Thursday, February 15, 2007

Day 1: Crossing the Threshold 2/11/07

The hardest part in all of this for me has been dragging my ass to an open mic in the first place. Really it's not that big of a deal. Open mics in a nutshell 1. Show up an hour early. 2. Sign in. 3. Wait (drinking recommended, not mandatory). 4. Talk for three minutes, hope for laughs. That's it, but somehow in all that I have not been able to get my ass to one of these things. It's not for lack of material, I always have at least 45 minutes of stand up gold (well, copper) flying through my head in the shower as I distract myself from getting to work in time. I... just... kept talking myself out of it. Fear of failure? Fear of success? Path of least resistance? All of the above? Who knows, you decide.

Now, I've put my dreams for comedy on the table with a lot of people, mostly in the hopes of getting that swift kick in the balls from them that would make me do it. Enter Joe Jacobs. Joe is a recently acquired roommate who has the annoying/inspiring tendency to call me out on anything that I say I want to do. "I'd like to direct Hamlet" I say, the next day Joe says "So what's going on with Hamlet?". Asshole. Then when I put the comedy thing on the table he's like "Let's fucking go, I'll drive you right now." Asshole. The week before we had a false start when I gave in, checked the time of the open mic at Comedy Underground and we were too late. Whew. "Next week then?" Joe asks. Asshole.

But I had plans to work on Hamlet so I was off the hook, until those plans fell through. So here I was confronted with a Sunday, no excuses and Joe sitting in the room with me. I think he forgot, but his mere presence reminded me that I had to stop being a pussy. Asshole. So I buckled down and asked "Comedy Underground?" "Let's do it" he said. Yeah, you know, asshole. I grabbed my notebook and we left to face my destiny.

I will hold off on it for now, but soon I will post an elaborate dissertation on the intense culture study that is the open mic. It's fascinating, but to be brief:
- roomful of tense comics wanting their shit to land
- 5 actual paying viewers, usually friends of the tense comics
- a few more experienced people trying new stuff
- barrage of three minute acts, about 1/2 squeezing out sympathy laughs at most
- tension

I was nervous as hell, which was unusual. I don't get nervous before plays or before I announce roller derby or burlesque, but going in to this place I was shaking. Having Joe there was a blessing because he distracted me from myself. I rambled at him and studied my notes and felt better as the night went on. I also felt better because as I was going on late, there were quite a few people before me, and a lot of them were not pulling anything from the audience. Not that I was going to be any better, but in the worst case scenario I'd be tied with 1o other people.

After two hours, some really funny stuff, some really awkward stuff, and a lot of heart (anyone who gets up in an open mic has balls of steel and deserves much respect, funny or no funny) I'm coming up soon. I relax and just say "fuck it" to myself and fall back on what I do best, not giving a shit what people think of me. The emcee that night was named Peter whom I've met briefly before. Understandably he didn't recognize me until he asked if I wanted anything mentioned about me and I said I announced for the Rat City Roller Girls (, He's seen our shows and knows fellow announcer Queen Mum aka Cathy Sorbo who's been in the comedy industry since I could color inside the lines. It was nice to have a familiarity with him especially before I went on. Then moment of truth.

It went about as realistically idealistic as it could have. First time up ever with barely rehearsed material was not going to kill. Especially when the dwindling audience had been incredibly quiet for the last hour. I used half of a two part bit because I only had 3 minutes. For our purposes we'll refer to it as the "cocaine bit". I got the crowds attention, landed my opener, dropped a few in the middle and started to steer into part 2 of the bit, then came back to finish it with the closer for this bit. Now, the closer was going to be my litmus test because I was incredibly proud of it and figured, "if this doesn't land, I'm not as funny as I thought." (pause for effect)... Landed it. It felt great to bring an audience back from the dead for even a few moments.

After I went up, one of the "Last Comic Standing" guys came up to do a surprise set. It was amazing to see a professional in the wake of all the new guys. Night and Day. He started killing right away and did until he left. It was a brilliant example of the esoteric nature of the art, because it wasn't that his jokes were much more profound than a lot of the stuff we were hearing, but the experience behind it gave him the power to work his funny on us. Good lesson.

I got a lot out of that first night. I learned what worked in my bit and what I need to cut or edit. I learned how important it is to go as much as possible and keep practicing amidst the pain. I learned I have something to offer, but I got a ways to go. I learned that I love it and want to keep doing it.

Joe had great feedback. He said I looked like an actual comedian who was just trying out new stuff. He said I looked comfortable and natural on stage and all I need to work out is the technicality and timing of the bits. That felt great because that's exactly where I need to be to do this. As Bill Hicks said "Let the party begin."

Lesson: You can't win if you don't play.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Prologue: 3rd Grade to Now

I don't know where or why I came up with the dream to become a comedian, but my earliest confrontation with it came in the 3rd grade. My class had a project to trace our body outlines on construction paper and we had to draw in our future careers. This is easy when your answer is "astronaut" or "doctor" because there is a clear idea what one looks like. The only thing I could come up with for "comedian" is what I was wearing plus a helicopter beanie. In hindsight it could've been a sledge hammer and a watermelon.

Over the years my goals have shifted and changed. I found out how much comedians make so I amended it to "get on Saturday Night Live." I discovered theatre in Jr. high and found I had a knack for it. My dream became "movie star". I spent most of high school on stage in plays or emceeing events. Understanding better the realities of the industry, I settled my dream on "working actor". In college I found a couple of things, I'm a decent actor, but much better director, that I'm too idealistic for the industry, and 90% of actors are completely fucked up human beings. My dream became "director/theatre revolutionary". When I moved to
Seattle I found that contemporary theatre is awful and is only taken slightly more seriously than poetry, no one involved seems to think there's a problem, the standard is incredibly low, and trying to change it will be pissing in the wind. My current dream is "let theatre die/have a place where I can do plays with a standard". (Check out my theatre rants in the blog "Comedy is Dead, Tragedy is Deadier")

But for all my years of dreams and yearnings I've always held onto comedy in the back of my head. I always thought I would be good at it, and at the very least I would be better than some of the people making careers of it. I've studied it obsessively, watching "Evening at the Improv" and "MTV's Half Hour Comedy Hour" as a kid and following the careers of my favorites throughout the years. I listen to comedy 6 out of 7 nights I go to bed (5 of those are Bill Hicks CDs). It's always bugged me that I haven't done it.

I followed through with a lot of shit that I wanted to do, music, acting, directing, announcing and emceeing and other areas of entertainment, but I could never drag myself into comedy. I think there was too much at stake for me so I've continually been a pussy about it. I've constantly had great excuses as to why I didn't try to do open mics or shows, don't remember any of them now. At this point it seems to late. I'm 31, I should've started when I was 21, I've got a lot of other great things on my plate, it takes YEARS to get shit together and get really good and get off the ground floor, it pays dick, and supposedly I have to grow up in the near future.

Fuck it.

Why the fuck not. You only live once and if I don't do it now I'll just keep beating myself up over it. Plus the 10 years I have not been doing comedy I've been on stage training and working in comedy like elements so it's not as if I'm going in cold. I have a few contacts already, so I've got more of a leg up than most people in the open mics. I have a lot of material, might as well use it, and what's the worst that could happen...? I chased a dream that I couldn't catch. Most people don't even start the chase.

So here it is bared out for you all. My entire career in comedy as it unfolds. I suspect a lot of it will be self-deprecating in an attempt to not take myself so seriously. I suspect it will start of long winded and full of exploration, and then get shorter as time goes on until it's something like "Performed. Bombed. Suicidal. Good night." I suspect it will have high points and low points. I suspect I'll drop the ball on it like I do most things.

Which is where you, my lovely reader(s), come in. Hold me accountable. Don't let me get away with shit. If I start acting like a bitch call me out. If I avoid blogging this, mail bomb me, if I stop doing it, don't be my friend anymore. One of the reasons I'm writing this is so I HAVE to keep going. I hope it will be entertaining in the meantime.

I love you, even though we'll all die.