The Master Chef

This is part of my Forever Grateful project.
As I was selling my home and placing my business on hiatus for a period of time, I took portraits of about 30 people who influenced my career over the past 12 years. This was my way of saying “Thanks” and letting everyone know that I couldn’t have done it without their support.


I met you at an audition where you kinda crushed my dream… but don’t worry, you did it as kindly and gently as you possibly could… and lucky for me, it was only temporary.

Before I moved to LA, I spent about 8 years performing and managing at SAK Comedy Lab in Orlando, FL. I worked there, played there, and met some of my closest friends there. This place was my home away from home. When I came to see my dear friend, Natasha, perform at ComedySportz LA (CSZ), it reminded me of SAK and I wanted it to become my home away from home away from home.

Of course, after the audition, you made a nifty little speech and it turned out that I was a can of corn and your recipe was only looking for peas… what kind of recipe only has peas in it? Pea Soup? Gross! (I’ve lost a lot of my readers with this part, but fear not, I’ll explain it all in The Story Behind the Shoot section.)

A few years later, I started shooting headshots and many of my clients were CSZ members. One day you asked me to shoot promo photos for the company. And then you asked me to shoot some more… and then some more… … … and then some more. It seemed that your recipe finally called for a can of corn!

Whenever I shot for CSZ, you were always great about plugging my name and thanking me in front of everyone. I booked a lot of clients from those shoots and I also made some great friends. You invited me to company parties and you even allowed me to use the space for my own shoots (and a surprise birthday party) from time to time. When I would step inside the theater, I felt so welcomed and at ease. ComedySportz LA had become a home away from home!

I have teased you a lot for not casting me, but I know that improv was only a tool that got me out of my shell and it was never meant to be a career. I’m happier now that I’m a photographer and thankful that I was able to work with you throughout the years in that capacity.

Forever grateful,


The Story Behind the Shoot (and the peas and corn references above):

James holds auditions for improvisers from time to time. Being an improviser himself, he knows how hard it is to not get cast. So, at the end of the audition, like the one I was at, he often gives a little speech like this:

“When casting an improv show, it’s like going to a grocery store with a recipe in hand. Now, you might have a recipe and it calls for a can of peas, but then you see a delicious can of corn on the shelf. And God you love corn! Corn is so awesome, but you don’t need the corn right now so you don’t buy the corn. You need the peas. So… in case you don’t get cast today, just realize, it doesn’t mean you’re not good, it just means that you’re a can of corn. And maybe next time, the recipe will call for corn.”

James Thomas Bailey - photo by Blake Gardner Photography
James Thomas Bailey – photo by Blake Gardner Photography

After taking photos of James pouring peas and corn out of cans in front of him, I asked my make-up artist, Jenna Keller, to grab the bowl we used to catch them in, and pour them out in front of him so he would be smiling behind a waterfall of peas and corn. James interjected “Um… do… do you just want to dump the peas and corn on my head.” And like a good improviser (one worthy of getting cast) I said, “Yes…. Yes let’s.” 😉

James Thomas Bailey - photo by Blake Gardner Photography
James Thomas Bailey – photo by Blake Gardner Photography

Pro-Photo tip: If you’re going to shoot peas and corn, use frozen peas… canned peas aren’t a pretty shade of green and it takes a lot of Photoshopping to separate peas from corn and change their color.

You can read more from my Forever Grateful project HERE.

2 thoughts on “The Master Chef

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