Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Day 16: Dwight Slayyyed 4/28/07

Second day of hosting for Dwight Slade. At 10 minutes to open no comics were there. Hmmm. Geoff showed up a minute later. It's not like we were worried that Dwight wouldn't show up, it was more a situation of... well what do we do if he doesn't. He did long story short. No guest. I did my "don't drink" bit to warm the crowd up. Didn't work. Tonight I recorded my set. When I listened back to it, I think I figured out why no one laughed... it wasn't that funny. Man, listening to your work is a painful but valuable learning experience. Now I know what worked and what didn't but it's hard to go back again and listen more than once. It's like watching an episode of 3's Company and being uncomfortably embarrassed for Jack Tripper, except you're Jack Tripper.

Nothing much to say about the first show out side that Geoff and Dwight were on FIRE! They killed, and it was a really small crowd, who were very cold due to my lack of warmth. But holy shit it was an amazing duo.

The second show, however, was another thing entirely...

The room was pretty darned empty. My friends showed up (I paid for my roommates to come because they were broke at the time and Dwight was too important not to see), which was nice, but something was in the air with this one. I was wondering what to go up with and Julie (one of the owners of Mainstage for you CIFTIF newbs) said, "Just go have fun and don't worry."

Bad-Great advice Julie!

I went up and threw some material out. I had developed this bit about Gay Marriage during the '04 election and used some of that, mind you completely untested, because Travis Simmons and I were talking politics earlier and I thought, why the fuck not? I transitioned it into my "Gays in Seattle" bit which is not very tested but always works fairly well. Point being I was just winging it without giving a fuck. The crowd seemed into it with an intellectual difference. (I tried recording it but I ran out of room on the recorder... bummer). Now I'm not saying that I set any kind of precedent with my opening set, nearly as much as I was privy to whatever energy was in the room that show, but it was strange and brilliant.

Travis Simmons, who I've met many times and who I think is really funny, did a guest set. I think he was a little drunk because a lot of his usual bits didn't have any of his normal follow through... and then he just started talking about the debates (which we were talking about 7 seconds before I went up on stage). No jokes, just talking and pontificating. Then he was done and walked off.

Geoff Brousseau went up and did his 25 minutes, but none of it resembled the stuff he did the last 3 shows. Also he talked about his girlfriend a lot. This was not new because he had a lot of bits about his girlfriend and she was there for a few shows, but here it was more like he was just talking to the audience without telling any bits. He had funny stuff, but for the most part he was pontificating. He didn't kill like he did the other shows, but he didn't lose the audience... it was like he didn't care if they laughed or not but he still wanted to work his stuff on them... hard to explain.

Then... Dwight.

Well, Dwight was tapped into what ever was going on in the room... but times 10. There were a lot of bits that he didn't do and really long areas where he was doing more philosophizing that doing bits. There was an uncompromising honesty about it that was incredible to watch. It was his funniest set of the weekend, but it was by far his most powerful. The audience liked him, I gotta clarify that the audience wasn't a bad audience, it was just small with a weird vibe. He talked about getting divorced and how he felt, then run it into a funny story. He talked about the Hollywood/Reality show mentality and really broke down these thoughts and ideas, things that fascinated him but few could really concern themselves with unless you were as curious and passionate a person. Something that Bill Hicks and Dwight Slade have in common, which I'm certain was a strong foundation to their friendship, and something I directly relate to and draw inspiration from, is that they are so passionately idealistic that the actual state of the world crushes their hopes for what could be and leaves them cynical. They aren't cynical because they're full of spite but because they are full of so much love and hope in a world full of shit.

The audience kept talking back to him on stage, not heckling mind you, as much as chiming in. You could see it was irritating him (because that's a very irritating thing when you are on stage) and he fucked with them about it, but it said something about the state of the room. The were in a dialogue with him. Now in a dialogue you don't necessarily have to chime in, I'm just saying that's the level they engaged him on, which, while irritating, says something about how far he brought the audience into him.

There wasn't as much laughter at this show as the others, but there was something more profound happening. There was something that you just don't get to see at most comedy shows and in fact anywhere else... you got to see someone being who they are inside and out. In our day to day lives you only ever encounter the front that someone puts on. You get to see it with your friends, and only in the rarest occasion with somebody that you don't know,and certainly it's never on display. But for one night, unadvertised, for the precious few, you got to see into the heart and mind of a passionate and desperate man.

When I thanked the audience for coming I editorialized that art comes from an unfiltered truth and that I hoped the audience would one day realize how lucky they were to be there that night. I do.

At the end of the night I got a hold of Dwight's CDs and then I went up and said "All right, I'm going to do something incredibly gay... could you sign this?" and whipped out my copy of the Bill Hicks biography "American Scream" open to a picture of the two of them together when they were 15. Geoff was there and said "That's not gay, that's actually incredibly touching." (thanks Geoff). Dwight acquiesced and wrote "Always Believe" and signed it.

Always Believe. Simple. Elegant. Inspiring. It's a quote worthy of my Grandfather (Papa) Lindsay. So much in four syllables.

All. Ways. Be. Lieve (read: love; live; life).

Take this with you, you can have it too. You deserve it.

Can we ever really know the impact that we have on others. It's probably rare because we're so wrapped up in our own stupid shit that we can't see the world around us, let alone our effect on it. Well, I hope you get to read this Dwight because then, at least for a moment, you get a view of the impact you had on me. It's appreciated.

Lesson: Always Believe

Backup Lesson: Truth, uncompromising, will transcend and impact from any creative medium. "All but the Truth forget."

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Day 15: My Date With Dwight Slade 4/27/07

Well, not really a date with Mr. Slade, but I got to host for him.

You know the background: Me is a huge Bill Hicks fan. Dwight Slade is old friend/former comedy partner of the late Bill Hicks. This is a big night for me.

However it occurred to me that I haven't really seen or heard Mr. Slade's stand-up before. I knew his reputation and I knew he won the Seattle International Comedy Competition... I just hadn't heard him yet. Thank you Internet. I was able to brush up and get to know his stuff before I met him. Guess what? He was really funny. What I saw was cynical yet poignant, which is what Bill Hicks is as well. However he had his own humor and you couldn't call him a Bill Hicks rip-off (like some other people named Dennis Leary who made a career off of stealing an entire album of material from him).

So yakity schmakity I get to meet him. Nice guy, a little quiet, but in a nice way. He had his son with him. I tried not to geek out and just see what kind of info he wanted to put out, nothing big. I do my first set of two.

I had friends in the Audience, which Mainstage always likes, so I did some of my good stuff. I pull out the "style" bit and run it into the "cocaine" bit. People laughed, I was loved. Brought on a guest (blanking on his name), he was funny. The feature set was a guy named Geoff Brousseau who was hilarious and a really nice guy. Dwight is next. He asked when I first met him if I have any Toby McGuire material (it's been mentioned ad nauseum that I look and sound exactly like him... I like to think I have more personality though, or at least, any at all). So I did my Toby McGuire impression. People loved it, you'll have to see it. Then I bring out Dwight.

Words can't explain. He was amazing. Yes, cynical, yes, poignant, but a fucking pro at that. He killed the entire time even when he fucked with the audience for not getting him. It was commentary as well as comedy, which is one of the reasons I love Bill Hicks (again Slade was not a copycat). I love comedians who have something to say, not just jokes. Jokes are good, don't get me wrong, but I want to see a point of view and for God's sake some passion as well, even if it's the passion of anger.

More of the same for the second show of the night, with the exception that I bombed my set. I did the same material, but I shouldn't have. It occurred to me that knowing your audience is just as much a process of elimination as much as knowing the right material. I didn't know what they'd go for. They were really pretty so then I realized that I should've gone with "Cheesecake Factory" bit. Geoff and Dwight killed the second show as well. It was an awesome night of comedy.

Lesson: Just because you can't stand an aspect of your self that everyone likes to point out, doesn't mean you shouldn't use it in a comedy bit.

Backup lesson: Don't just know what your audience will like, know what they wont like.