Monday, February 11, 2008

Addendum: 1 Year Later 2/11/08

Well, here it is. As of tonight I've been performing stand-up comedy for exactly one year. 85 some-odd times at bat (I'm a little behind on the blog... sorry, I'll catch up soon). I've killed many and died humiliating deaths. I've accumulated many good times and a lot of anxiety. I've met many good people and a couple of fucking horrible ones. I've been on a handful of different stages in front of many different audiences. I've had people I've never met me thank me, and I've had the drummer of Alice In Chains be a fucking asshole to me (I win that battle by the way, by NOT being the drummer of Alice In Chains. Jake Merriman: 1, Alice In Chains drummer: 0). I've got to perform opening for headliners at the Comedy Underground and Mainstage. I've gotten to perform at Laff Hole. I've had the opportunity to write with an amazing circle of gifted comedians (Danielle, Solomon, James, and Paul). I've gotten to travel to San Francisco and perform at the Punch Line. I've gotten to perform with some heros (Cathy Sorbo, Dwight Slade, Craig Gass, Ari Shaffir). Most of all I've had the opportunity to tell my jokes on stage and have people listen to them. I am officially 1 year into the dream. So what have I gotten out of it?

Comedy is funny. There's is something about having your head on the chopping block over a period of time that will drive you slowly mad. It's a thankless job in that NO ONE wants to pay you if they don't have to (some exceptions apply, big ups to Laff Hole who will give you a cut even if you only do 5 minutes for them) AND audiences are vicious in their expectations of you even though not one of them would dare trade places with you in million years. You can not trust one comic you meet because it's all ways a competition. Even in this Disneyland we call Seattle where a landslide majority of the comics that I've met are incredibly nice and supportive people, there's all ways this arms length distance of "Who are you and how funny are you?" There are so many times where I ask myself "Why the fuck am I putting myself through all this? Where is this going? What am I doing here? Why do I bother?" I've seen so much evidence that people that pay to see comedy do not want to see the comedy that I want to give them. I've seen so many people so much newer than I am be so much more funny than me. I've shot past a lot of people and have had many people shoot past me. I've gotten so depressed and angry lately that sometimes I'll go up on stage with utter contempt and loathing for the people I'm supposed to entertain, then I'll have a killer set and want to fuck each and every one of them for it. I genuinely think that there is something very wrong with anybody that WANTS to put themselves through this repeatedly. Our culture is sick and retarded in so many ways and in so many ways we add to that. My comedy is not what I want it to be and I'm a long way from it being there. I'm tired all of the time. I know it would be so easy and simple to pack it up and put it away. I could even do it temporarily, I don't have to walk away forever. I would be so much happier. There are so many things I could devote my life to, theatre, film, music, derby ALL of which are going incredibly well for me right now. I could walk away from comedy right now, and it would be so easy, and I wouldn't even miss it.

And yet...

I love it. Warts and all. The shit goes flying away once you perfectly execute a joke and the audience love you for it. Only for that second they love you. They are prepared to hate you that next second, but for that one, oh God only for that one you have created love. You have created happiness, mirth, catharsis, understanding, joy. Those people put their faith in you and you gave them a reason to. You couldn't be closer to a larger group of people. They trusted you and you delivered. It's intoxicating. Fuck everything else. Fuck the bullshit, the hate, the gossip, the shitty treatment, the hecklers, the other comics, the competition, the stress, the anxiety, the anger, the pain, the lost time, fuck it all because you are there for only one moment and only that moment matters. Laughter. It's quick. It's brief. Sometimes it's an instant. Sometime you might, if you're having a really good night, you might get a whole 5 seconds of it. The length doesn't matter. That laughter is a drug and you will chase the fuck our of your first high once you taste it. Laughter is love. Laughter is our currency. Laughter is freedom. Laughter is hope. If we can still laugh amidst the ocean of shit our culture is swimming in right now, if we are that fucking insane that we can still laugh in the face of the horror that is the world that we live in. Then maybe there's a hope that our species isn't entirely doomed. For us, the comedians, the hopeless fucking martyrs that strap ourselves up on the cross night after night, if we can give them laughter, then we can know we did something right. One tiny little right thing that wont measure up to the evil of the world, but maybe, just maybe history can look favorably upon us in that at least we tried. At a hideous expense we gave people we didn't even know something they might not have deserved. But Goddamn it felt good when we were up there didn't it? It's worth it.

So yeah, One Year Later I'm still in it. This last one has been good, this next one may be even better. Or I may need to be institutionalized. It's apparent that quitting will not be an option. I'll see you out there.

Despite what I say, and often how I feel... I truly love you all.

Now please, for me, kill yourselves.

I will if you do it first.

I promise.

One Year Later Lesson: Comedy is funny.

One Year Later Back-Up Lesson: Tragedy is funnier.

Jake Merriman

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Day 71: Hosting for Craig 12/12/07

Craig Gass was kind enough to give me time for his show tonight at the Underground. I was happy as a clam to do this as I am a big fan and it gives me more face-time in a non-open-mic setting. When I get there there's some question with Carl as to whether I'm doing time or not, but it gets sorted out. A few minutes later he asks if I want to host. Of course I want to host. This is a good opportunity as I am good at hosting and can make a better impression. Let's see how this goes.

It's a 50% capacity show, which is not stellar for Craig but great for a Wednesday night. I do my safe set because I know it will get the crowd going. Mission accomplished, they like me and are in a good mood. There was an incredible line-up of guests including and not limited to Harold Gomez, Hennigan, and Jason Stewart (look them up and thank me later). All killed. Really my job was easy, keep the energy going between sets, but the other comedians were on a roll.

Then I bring out Craig Gass. When I do Jason Stewart comes out playing the guitar. They do a bit and then it's the Craig Gass show. He's really funny and amazing to watch. The thing with Craig is that he's such an amazing storyteller that he can read stereo instructions and make it interesting. He's also one of the deadliest impersonators I've seen. Impersonations are so over done that it's almost considered hack anymore, not to mention their are a lot of celebrities that are so impersonated that it's still more dangerously cliche'. The only reason that you'd want to take them on is that you do them perfectly. This is where Craig Gass comes in. His impressions are eerie to a Talented Mr. Riply level (sans Matt Damon). He does some standards: Walken, Pacino, Sandler, and they're perfect. My favorite, however, are his impressions of Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons from Kiss. They're dead-on perfect AND you've never seen anyone else do them before.

The show was awesome, Craig was awesome, Carl told me good job, I had an amazing time, I love this job.

Lesson: When Craig Gass asks you to do time, say yes.

Back-up lesson: When you get asked to host, say yes.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Day 70: Mo' impressions 12/10/07

Tonight is was time for Hip-hop Poetry Revue revamp. I brought it down to Patrick Stewart, George Gaynes and Toby Macguire reciting "Big Pimin'", "Mama Said Knock You Out" and "Me So Horny" respectively. It went better, but I have to work on Patrick Stewart more and streamline his piece. I also have to include a lot more references to the shows that those actors are in. Over all I'm not sure if this bit works as well as the impressions I already do of them, but I gotta test it a few more times to be sure. Refining's a bitch.

Lesson: Condensing is never bad.

Back-up lesson: Best not to stay married to a bit. Just because you love her, doesn't mean it was meant to be.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Day 69: Racism, still funny 12/9/07

Did some new stuff at open mic. I was planning on revamping the Hip-Hop poetry review but I left the lyrics of "Me So Horny" at home (how many times in your life do you get to utter that sentence). I brought out some one liners and metal voice again and tried some racy stuff.

There was a menorah with Christmas lights on the wall so a lot of people were making Jewish jokes so I tried this one I thought of, but never pitched, about an online Jewish dating service. It was a cheap laugh. Then I had this gay pride tag to the Christian Comix bit that a buddy helped me flush out. It had a racist tag at the end that was really funny. I did it and got some groans at the end. Then semi-off the cuff I mentioned, "it's all right, I can do that joke because the person that helped me write it is also white," which got a big laugh.

I've been flirting with this type of material for awhile. I love jokes like that with out them being gratuitous and being a straight white male, that's a thin line I walk. Somehow coming out of that joke with a joke about being white made it OK. Which seems backwards but if you think about it, if you apologize for something like that then it becomes something wrong as you knowingly said it with a guilty conscience. If you believe jokes are jokes (as I do) and stick to your guns, people (for the most part) will stand by you.

Lesson: Racism is funny.

Back-up lesson: Commitment to any material (the material, not the ideas behind them) that might be offensive will take away the offence.

Day 68: Night of the living Hecklers 12/8/07

Well, in terms of my performance, tonight is really a repeat of last night. I did the 2nd show, did the same set, got a good reaction out of a small crowd, yadda yadda yadda.

But that's not what was interesting.

The first show Kevin Hyder (one of the Peoples Republik of Komedy founders and kind enough to be my ride this particular night) did a guest set and he was doing a bit about GM donating letters to troops when this guy starts yelling "Say something funny, we're here for comedy." My take is that he wasn't into the subject matter. Kevin dealt with it in stride and went into his next bit, which is about how he has a hard time with intolerance. The crowd went wild and got on his page really quick. He gave the dude a few slights (referring at one point to "comedophobia") and left with dignity. When Auggie Smith went up to do his set he started with a disclaimer that he'll be telling jokes and if the audience can remain patient he would get to the punchline.

It didn't stop there for Auggie. All during his set there was a random douchebag talking to his girlfriend throughout the set. Auggie at one point walked out into the audience mid bit and stopped to tell the guy to be quiet. Later in the set he stopped and yelled at him until he left. Apparently there was a fight with said guy and another comedian in the parking lot after that. I'm sorry I missed it.

2nd show showdown. The night started with some drunk lady yelling stupid shit out during each set. I'll cut to the chase. Auggie started, she blurted something out and he yelled "Goddammit, two shows in a row" and went off on her until her and her boyfriend left. Apparently there was almost a fight with the boyfriend and one of the comedians. I'm sorry I missed it.

Now I've been lucky that I really haven't had to deal with a heckler yet. This seems like an inevitable reality. I liked Kevin's calm response of going into his next bid and throwing slights at the dude, but I think I might end up more like Auggie and getting very aggressive and yelling at the person. I really don't think there's a right answer for it as long as alcohol is permitted by the United States Government. I guess tonight reminded me it could happen at any time.

Lesson: Be ready for hecklers.

Back-up lesson: Go outside after a heckler leaves and you might get to see a fight.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Day 67: Auggie Smith 12/8/07

Tonight I did a guest set at the Mainstage for a comedian named Auggie Smith. I'll get to him. He did two shows tonight and I wanted to do a guest set for both shows. There ended up being too many comedians and not enough time so I volunteered to sit out of the first show. When I watched the show I was so bummed that I sat out because the audience was hot. They laughed at everything thrown at them. I could've destroyed that room so I was kicking myself.

Then Auggie Smith went up... I'll get to him.

I did a set in the second show and there was 10-15 people there. Fuck. Then it occurred to me: Doing the last show would've been easy and fun, but this room is the challenge. Yeah I could've done a lot of damage to that first crowd but the IF is more intriguing with this crowd. I pull out my "hits" set (bumbershoot, Nicole, Toby, Cheesecake Factory) turned it up to 11 and killed 'em. Even though they were a small crowd they were a great crowd and I can tell they liked me. While it would have been great to do both sets, the choice between and easy win and a challenge should always be for the challenge.

Now Auggie Smith.

I went to see this guy because a couple of people said my style reminded me of him and that he was very, very good. Having seen him he's definitely the comedian that I want to be. He had a clear message with his set, but it never stood in the way of being incredibly funny. He had a relaxed demeanor while at the same time having a lot of presence and energy on stage. He was a clear pro that was in control the whole time. He was amazing and seeing him lit a huge fire under my ass as to what I want to be as a comic. (Danielle shot called that by the way). Look him up, buy his stuff, love him.

Lesson: The high road will lead you to greener pasture.

Back-up lesson: You'll hear your voice as much in professionals as you will in yourself.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Day 66: Impressions 12/5/07

Comedy Jam at Comedy Underground. There was a small quiet audience tonight and I wanted to try new material. Do I do my Political stuff again, or do I try this impression set I've put together but not tested. Luckily for me, Travis Simmons went up before me and did political jokes AND impressions. The impressions took. I knew my course.

A few years ago I decided my audition for Saturday Night Live would be a sketch called "The Christopher Lee Hip-Hop Poetry Revue", where I do impressions of actors reading rap lyrics as poetry. I put it up tonight. It features Christopher Lee reading "Southern Hospitality" by Ludacris, Patrick Stewart reading "Big Pimpin'" by Jay-Z, Toby MacGuire reading "Me So Horny" by 2 Live Crew, George Gaynes reading "Mama Said Knock You Out" by LL Cool J, and John Giulgud reading "Bitches Ain't Shit" by Snoop Doggy Dog.

It got a decent reaction in parts so I think I know where I need to streamline it though. The horrific tragedy is that I don't think too many people know who Christopher Lee is and I may need to change it to "The Patrick Stewart Hip-Hop Poetry Review". In my heart I know Christopher Lee is more funny, but what's more important, being right or making audiences laugh? Being right clearly, it's a good thing I'm a sell-out though.

Lesson: Take the plunge and test new things on a cold audience, you can learn a lot about them.

Back-up lesson: All right, all right, it actually IS more important to make audiences laugh than to be right.