this, because it’s that dichotomy again, where some of us do really well alone. And some of us, some of you, do better with people. But it’s that, where schools and other things, they’re always trying to craft people into all learning the same way, and the same thing. And that doesn’t work because we’re also unique in how we learn, and how we feel better about ourselves. And there’s so many things that are so individual. And I’ve been fortunate, I think, because my parents never forced me to be anything other than who I was. They were just supportive, said, “What do you want to do? Do that! Do your best. Great!” but I was allowed to figure out who I am. And I’ve been able to accept who I am, where some people still… and people have come around a lot lately, I feel… but there is that train of thought that introvert is negative. It means that we can’t get ahead, and we’re undervalued, and all of this stuff. But it’s not about being shy, or not being assertive, it’s about energy more than anything.
But I do better on my own for the most part, and nothing is an exclusive. That doesn’t mean I’m going to become that person that never leaves the house and is collecting multiple cats and becoming that person. Because balance. Always balance. Same thing with an extrovert, like you can’t be on all the time.
Marcus: Oh, God, no.
Amanda: Some people are very close, but they’re… it’s not an absolute at any point. And a lot of teaching, a lot of old techniques in business, in school, education, all of that, has all been let’s put everybody in a box. And I think as we’ve grown, and things have changed, and technology, and this younger generation is showing, no, we’re gonna be this one day, and we’re going to be this another day, and it’s all okay. We’re going to be who we are. And that’s okay if I don’t fit into that little box over there. That little box is boring. I’m going to be me, awkward and all.
Marcus: Yeah, totally. Oh, my goodness, yes. You know, it’s funny, in all the years that we’ve known each other, I never even thought of you in any particular, one way or another. Of course, I only experienced you in the context of when we’re together, when we’re hanging out or when we’re talking. Oh, absolutely. And particularly now, when the world has in some ways gotten so much smaller, because of the internet, and the way that we’re aware. And I think people have the ability to seek out things that vibe with who they are, or what they like to see or consume, or to discover others who are sort of like them. I think a lot of that contributes to… I was gonna say to an aversion… but to people’s needs to keep unfolding themselves. So it makes those processes that try to homogenize us even less relevant, and even more challenging, if anybody tries to do it, you know?
Amanda: This is not related to any of this, but I just had this remembrance, or realization, that one of the things that I worked with you on way, way back in many, many, many years ago, was actually a podcast…before I knew what podcasts were.
Amanda: You did the “Vegas in 5” podcast for Vegas.com way back when.
Amanda: And this was early, early on in the days of podcasts, and had no idea what it was.
Amanda: I just kind of put those together and how much things have changed since then.
Marcus: Oh my gosh, that’s right. That’s right.
Amanda: When was the last time you thought about that?
Marcus: Wow. Oh, my goodness. Oh, yes. Oh, that was such a pleasure. That was a real privilege to be able to do that. That was so fun. And I was just lucky. I don’t know if… is that where we met? No, that’s not where we met. We knew each other before.
Amanda: It was through that production company, I believe. You came in for something.
Amanda: You were always doing something. So that is another question I have, because you were in Blue Man Group. You were in Le Rev. You’ve done TV. I remember you being in an episode of Scrubs, which made me particularly happy because that’s one of my favorite shows. But you’ve done so many different things. You were the lead in Hedwig and the Angry Inch when it opened in Vegas. A lot of diversity in what you’ve done. Do you have a favorite? Maybe not a favorite thing you have done specifically, but if there is one I’d love to know. But is there a favorite genre? Because you’ve done comedy, you’ve done drama, you do everything.
Marcus: That’s right. I did. Yeah, I did the Second City, which is Improv and sketch comedy. I played music in Blue Man, and I sang in Hedwig, and I was a clown with the “Le Rev: The Dream” over at the Wynn, and then with Cirque du Soleil. And then it’s a drama. You’re right. Comedy, tragedy. I can’t name my favorite child. It’s hard for me to name my favorite child. But if we’re talking about genre, I want to feel unfolded, like we all do. If I can expand in the work that feels the best. It’s like wearing clothes that fit better. You know, it’s like, oh, these clothes don’t fit. Like, I just got to be me. So sometimes I feel like, you know, I mean, you saw “Every Brilliant Thing.” That was at times really funny, and then at times super serious and tragic. So I want to be able to unfold and I think it’s interesting that a lot of what I’ve done have been pieces that have allowed me to go to those different kinds of places. Like Blue Man could be alternately really funny and alternately really serious.
Amanda: You also couldn’t talk during that.
Marcus: And I couldn’t talk and it was all about… couldn’t talk at all, but it was all about connection. It always comes back to connecting with me. It always comes back to finding that inner whatever it is, that inner heart feeling, and expressing it in the hopes that it’s connecting. I’m always in that headspace, whether I’m doing voiceovers or film or something. Rather than just, I’m just doing my thing and hope you’re watching. That’s never been it for me. I know that’s really roundabout way of saying it, but I’m trying to be as truthful as I can.
Amanda: As a viewer, I will put you on the spot again and make you… I’ll brag a little bit for you. Because “Every Brilliant Thing” was one of the most brilliant things I’ve seen. I went to see it because of you. I hadn’t seen you in a while. You worked on it. Our friend John McClain did the audio for that. And we wanted to go see you in this play. I did not know it was an audience participation play, which is something that I have avoided since I was a child.
Amanda: My dad would tell you that, when we would go to the fairs and the different things, I used to like to watch magicians. But the second one of them tried to bring me up on stage, I threw a tantrum. And I do not want it. When I’ve been at any of those shows and they’re looking for somebody, I am the person that will slouch down and not make eye contact because I don’t want to be up there. However, what I noticed in that, not only the connection that I had… because it’s a one-man show. You carried the whole thing, with the help of the audience and the music and everything else. There’s a big story to it… But you did connect everybody, because we all felt that we were part of this story as it was unfolding. And the way I know that, other than just how I felt specifically, is that because you did give me that part that made me go out into the middle of the square, and I had to propose to you in this role. And my friend Melissa had taken photos of it. And when I saw those photos, I didn’t notice myself. I didn’t notice you. I noticed the faces of everybody in the audience. They were so moved by it. Like it was such a touching moment, as if it was actually a real moment. That is a hard thing for many people to connect in that way. I’m not a person who has a lot of emotions, necessarily. I’m very logical, and I process things much differently. But I remember talking to Melissa about that show for weeks afterwards, and how impactful it was.
Amanda: But everyone I know who saw it was moved by that. For you to be able to do that – make people laugh, and cry, and be happy, and all of those things – that’s a rare gift that not a lot of people have. So I’m glad that you embrace it in all these different ways.
Marcus: That’s really sweet. That’s really wonderful. You know, it’s very moving to me because it’s all I want to do is to connect and to feel like we’re all in this together. And I suppose I could figure out how far back that goes, my childhood or something, and what motivates that. But no matter how big or how small I get, that sense that… I envision everybody hugging and just hugging it out. And just like being in that moment. Like I know that, okay, some people are uncomfortable or whatever. But my dream is that we’ve… not literally, necessarily… but that we just feel like we’re all around that campfire. We’re all around that fire. We’re all huddled together and we’re all… And when you were saying the faces of the people around you and I, right? In that moment, the intention was to get everybody on a journey together. So that when we were in that journey, just you and me having a moment, because you were playing characters in an improvised way. People were with us because of the environment that I, but also we, had created together. And everybody just wanted to be together. Everybody was leaning in together because they wanted to lean in together. Because we want to be in those intimate moments. Everybody wants to feel loved. Everybody wants to feel embraced. Everybody wants to feel that they matter. And which translates into if people see an intimate moment, you’re drawn into this thing happening.
I heard somebody recently talked too about, like, when you see somebody on the street, and they’re yelling through a megaphone, you know, people are walking by. People walk by. But if you see two people really engaged with each other, or two people, like, having a romantic moment at a cafe or something. I’m not talking about eavesdropping, or like, creepy. I’m just talking about you’re like, “ooh” or you’re like “aww.” It just draws you in. And we used to talk about that in Blue Man, too. If you’re having a real moment with somebody, a real intimate moment with one person, or maybe with two people, an audience of 2000 people will be like… they’ll zoom in on it. And I think the reason they’re zooming in on it is not because there’s a lot happening, it’s because our hearts are discovering something that all of us would like to experience.
Amanda: It makes perfect sense, because that’s kind of what I’m hoping. Again, looking for the positive and everything with the pandemic, and with the increased isolation so many people have had, that when things do open up again, and we can start being around people in regular situations again, that we pay more attention to how much that matters. Where it was easy before – it’s easy in a lot of situations to take things for granted, when you’re just used to doing things a certain way. It’s easy to overlook the fact that that could go away at any time. This, I think, was a big eye-opening situation for a lot of people in a lot of different ways.
Amanda: And it even goes back to the busyness and all of that, because so many of us are taught that success equals money. And there is a level of that. Obviously, you need to be comfortable enough to live, to support your family if you have one, to do all of those things. But we forget about the value of time. And how important that time is, that if you’re so busy, and you’re making all the money, but you never have any time to do the things you love with the people you love, is that really more successful than maybe you don’t make as much money, but you have this whole quality of life with people and things that you really enjoy? Not to say that one’s better or worse, because again, everybody’s different. But I think it’s let us think about time as a value as much as money.
Marcus: Some people think time is your most valuable asset. I mean, if I give you my time, I’m giving the most precious thing I have. And when you think about everyone, as in you in the editorial, because all of us only have so much time. Only the universe knows, but we take time for granted. And even though sometimes it can feel like a relative thing, right? Sometimes time goes by fast, sometimes it goes by slow, but it’s a thing that’s a very limited resource. So it’s interesting when we take our time, a lot of us have reflected on what not just time means to us, but what anything means to us.
Amanda: I’ve always seen you as a family man. You have quite the creative family. Your wife is also multi-talented. She’s a dancer and entrepreneur, and your kids are into all of it. I saw your son Jacob playing a pretty dramatic role on that episode of Chicago Med.
Marcus: That’s right.
Amanda: And apparently your cat is also creative, we learned earlier this episode.
Marcus: Sweet little dude.
Amanda: How is it seeing them grow up and wanting to follow in your footsteps in that way?
Amanda: The kids, not the cat.
Marcus: Yes. Because of the cat. Aww. Well, Lukas… and part of me is like oh, thankfully. But then again, he wants to be an animal rescuer in the Amazonian rainforest. Let’s hope it’s still around. But he’s also super creative and he dances really freely with his mom. And thank you for all those beautiful compliments and all that attention and awareness that you have about our family. It feels like I’m giving him something. I’m not… I know what the business is like, or life is like. Life of a performer, it can be so uncertain. It can be filled with ups and downs, lefts and rights. It’s completely nonlinear, but so is life a lot of time. And full of disappointment. You know, it’s like you work really hard, and there’s a lot of stuff that doesn’t seem like it’s in your control, you know? So there can be a tendency to feel disappointed. So you’re always working on that. I don’t know, maybe it is, but if you graduated from medical school, you’re not all of a sudden, like, hmmm, yeah, you’re not gonna ever work. It’s not like you’re like, oh, man, I did two operations this year. Oh, that was a good year for me. But with actors, it’s kind of like, hey, man, I got a job this year. It’s like, wow. In some ways, it’s worrisome, I guess I’m saying. But in some ways, it feels beautiful because we – my wife and I – both are sort of imparting something. As a parent, you love to feel that you’ve mattered. And I know, there’s lots of other ways that you matter. But there is something that’s sort of in spite of ourselves that goes like, that’s really cool. Then you have something in common that you feel like, oh, I got some in common with my kids. It’s cool. You know, it’s in my family, too, going back generations as well.
Amanda: At the time of this recording, you’re about to launch your mastermind course, which is called “Express and Connect.” What is that about?
Marcus: Oh, well, it’s about kind of what we’re talking about. It’s so interesting… it’s so funny. I’m just in that space, talking about mindset, I’m sort of in that in that space. It’s about finding your voice and getting it out and connecting. And I know that we were just talking about it, but it’s so… It’s about that for me. And so really, it’s more that the course, it was more like, oh, what can I do this course on? It’s what I’ve sort of really been thinking about, almost like obsessed with recently, about this in this time of sort of isolation. So “Express and Connect” is about that. The second part of the title is “Be seen, be heard, felt and remembered.”
And I really feel that that is something that a lot of people want, and maybe some people struggle with. And so I know that for me… I don’t know if I’ve shared this with you yet, but I share this, you know. I struggled with depression when I was in college and found the theater, which kind of, even at the time felt that kind of saved me. Because even before the theater, I was like, I just want to connect with people and move people. And then the theater kind of saved me. But then when I went to graduate school, I had another dip. And I was on probation for not being vulnerable and not being open. Yeah, in retrospect. And then to the point where like the acting teacher… I remember I was in a scene where my scene partner was crying. It was a scene from The Seagull, and it was this tragic scene between a couple, and they were almost breaking up, and my acting teacher was like, “Marcus! She’s on the floor. She’s crying. Do something! Feel something!” And he was yelling at me, bless his heart. And my voice and speech teacher would like shake my upper body like, “Relax! Relax!” and she’d like shake me because I was so tense and afraid to express myself. I couldn’t make any choices. It was awful. I was like this. And then it was amazing. People make fun of it to this day.
And finally, I did this monologue during where we could do any performance art piece. And I was like, you know what? And I said, fudge it. Fudge it! I had this like “fudge it” moment, and I did a monologue from Caligula, which I don’t know if you know the play. It’s about this horrific Roman emperor and it’s terrifying. And he’s cruel. And so and I came bursting into the room to a song by Nirvana, “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” I did one arm push-ups. I was smoking a cigarette butt. I flipped the cigarette butt into my mouth. And I just had this like three-minute expression extravaganza. And it’s what kept me in graduate school. And I’ve noticed, ever since then, that same teacher who yelled at me, said, “You know, that’s what kept you in the program.” And then it put me on this path. And I’ve noticed that every time I’m able to fully express myself with the intention of connecting with others, and sharing our hearts with each other, that’s when sort of life happens. That’s when life comes back and happens sort of for everybody, myself included, my family, everybody around around me. And the times when I’m not, it doesn’t. And then I ended up, one of my last jobs was just being a clown in Cirque, just by myself on a stage, just being present and sharing who I was. And so whatever context that somebody might be in, whether it’s a live Instagram video, or whether it’s talking to your family, or whether it’s being a being an actor in front of 2000 people, if somebody can find a way to express their voice, their story, their message, and connect with others so that they feel heard and seen and felt, then it will give other people… it will uplift everyone, but it will give other people permission to do the same. And I think that will serve everybody. So that’s my hope with this course.
Amanda: I wish that was the advice I had been given in my high school theater class. All I remember from that is the teacher yelling at me to project. Because my voice does not carry. I have a little tiny voice. I lose it very easily. They say talk like somebody’s on the other side of the room. I think I am. So I shifted and I did tech theater instead, because I can build stuff. So that was my solution to that.
Marcus: Oh, oh my goodness. But that was your solution, not just talk louder? But it seems like… but isn’t that amazing? Because what it might have said to you, I’m just suggesting, it may have just said to you you’re not enough, right? That your voice wasn’t enough, somehow?
Amanda: Perhaps subconsciously.
Marcus: I’m just making this up. But it was like, oh, just talk louder. If you can find that need to express that, whatever it is, if you have that. And let’s say you want to act enough, or if you have to look… I like to say look inward, feel outward. Turn inward to find where that seed is of then wanting to express that. And you want to get to the back of the house. You want to be there. That’s what you want to say, when you want to say it, and the only way to say it is to take that deep breath in. And then I probably hit the red again, and then say it to the back of the house. Does that make sense?
Amanda: But yelling at me to project was not an effective way.
Marcus: Right! That’s not the effective way! No, that’s what I’m saying! It’s like I’d go back, I would put you… we would sit down, we would have a conversation about what. No. I mean, which brings me back to the Instagram. You were talking about an Instagram video and how nervous you got about Instagram video. Can I put you on the spot and ask you a question?
Marcus: And maybe we’re close to out of time. I’m not sure. But when you get nervous, or when you feel something before going live on Instagram, where do you feel? If you put your hand on what doesn’t feel good? What part of your body would it be? Would it be your forehead?
Amanda: Physically, my heart pounds. I can hear it in my earphones.
Marcus: Oh, gosh. Okay.
Amanda: It’s a physical reaction. I do have a tendency to overthink things, and it definitely applies to that. I think it’s the connection of that. I overthink things. It goes back to the wanting to… not necessarily be perfect, but also not wanting to be completely out of my element.
Amanda: But I don’t know what it is because it even happens, like I said, before I do a podcast with somebody I’ve known for years. I’m not at all nervous about talking to you. I’m not uncomfortable about it. But when I sit down and I get the mic out, everything starts beating faster. And I just feel like I need to breathe and sort of calm myself before I start speaking.
Marcus: Yeah. Have you figured it out yet?
Amanda: I have not yet figured out why that happens.
Marcus: I would imagine it has something to do with sort of a low-grade fear of consequences. Right? You’re somewhere other than the present. You’re somewhere other than having really digested what it is, sort of where you’re at. And there’s something getting in the way of you being able to sort of express yourself freely, or to sort of be yourself and then just let out whatever is going to come out, and having that sort of faith. We talk about Improv, having that faith that whatever comes out is going to be welcomed with a “Yes, and.” Because we all want somebody to embrace what we have to say or do, or feel what we’re putting out. We want somebody to go like, aww, that’s beautiful. Let me, let me! Oh, yeah. Well, I’ll be you and let me give you something right back because I’m so grateful for what you just what you just shared, you know, and even. So, yeah, it’s a weird thing.
Amanda: It’s a weird disconnect. Because again, I don’t feel nervous, but my body tells me otherwise. And that’s the part that I don’t like. It’s like, what are you doing? Why?
Marcus: It’s something, or it’s a habit. It’s something that’s, if you feel like changing it, there’s got to be a way. Like there could be technical things like, imagine beyond the camera is your best friend and only your best friend, or your mom or your dad, or your anybody that you love. And that’s who you’re talking to at all times. Or imagine the audience in pajamas, or you know what I mean? Just to realize, like, aww, you’re all in pajamas here. Or whatever. Like little physical tricks for stage fright, right? But on a deeper level, I think we all just want the world to “Yes, and” us. But it takes it takes faith, and like you said, courage. And then the experience that it might be happening. But then it becomes a loop, I think. It becomes like this, what do they call it? Like your confidence will come from competence, but you have to take the action first. And then it becomes this loop. Okay, just gotta find a way to say the right things to yourself and to your brain and to your heart. Take the action and do it. Oh, wow. I did that. And then praise yourself, allow yourself to be kind to yourself, love yourself enough to take that in. That’ll build your confidence. And then I don’t know. Maybe that heart pounding will go away. If you want it to.
Amanda: That’s a good point. If you had one piece of advice for other creatives out there who want to make it on their own, what would it be?
Marcus: The first thing that came to my mind, which is probably what my heart would say, is permit yourself to not give up. I don’t want to say don’t give up. Because if somebody wants to stop, I would give them permission to. There’s a lot of people out there who go like, if there’s anything else you could possibly do, don’t even worry about… Like, have you heard those? It’s too much! Don’t even! I’m like no! If you feel like doing it, even for a while, then do it. But keep on trying to, you know, check in with yourself and see if it’s really where you want to head. And then there’s always a way, no matter what. My path was very circuitous. And it continues to be very twisty and turny. And it’s been really sort of improvisational, and I always knew something that fed me. And so I would be attracted to that and head in that direction. The things that were sort of, that were meaningful to me. So that’s why I said like, give yourself permission to, to not give up on that, on that dream. Figure out what it is that lights you up.
I say the thing that feels good from the neck down, head towards that and keep finding a way to turn towards what feels good from the neck down. All the thoughts, that’s great, and the analysis of things, that’s great. But there’s a lot of ways to live your life and to create your path anywhere, but particularly in the arts and creative professionals. But what’s important is that it feels good in your in your whole self.
And I think you know, I forget her name in the meantime, but she was a life coach to Oprah Winfrey. Oh my goodness, Beck was her last name? And I heard something indirectly a story. And she had this whole thing of, if something doesn’t feel good, literally in the sternum area, like right where the ribs meet, she would say no to something – an opportunity, or an offer, or whatever, or a conversation. She would literally shut it off. She’s like, nope, not doing it. And it came after an illness that she overcame. And so she was like, no, I can’t do anything that’s not right for me. So I’m not saying don’t be compassionate to others and all that. I’m not talking about a selfish thing. But if we if we can find that light and continue to follow that, that will make us make choices that are positive and healthy for us, inspire others to do the same, and the choice that we make will also serve and inspire and uplift others and make us be, hopefully, lovely people to be around, and that’ll create your life and your career. I hope.
Amanda: Well, you are a lovely person to be around. Where can people find you out in the social media world and elsewhere?
Marcus: Oh, okay. I am Marcus Jacob Weiss on Facebook. I am @TheMarcusWeissExperience on Instagram. And I am also The Marcus Weiss Experience on Facebook, but I barely just sort of started that, or I haven’t been feeding that, but I probably should. Oops, there we go. Yeah, I need to get to that. So if you look at that, you know, like the page, stuff is coming soon on the Marcus Weiss Experience. And then I’m also on Mastermind.com. I have the “Express and Connect” class up there right now. It’s a live group, one-time session for now. And that’s it. I would give my phone number if that was appropriate, but just message me anytime. Oh, sorry. Wait. I forgot I’m on Twitter, but I almost never use it.
Amanda: But you’re there
Marcus: I’m there @SwissMarcus. It’s a totally different name. Irrelevant. But I’m on Twitter, too.
Amanda: Thank you again for your time. It’s always fun to talk to you.
Marcus: Thank you. It’s beautiful to talk to you, too. Thank you for the opportunity. I appreciate it, Amanda.
Connect with Marcus:
Mastermind: “Express & Connect“