Thursday, September 27, 2007

Day 44: Accidental Funny 9/26/07

I didn't intend to do time tonight, but it's funny how things work out. I went to Mainstage because Travis Simmons was having a send-off to L.A. and Danielle and I wanted to say goodbye to him. We weren't going to stay long because Solomon was doing a set at Laff Hole and we wanted to catch it. The first thing Travis says to us as we arrive is "Wanna go up?" "We gotta leave soon." "All right, you two go up first." Well there you have it.

I spent some time talking to Julie Mains before I went up. We got reconnected as it's been awhile. She's still got my back and I got hers... good to be reminded of. I got to introduce her to Danielle which I think will be the beginning of a beautiful relationship. We'll see what happens.

I go up. The crowd is intimate, but close to the stage and really connected. I had a blast with them. I did the set I've been doing all week (Bumbershoot, Nicole, Toby, Bidet, Neuva Ring, Cheesecake Factory) and they were into it. The great thing about a crowd like that is it sets you free to play, and the more you play the more fun they have. A comedy perpetual motion if you will. I was flailing around more, pushing the material, at one point laying on the tables as I invited one of the audience to The Cheesecake Factory for Valentine's Day.

That freedom was an important feeling. It occurs to me that I should be attacking all of my sets like that, not just ones I'm given silent permission to. There's a comic in the scene I really enjoy named Andy Peters. Every time I see him he attacks with such fearlessness you can help but enjoy him and think he's funny. Even on the rare occasion that a bit by him doesn't land, his candor will always rescue it. It turns out there is no reason any comedian can't attack like that, in fact it's those comedians that succeed.

ps: Solomon DESTROYED Laff Hole. Danielle is next. She will kill.

Lesson: Be free on stage, the audience will WANT to come with you.

Backup lesson: You never know when you're going to go up. Be ready.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Day 43: Laughs at Laughs 9/25/07

Tried an open mic in a new club tonight. "Laughs" in Kirkland (on the East Side... where the white people are). I've heard this is a tough room and I heard right. The space itself is nice but in typical open mic fashion there were a lot more comics than audience... and the audience weren't ready to laugh. I was #7 on the list.

A handful of the people that went before me did not get one laugh. Ouch. I realized the audience would be a tough nut to crack so I decided to use my same set from Laff Hole. Open with Bumbershoot, then Nicole Ritchie, Toby, a new one I call Owen Wilson (this was the only switch, I traded it for Bidet, it went all right), and Cheesecake Factory. My set actually did well. I find it's good to start with strong material the first time you go into a room. Get the bookers on your side.

The rest of the night was hit and miss with some good comedians and some dead sets. I actually like these dead rooms because I feel like they're an endurance test for comedians. Doing a set to an appreciative audience feels really good, but it's hard to learn from it. When you can get laughs from a tough crowd you KNOW you've earned it. If you don't get a peep, it's time to go back to the drawing board and rework it. I love Laff Hole and Lo-Ball, but I gotta keep hitting Laughs, Mainstage, and Kona Kitchen (haven't been there yet but I hear it's the toughest room in Seattle) if I'm going to become a better comedian.

Lesson: Do tough rooms, the measure of a good comedian.

Backup lesson: Hit 'em first with your best shot. Get 'em on your side. THEN test the new stuff.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Day 42: That's Riffn' 9/23/07

Jesus Christ. 5 sets in 5 days... I don't think I've done that yet. It's been a fun run though.

Tonight was open mic at the Underground. I was going to try this gag set tonight, but not enough of the people I wanted to gag showed up, so I was just going to try to clean up some stuff. As the night went on I sensed a low energy in the crowd and the only thing that was landing was dick jokes. I scrapped the material I was going to use and put together a list of my dick jokes and decided to take advantage of this opportunity.

I have been wanting to practice my riffing. There are some people here that are amazing at it, and in SF I saw one guy who probably doesn't ever have to tell a joke, he can just work off of a crowd. So tonight was as good a night as any.

I started by thanking the crowd for coming and supporting local comedy, then I started riffing on a table that had a couple of new comedians. One guy had Sideshow Bob hair so I thanked him for not coming up and making the rest of us look bad. I said his buddy looked like the professor from Gilligan's Island and his other friend could do a Jack Nicholson impression with out any talking which I segued into Toby. I asked another table if they were here for comedy or friends, they said comedy and I replied "Not quite what you were expecting was it?" Segued into inappropriate humor with which I brought out bidet... then I did my impression of Solomon (who went up right before me) doing bidet, then my impression of Emmet (the host) doing bidet. I feel like mission accomplished. My goal was to resurrect the crowd and they were pretty hype by the time I was done. I can't wait to practice some more.

Lesson: When the crowd is quiet, acknowledge them.

Backup lesson: Riffing, like any other skill, takes practice, so use your opportunities.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Day 41: Basement Joxe 9/22/07

Really cool night tonight. It wasn't a show or a club but a party of all things. There was a showing for an entry into Seattle's Adult Film Festival, and a bunch of us comix opened it up. It was in a basement where two relatively new open micers, Andy and Misty, live and Danielle, Solomon and I were asked to do some time at it. I wasn't expecting much, but it was time and practice so what the fuck? Turns out it was awesome.

There were a bunch of couches and chairs and everyone was lounging around looking forward to having a good time. The crowd was ready to laugh. We were half worried that they would laugh at their friends who were throwing the party and not us, who they didn't know, but they were INTO it. Danielle and Solomon killed, again, which is pretty status quo anymore. Both tried new shit that was incredible. They're hard to keep up with for reals. My set was a lot of fun. I opened with Bumbershoot, then Nicole, Toby, Bidet, Style, Cocaine, 80s, and Neuva Ring, then I took requests and Andy shouted George Gaynes, which I had shelved, but I did it and it ended up killing. Finally I closed with Cheesecake Factory. It was great and then we watched porn.

I don't know how to describe it other than it felt like a speakeasy. Actually, there was a book I read several years ago that really influenced how I think creatively called Immediatism by Hakim Bey. It's a manifesto on how the closer the artists work is to the intended audience, the more genuine it is. For instance, writing a song for someone and playing it for them on the guitar is a very IMmediated artistic experience as opposed to an actor on a television show who is very mediated (distanced) from someone watching it. This was probably the most immediated set I've done (the first Centrailia show is a close 2nd), where it's not a show, but something you're doing for friends who appreciate it. God willing I never lose this if I make it. Yeah I want to make a living at this, but I never want to sacrifice the love of doing it for people that enjoy it. Let me never say no to basement party shows.

Lesson: Even if a set doesn't sound ideal, take it, you never know.

Back-up lesson: Don't forget why you're here, to make people laugh. Business is secondary.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Day 40: Chai Time 9/21/07

Another Lo-Ball open mic at Mr. Spot's Chai House in Ballard. Lo-ball is like an idyllic comedy paradise; intimate crowd, everyone's nice, funny people come out, good energy, lots of support and enough caffeine to give an elephant a heart attack. I signed up last so I'm the inadvertent headliner.

There were lots of great sets by lots of great people. Danielle and Solomon both did new shit I haven't seen before; guess what? They killed. For my set I blew the dust off of some old material. I started with a riff regarding a band poster on the bathroom wall (which worked surprisingly) then busted out Style, Cocaine and 80s and it had been WAY too long since I've done those so it was a little sketchy. The iced-apple-chai I downed right before my set sure as fuck didn't help. I thought I learned this lesson before. Nope, my mind couldn't slow down enough to remember my transitions. Things got thrown around. Oh well, it didn't go bad, but not NEARLY as good as it could've. I closed out with Neuva Ring to save face. I didn't destroy but I had a lot of fun.

I shot the shit with some of the comics afterward. All really good people. I got to talk to one of my favorites, a woman named Carla who's part of a group called "Stand Up and Deliver" (she's my favorite of the group). She's a sharp woman with subtly edgy shit who's on the verge of breaking out of her cocoon and destroying motherfuckers. In my head I built up this Sally Field in Punchline thing where she tried it out and found that she was heads and tails above the rest. Who can tell? We just went back and forth saying nice things about each other. It felt good.

I really want to headline that room soon, 'cept next time I'll stick with water.

Lesson: No stimulants before performance.

Backup lesson: Keep working new stuff, but don't let your old stuff go cold. Blow the dust off them once in a while.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Day 39: Centrailia 2: Electric Boogaloo 9/20/07

Back to Centrailia at the Hub City Club. Same M.O. as before: Comics come down to Centrailia to make lonely people laugh.

The road trip began as kind of a clusterfudge as we were trying to figure out how we were getting down there. Short story: assurances were made that were not followed through with. We finally got together and hit the road thanx to Erik who was one of the comics this time around. Nick, Solomon, Danielle, Erik, Me in a car down talking intimately about sexuality. We arrive 15 minutes late.

Bigger crowd than before. Nick hosted. There was a kid from Centrailia who did his first stand-up. His name was Action Rick and he had a great first set. We loved him. Later Nick brought Danielle up as a "black woman" (if you're reading this Nick; bad form bud). Danielle had lost her voice and her whole set sounded like Jessica Rabbit, which was hot. She worked it well. Solomon was awesome and put up new stuff which was really funny. My set was mostly new stuff with a few goodies and a little riffing. I opened with a riff on Centrailia and small towns, then did Bumbershoot, Solicitor, Christian Comix, Tab, Nicole, Toby and closed with Fanta. I wouldn't say I killed but I didn't die either. I went up on my Christian Comix bit, which blew because I lost the funniest part of it. Oh well. Centrailia still loves us. They gave us pizza. We love Centrailia. After the show we drove home and talked about God.

Centrailia is a great place to go and I love Hub City Club and the people that go, but there are some seriously organizational issues with the production that are almost as infuriating as performing there is rewarding. I want to keep going and supporting them, but I don't know where my threshold with dealing with flaky shit is. I got at least one more in me for next month, but we'll see after that.

What the fuck? A room is a room and right now I'm a comedy whore so I'll probably keep saying yes.

Lesson: Don't just go through your set list before the show, go through your set.

Backup lesson: Flaky shit needs to be addressed and dealt with. There are no reasons or excuses for putting up with them.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Day 38: Fuk Ing Laff Hole 9/19/07

Laff Hole.

Laff Hole is the independent comedy show put together by a group of comics calling themselves the People's Republic of Komedy. Laff Hole is the main indie comic show in Seattle that has created a huge scene for itself since 2005. These guys have gained so much clout that they were able to set up some of the shows for Bumbershoot. Laff Hole is the room everyone wants to play.

Last Friday they asked me to play it.

I said yes.

I set myself the goal of doing it before the end of the year, but it's one of those things where they ask you, you don't sign up. I didn't expect to get asked so soon, but I mo' fucking jumped at the chance.

I got there early to check in and find out when my set was going up. They told me over the phone I'd do 7-10 min but when I got there, there was a booking snafu and told me to do 5 min instead. Sheeeeit, I would've done 1 min. I'm up 3rd.

I plugged this show with my friends because it was such a good opportunity so I knew the deck was stacked in my favor. Nonetheless a lot was riding on this, plus some of my friends haven't seen me before so I wanted them to like it. I put together a solid set (Bumbershoot, Nicole, Toby, Bidet, Cheesecake Factory) and the only thing left to do was have fun and enjoy myself.

It. Was. AWESOME. I killed from front to back. I had that room in the palm of my hand and there was nothing they could do about it. I was in complete control. It felt amazing. I had to walk it off as soon as I was done.

The P.R.O.K guys had really nice things to say about my set. Some of them saw me early on when I was rough and appreciated how far I'd come. Others who didn't know my shit as well were impressed. I got a lot of good feedback and it seems I'm in a good place to do the room again. My friends really enjoyed the set. Life is good. I even made $20 bringing my total comedy earnings to $132.50. I feel like I made a jump in the circles here. Gotta keep working, gotta get better. Long way to the top.

Lesson: People respond to your product, not how nice you are or how long they've known you. Do the work.

Backup lesson: When a set is at stake, own it. Use your good shit and take it seriously.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Day 37: Holy Fucking Shit I Performed in San Francisco 9/16/07

Many of you may be wondering (as I currently am)... how did this happen?

Two people are to be hailed for this event. The first is a friend from college who has been dominating the San Fran comedy scene for the last three years, Nico Santos. Nico contacted me to let me know about a show going on down there with David Cross headlining, Cathy Sorbo doing one of the featured sets and Nico hosting (with an out-out-outside shot of me getting a guest set... I'll spare you the suspense, I didn't get it). He suggested I come down for it. The out-out-outside shot was enough to bring me down... now how the fuck do I get down there? That question segues us into the second person that deserves vast amounts of praise, my roommate, yes the asshole, Joe. I'll spare you the gruesome details (as he probably wouldn't want them spilled all over the ether... I will volunteer that it involved killing a chicken and using its blood to draw a circle on the ground... but I've already said too much), suffice it to say that he got me there. No bullshit here, he deserves credit for every good thing that happens to me in comedy. He's not alone, I get support from a lot of people, and I love and appreciate them very much for it, but Joe is the first on the list and no one will take that from him or me ever. He knew (better than me to be honest with you) how important it was for me to get down there and made it happen. I didn't want the chicken anyway, they make shitty pets.

They say in entertainment it's not what you know, it's who you know. In comedy I think it's who you know and oh-by-the-way-it's-incredibly-convenient-if-you're-funny-too. Well luckily for me, I know Nico Santos. Nico and I were in the Theatre Dept. of Southern Oregon University together where we studied becoming incredibly jaded about acting (he went on to Costume Design, I went on to Directing, we both went on to comedy). He was a fucking funny guy then so it came as no surprise when I found out he was kicking ass in the San Francisco comedy scene. What I didn't realize was exactly how much ass he was kicking.

He set me up with 7 minutes at the Punch Line SF's "Comedy Showcase". Cool, should be fun. What I didn't realize until I got there is that most comedians break their heads over that scene for as much as a year before they get a spot at the Showcase. Nico had enough pull to set me up with it and that was that. Oh, did I mention Nico had never actually seen my stand-up before? Ballsy mother fucker if you ask me. The other thing with The Punch Line is that you show up, and if they put you up you go and if not you don't. Nonetheless you have to wait to find out. Here, they put up a list and if you're not on it you go home. Not in SF... ouch. What I'm saying to you in so many words is Nico stuck his neck out for me having no idea how good I actually am and I jumped over a handful of comedians who probably want to stab my eyes, that is to say... no pressure.

Before the show starts Nico introduces me to a bunch of comics who are all incredibly nice. That put me at ease actually, you could tell that they all really support each other down there. It's like that for the most part in Seattle, but you never know if that will be the case elsewhere. Big ups to SF comics. People find out they go up right before they actually go up, I get slated for 3rd. Fucking great. The crowd was kinda cold and the first couple of comics didn't have a lot of luck with them so I knew I had to turn up the juice. I had to remind myself that this is fun and I'm just going to have a good time if they like me or not. OK then here I go... went

Which is not to say it was a perfect set, but I grabbed them right away, and they left with me as well. I did Bumbershoot, Nicole Ritchie, Toby, George Gaynes (which I might shelve or rework a bit), Bidet, Neuva Ring, and closed with Cheesecake. I had to drop a chunk of Cheesecake (I kill me) because of time, (which is a lesson I'm glad I learned 3 entries ago and not tonight), but they loved it. They loved Bumbershoot, Nicole, and Toby. George got silence and Neuva Ring got groans and one guy fucking dying. Overall they loved me. What was better was seeing that the host really dug me as I left. What was the best was the look of "wow" on Nico's face when I got off the stage. I was accepted. I was in. Oh yeah, and I have it on DVD too.

I got a lot of compliments from the other comedians as well. They all were really cool and supportive. I was on Cloud 9, from where I watched the rest of the show. SF has some amazing comics and I'd go into some of them if I wasn't getting tired (I'd go into some of them period, OH SNAP!), however I will talk about Nico because this was actually my first time seeing him as well and HOLY SHIT IS HE FUNNY! He had my favorite bit of the night as well as one of my favorite sets. I don't want to give anything away so I'll just say that I was in the bathroom when he went up so I listened to his opener in there and lost it mid-pee. On top of that he has an amazing Iron Chef judge impression as well as a dead on Aaron Neville, but his closer, oh Dear Holy Lord, his closer reduced me to tears.

The rest of the weekend was San Frantastic. I hung out with a variety of our friends that ended up down there. Saw the David Cross show. Got to talk shop with Nico and a lot of the other comics down there. Learned a lot about where I'm going and how I get there and how I WANT to get there. Perfect fucking vacation.

Lesson: When life hands you an opportunity, take it no matter what. (Even if it involves sacrificing a chicken oh wait I've said to much never mind).

Back-up lesson: Keep good people in your life, they will pave the way to your success. It wont happen alone.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Day 36: La Muerto Quiete 9/09/07

Open mic at Underground tonight. Quiet audience tonight... very quiet.

Been a long time since Underground has been this quiet. I'm sure several factors are involved. Among them a host that doesn't have the most stage presence in the world, along with 4 of the first 5 comics being very new and not super skilled. The stage was set... (so to speak), the audience was bored and non-responsive. Most of them trickled out by the time any of our crew went up. The only one to get anything out of the crowd tonight was Danielle, who woke everybody up for the 3 minutes she was up there... then back to sleep.

Which is not to say we had bad sets, it's to say we had our work cut out as far as getting any response. I don't consider this a shitty night, I consider this trial by fire. Danielle proved you can get a response, you just have to turn it up to level 1000 to get it.

I was testing new stuff and decided to go with it. I put up one called "Fanta" which went well, "Gay Conspiracy" which will go on the back burner for a bit, and closed with "Neuva ring" which got more "Oooohs" than laughs (honestly fine with me). So I didn't turn 'em out, but that wasn't the goal tonight. James had a bold new set. Solomon was awesome. Paul came back (finally) with some great shit. And the Russian came back!!! (see "Day 2: Theatre of Awkward") Most meta-funny guy ever.

A bunch of us comics went to Denny's afterward. Hanging out with comedians is great... it's all the great parts of hanging out with actors, without the bad shit. I like this life.

Lesson: Test new shit in a safe environment first, practice resurrection on a dead crowd.

Back-up lesson: Never throw a cookie at a woman's face... especially from the stage.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Day 35: Lo Ballin' 9/7/07

Open mic in a new venue.

"Lo-Ball" is the title of the "People's Republic of Komedy" show in Ballard at Mr. Spot's Chai House. Lo-Ball was a monthly show but this month it is a weekly show and two of these weeks are open mics. Lo-Ball is kind of a stepping stone to get a spot at the "Laff Hole" which is P.R.O.K.s main show. Danielle and I opened our mics to Lo-Ball.

Fun venue. Basically an open mic at a coffee house (except chai house). The neat thing is that the lighting is such that you see everyone (like at the Capitol Club) so you have a direct relationship with everyone you're talking too. Derek Sheen (who is a funny mo-fo AND comic geek) is running the show. Danielle set me up with the show but through some unforeseen reason I'm not on the list. Turns out to be an oversight and Derek hooks me up. I go 2nd.

I tried to do the clean hits because it's a new house so I want to impress, but it's an all ages show so I don't want to make things too uncomfortable. Turned out there was really dirty stuff so it was a moot point. Nonetheless I did: Bumbershoot, Toby, Nicole Ritchie, Cheesecake Factory. Went well, people laughed. Danielle killed. Fucking Lydia was incredible. The nice thing about it is that it was simply a great open mic where almost everyone killed. Even a few that struggle had some of their best sets.

I don't know that Seattle needs another indie comedy show, but I'll hit the open mic there any time I can.

Lesson: Keep up with what's going on in the scene so that you can become apart of said scene.

Backup lesson: With so many amazing comics out there, there's always room for improvement. Don't get comfortable.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Day 34: No mo' drama 9/2/07

Fucking Hell man.

Solomon's show (now titled "Draft Dodgers of the 21st Century"), Capitol Club. Danielle, Solomon and I are gonna perform, Danielle hosts, Corbet goes up, David Cope closes. Easy right? Until David doesn't show up and seems confused that we're calling him. Danielle finally gets through to him and he remembers he has a show. To his credit he jumps into a cab and gets there in time. But he was bringing the microphones and couldn't now. Luckily I had one, but no chord. Luckily the sound guy had one, but no connector to the mixer. Luckily my friend Dean had one, but he lived on 12th, which was six blocks away, uphill. I ran.

I need more exercise.

If David didn't show up I'd have to do a half-hour set and had no idea what to do. So I put together a set of new shit that I didn't do last time. Danielle, Solomon and I were all flustered about the pre-show drama and oh yeah, everyone's at Bumbershoot so the audience was light. We held for a bit and people showed up. We got started.

The audience was quiet and Danielle had a rough time with them as she was distracted by production shit. Solomon went up and had a rough time as he was distracted by production shit. I probably would've had a rough time too, but since they went up first I had just enough time to clear my head so I could rock the crowd. I'm glad for that time because my set ended up going very well. Intermission. Corbet went up and had a good set. David closed and fucking killed like we knew he would.

In the midst of all of this EVEN MORE dramatic shit went down in the form of a horrible miscommunication between Solomon and another party. So AFTER the show Danielle and I have to do what we can to diffuse and clear up the situation. It took some work but I think everything is cool.

This is why I don't want to work in production right now. To much stress that stands in the way of comedy. I had a show opportunity thrown at me and it occurs I don't want it because a)too many fucking show already and b) I don't want to be a producer, I want to be a comic. Not only do I want to be a comic but I want to be a great comic. Dealing with fucking drama stands in the way of being that and it simply isn't worth it. I want to tell jokes, and then I want to tell jokes, and then I want to tell jokes. End. Of. Fucking. Story.

There was a very selfish part of me that was upset that I couldn't just celebrate that I had a really good set that night. That way danger leads. If I start trying to get caught up in how good I'm doing, I lose sight of way more important shit that deserves and requires much more of my attention. I found this out the hard way. It's so not worth it. A good set is in the past. The next set is in the future. Don't ever close your eyes to what's happening right now.

Lesson: Drama is never worth the effort.

Backup lesson: Keep your eyes off of yourself and keep 'em on your loved ones. If you don't have loved ones, it's because you lost sight of this lesson.