Thursday, August 30, 2007

Day 33: Don't be a dick 8/29/07

So I've been really self-righteous about a couple of things in comedy. One is being pissed off at comedians who go too long, another is comedians who jet from an open mic right after their set.

Tonight I was both of these people.

"Comedy Slam" at the Underground, which is essentially an open mic with less comics and more performance time. Cathy Sorbo is playing at the Laff Hole show tonight so I'm just seeing if I can get a set in early then go to Laff Hole later. As luck would have it Ron puts me up first. There's a small but nice crowd. I try some safe stuff and some new stuff. I open with Bumbershoot and Toby which did well, then went into Christian comics. That was all I put on my outline and should've been about 5 minutes, but when I got done I saw that the warning light had not gone on so, fuck it... close with Cheesecake Factory. My first mistake here was not saying to myself, "Well I got done early, that's good, I can quit while I'm ahead." Nope. So the light goes on (which means a minute left by the way) right after I start the bit. Now hindsight being 20/20 I could've cut to the last part of the bit and I would've been fine. Nope. I do the whole thing and by the time I'm done the light is flashing and I flew over time by 3 minutes. Fuck. I apologized to the host, the next comic, and then Ron who said, "Well, tonight of all nights you can get away with it." Still, fuck, I really don't want to be that guy. The set went pretty good, yeah, but I don't ever want to be that guy.

By the time I get done the Laff Hole show is an hour away. I went up first, but we started late so it's already time for me to go. Shit. I was going to record Lydia but scram instead. I'm not beating myself up as bad for this, but still, I shouldn't do an open mic if I can't hang out for a bit at least.

As soon as Cathy went up I forgot all about my self-flagellation and enjoyed a master at her craft. I strong armed a bunch of derby girls to go and they all enjoyed her. Still the night would've been better had I not felt like an asshole for a portion of it.

Lesson: Do your time, and not a second more.

Back-up lesson: Hang out with the open micers... they deserve it as much as you do.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Day 32: Never Again 8/28/07

Rough night.

Went to Mainstage (disclaimer: I love them and all they've done for me so this is not meant as a poo-poo on their establishment [for the four of you reading this], but an honest reaction to the evening, which is what this blog is all about). There was going to be a comedy show at 7 and open music night at 9. Get there quarter to 7, ghost town, 7:30, some comics but that's it. We wait in case people come. Don't start the show until 8. That's not too bad, and the hour from 7 to 8 was actually really fun. It was a bunch of us comics shootin' the shit on the patio and running our material for each other. Then a bunch of friends of mine from work came. I didn't expect a bunch (only 2)... oh well. The vibe is good the comedy begins.

Travis opens the show and is very funny and cordial as usual. Then the second comic goes up and goes FLYING over his time (like, 15 minutes) and not one. joke. landed. It was fucking rough but this person lacked the objectivity to notice a) that he went flying over time and was therefore incredibly rude to the other comics performing and b) that he was dying and should have gotten off stage long ago. The next comic up went way over time again, but this was more forgivable as she was funny and from out of town so why the fuck not. Then Solomon went up and did a good set that would've been on time had a drunken Nick not been screaming through the set and distracting him.

This is where it gets bad. With Travis's set (which was long too, but that's understandable as it's his show) and the comics going over, we're four down and it's 9 o'clock and the musicians come in and take over the show. Now being an open mic I figured, musician does a song then comic does a short set. It was lame that everyone going over cut into our comedy time, but fuck it, we'll all get to go up soon right? WRONG! First music set goes A FUCKING HALF HOUR then they decided that since we had comedy before, they could let another musician go on for ANOTHER TWENTY MINUTES. Remember how I said I had friends there? Did I mention they were the ONLY audience. I talked to them so I could go up after the first musician set and got blocked by those cocksuckers.

It's not that the musicians were bad (well...) but no one I was with came to see music. So two hours of long (including a particularly bad set) comedy and not very good music took the wind out of everybody's sails. Then I go on. I had a decent set and people responded as well as they could, but is wasn't a massacre. People liked it, but it was late and they were tired. And there was still hours to go. Danielle and I ended up leaving. She didn't get to go up, James, whose girlfriend came for the first time, didn't get to go up, my friends were tired. Fuck it. Never again. Either tighter organization or something else, but that's the second time my friends got blocked on a Tuesday and we suffered through long bad sets.

Now I'm a little self-conscious bitching about other people's bad sets. It's not like I haven't bombed. Who am I to judge? The thing is, I was still attached to some objectivity. I didn't go over time and when it wasn't going well, I moved to something I figured would work and at least I HAD material that worked. It's the utter lack of objectivity that kills me. If you have a joke that no one laughs at it (by the 3rd time you tried it), let it go. Try new material until something lands. Ask your friends how your jokes are. Make sure they're honest. Just don't fucking lie to yourself and think you're funny when you're not. Do the work. That's what the rest of us our busting our ass to do. I'm climbing this ladder right now and the reason I am is because people tell me when something works or doesn't and I LISTEN. That's what open mic is for. It shouldn't be abused. Etc. etc. Rant rant rant. I'm not saying people should give up, I'm saying people should work hard so that they don't subject people to bad comedy.

But who the fuck am I.

Lesson: Stay objective and respectful of the audience and other comics.

Back-up lesson: No more Tuesdays at Mainstage (until the format changes).

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Day 31: Mo' comedy mo' problems 8/27/07

More of the same. Comedy Underground. Open mic. Tried some new stuff.

There was a bit of an audience there, who didn't seem into dirty stuff. I apologized before I got going. Went up with Toby impression (for the clean folks), George Gaynes (who played Henry Warnimont from Punky Brewster) impression, Lisa Loeb (didn't do well, but I like it), the new and improved Tab (it may be a joke after all), and the new hit, Nicole Ritchie's baby. That one did well and will be very good. It was a bit of a collab with Nick, Danielle and James but I had the premise so the bits all mine. My set went a little long, which I hate doing, gotta get that under control. Great sets from Danielle, Nick, and Solomon (Solomon's new bit is a stroke of genius), and James had his best set yet with multiple applause. Go you fucker, Go!

Lesson: Collaborations help take a non-joke to legendary status

Back-up lesson: Just because I like a joke, doesn't mean it's funny. Just because a joke isn't funny doesn't mean I wont do it. (actually that's a bad lesson, the first part is good, but the second...)

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Day 30: City of Centralia 8/21/07


...You might be wondering, "What's in Centralia?"...

As of 8/20/07 I had no idea. Nonetheless when Danielle got offered a set there, she hooked me up with one as well, and I took it. It was with some comics I've seen at the underground but haven't met yet. Solomon was going too. This was to be an adventure. I didn't know the people I was going with, where we were going, who the show was for, how much time I was going to do and when I was going up. Bombs away.

We get on the road about 2 hours early. It's a mini-van we're in... we being: Danielle, Solomon, Nick, who's put the show together, Lydia who I've seen at underground, and Shawn who plays guitar and does a bit with Nick. A lot of people don't know each other so the energy is awkward, yet positive. Nick is a hyper lad. Very. Very. Hyper. (those of you who know me realize the weight of this statement) Lydia is intensely going over her set. Shawn is driving. Danielle is keeping Nick entertained. Solomon is chillin'. I'm trying to figure out what the fuck is going on. I ask Nick occasionally and once in awhile I get an answer.

Turns out Nick usurped this show from another person who flaked on it and threw it together last minute. All of us were the last minute. Turns out the show was cancelled until he picked it up; translate: no one will be there. No one knows what order we're going in or how much time we're going to do. Okeedokeeartichokee.

The awkwardness slowly dissapates and we discover that we all get along quite well... this is a good thing. Now the only thing we have to look forward to is Centralia.


Centralia is...

Centralia is where meth heads go to retire. It is dead center (hence the clever name) between Portland and Seattle on the I-5 corridor therefore the furthest distance from anything cool to do in between the two cities. Fuck. Not only is this going to be a poorly-advertised-previously-cancelled-show but we'll have an audience of maybe six ex-truckers retiring off of scratch off lottery tickets. Again, fuck.

Fuck that is, until I walked into the Hub City Club. The Hub City Club is a Valhalla of wonder and greatness in the midsts of the cultural abyss. Cameron, who runs the place, is an incredibly young guy who rents the place and sets up rock shows and us for the young people in the area that would otherwise have NOWHERE ELSE TO GO AND NOTHING ELSE TO DO! The Hub City Club is everything I prayed to God for when I was growing up in Medford, Oregon and never got. Now I don't go to church. Coincidence? Hardly. Digression. It's a big hall with lots of space that Cameron has so generously filled with tables (makes the space look more full). There is a lot of reverb so two people applauding sounds huge. This is nice, if, in the case barely anyone shows up, it will feel bigger than it is...

...Which turned out to be the case.

C'est la vie. The show must go on. There are 10 actual audience+5 volunteers that help out there+ us. Let the party begin. Solomon first at bat. His set started strong and was good but the energy was starting to drag and the audience was quiet albeit generous. He did 2o min. Next Lydia. Again good start but low energy response and stuff was getting spotty. Add to the fact that there was so much reverb that sometimes it was hard to understand the comics if they delivered a line fast or under articulated in the least. Lydia did 20 min. Danielle 3rd, good stuff, but lost some punchlines due to crazy reverb. Crowd getting quiet. She did 12 min. I'm up next.

Crowd is really quiet (but still generous and still with us) by this point and I recognize that I gotta pull out some shit to get this going. Fuck it. Full speed ahead and I come out swinging. I open with a joke about the size of the audience ("I haven't seen a crowd like this since my Klansman for gay rights convention.") and follow with giving a huge shout out to how cool the Hub City Club is and how important it is to support it and how cool the kids were that came. Then I went into my set. I did 20 min as well. I think I did (think, because my recorder ran out of batteries in the middle of my set... fucking perfect):

Neuva Ring
Toby McGuire
Cheesecake Factory

And it went fucking great! It was an incredible feeling knowing that I had them the whole time, that I was in control. They dug most of my bits and I even got a few applause (at some of the darkest bits actually... kids these days) which was awesome. It was probably the best set I've had yet and certainly the best circumstances. To turn a crowd around like that, and do it in a place with a crowd that was so fucking cool in the least likely of towns... yeah, I was on a comedy high. The crowd was primed and Nick came up to finish it out. The crowd responded great to him. He did 2o min and ended it with a song that was a great closer.

We hung out at the club for about an hour, ate pizza and shot the shit with Cameron and some of the people that hung out there. We eventually piled into the van, stocked up on candy and drove home. The car ride home was one of the most fun times I've had in recent memory. We were all on comedy high and went back and forth between cracking each other up and getting deep and heavy about the nature of comedy and art. We all contributed to both ends, but I have to credit Lydia with saying one of the funniest things that made my laugh harder than I have in a long time. Any attempt at replication would yield failure, suffice to say, all the next day at work it would pop into my head at work and I looked like a lunatic constantly stifling a laugh.

Nick is going to keep this a monthly show and I'm fucking into it. If for no other reason to support and be in such an amazing place in the middle of nowhere... not to mention the road trip. Much love to Nick for putting it together and Cameron for having the vision to put that place together.

Lesson: You can control the audience, you don't have to let it control you.

Backup lesson: Always support cool places always.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Day 29: Deeper Underground 8/20/07

Another meeting of our as yet unnamed group minus Paul. We threw out new material. I had a new impression (actor George Gaynes... look him up) and a bit I've had in my head awhile, and I've used parts of, but have finally put together called "Christian Comics" (it doesn't harsh on Christians, before you get that in your head).

I went up relatively early (#6) and the new stuff went fairly well. Only two parts of bits didn't go over, and for brand new stuff that's pretty good. The writing circle helps a lot because trimming the fat is such a big part of comedy writing and you can cut out stuff that just doesn't work.
Danielle put up some new stuff that I don't think hit as hard as she wanted but it did have some jems in it. However her transition into her "anal bleaching" closer was surgically perfect and landed me on the floor.

James stepped up to bat for the third time. The host made a joke on his name (Parkinson's... the disease) and James's response was perfect. He did some new stuff that he was really comfortable with and it did well. He tried some stuff that he hadn't solidified and it didn't do well. I like it but he doesn't so he's trying to write new stuff. He's doing good though and I'm exited to see what comes from him as we keep going.

Later in the night a person who had been up as many times as James went up and died. I wasn't paying attention to her bit, but I guess she got frustrated and at the end made a cheap jab at molestation jokes... which I had performed earlier (...the George Gaynes impression... be afraid)... so I guess was a dig at me and a few other comics. I could say a lot of things about that, and would've in other contexts (like if I was hosting), but I'll just say that, well, people were laughing at MY jokes.

In other news, I recently added a bit to "neuva ring" which someone pointed out was close to one of Emmett Montgomery's bits. I finally was able to tell him the bit and see if he was cool with it and he ended up liking it and said it was cool that I used it and thinking of similar bits was part of the game. Theft is a whole different deal. Our bits were in a totally different context... but why take chances.

Lesson: Err to the side of caution when dealing with material that is similar to someone else's.

Back-up lesson: Child molesting jokes are funny

Monday, August 20, 2007

Day 28: Night of Networking 8/19/07

James and I went to the Underground. Not sure what I was going to do tonight then seconds before we start I get hit with the unexpected... I'm going up first. Shit whadamygonnado? I throw together a quick set of newer standards (bumbershoot, westlake solicitor, bidet, neuva ring, Toby McGuire). It went fairly well, not bad not the best. I was flustered with the mic stand when I got started and I fumbled my dismount but over-all it was fine. James went up later, poor guy, as there were some legendarily douchey drunk assholes yelling and heckling every set (actually, they really enhanced the evening by providing some extreme meta-comedy and handing a lot of the comics some great ammunition). James was flustered but he had an amazing opening attack that was price of admission.

Now I don't know if my set worked well or if it was the fact that I went first BUT a lot of people started talking to me tonight. Ron, one of the guys that runs Underground was asking me about my background, how long I did comedy and what I did before. He said he really liked my stuff. Some of the comics came up introducing themselves to me. At the end one of the Laff Hole guys who I haven't officially met yet introduced himself to me and talked to me about the possibility of one of their Ballard shows.

In hindsight I regret my reaction to all of this. I instantly went into network mode just trying to talk myself and all of my shit up. Fuck. I wondered how I'd deal with this and it was just like a sell out. Not that I'm not totally happy with the attention and the opportunities. Don't get me wrong, I just feel like I reacted like all those fake actor types that I loathe with every fiber of my being. I just want to have the composer to be thankful, appreciative, and that's it. When I do derby and someone compliments me I'm cool and that's it. I gotta be this way with comedy for fear of not wanting to become someone I regret.

All told great fucking night though.

Lesson: Impress people with my jokes, no need to be a douche

Backup lesson: Be ready just in case I'm first to bat

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Day 27: Dirty 8/14/07

James, Danielle and I go to Mainstage. Travis Simmons has a show on Tuesdays now and we're not sure if it's an open mic or what so we show up. James has been jonesing to do more stand-up since he popped his cherry. We go. Travis doesn't have a list he's just bringing people up out of the crowd. There's a small audience there and the show opens with a conversation between him and a Canadian lady breaking down the five important questions for a woman to ask a man before performing oral sex. It's then decided to be a dirty night. Travis does his dirty material. Everyone else does too. Danielle does her "vagina" bit (really funny by the way). She kills. I go up. I do the new porn bit. Makes people laugh/uncomfortable. Then I do the new and improved neuva ring bit with "miscarriage closer". Wow. The power of horror. It's such a rude bit that people can't help but react to it and it ranges from disgust to gut laughter. I'm starting to get addicted to that reaction and that could take my comedy down some dark corridors where no jobs shall be. This opens up the question of what do I want? Jobs or personal satisfaction. Well, so far my answer has always erred to creating the work I want to, so I should buck up for a career of being notorious and not paid.

The only tragedy of the night is that James didn't get to go up. He ran some new stuff past us and it sounded good. He'll be up soon.

P.S. Got a gig in Centrailia thanks to Danielle. My first road gig. You'll here more soon.

Lesson: Dirty crowds still have a limit

Backup lesson: If I'm going to martyr myself, I better come up with a good excuse.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Day 26: Gathering the troops 8/12/07

Today was the beginning of something I hope to be magical. I've wanted to start a writing circle for awhile where us comedians can bounce ideas off each other and work our shit. Julie recommended it to me before and I was into it. The trick is to get the right dynamic of people. After a few false starts I believe we've gotten somewhere.

The contenders:

Danielle C. Radford- My roomie. You know her, you love her, and so does the rest of the comedy scene in Seattle. In a little month she already has a lot more street cred in the scene than I do. With good reason after all as she is wonderful to watch onstage. You can't help but to love her and THEN she blasts you with her jokes.

Paul Marshall- A gentleman I met through one of my bestest friends. I had the honor to direct Paul in "As You Like It" where he gave an amazing performance of Touchstone. He's naturally an incredibly witty person with a vast knowledge of comedians in the scene. He is utterly fearless in what he's willing to do in front of people and his humor comes constantly out of left field.

James Parkinson- A newbie to comedy but a hysterical person in his own right. I worked with him for a stint at the Jizzcock Fucktory and at one point had to ask if he ever did comedy. He said it was always something he wanted to take on and then I hounded him to do it knowing he would kick a lot of but at it. Half the time he talks to you it sounds like one of the funniest bits you've heard but it's just him talking off the top of his head.

I'm sure others will come and go but I think this is a solid core to work off of. We met up a few hours before open mic to put some stuff in front of each other. Paul's jokes were almost instantly hilarious. We nipped and tucked a few things but his set was solid. I got a lot of help on a section of a bit that I was struggling with that hasn't come together yet and then I worked a bit with them that I wrote a while ago but haven't put up affectionately titled "porno". James debuted his material. He did what most people do (Danielle and I for sure) the first time out and wrote WAY too much, but once we cut out all the extraneous stuff the jokes that were left were killer. Danielle brought some new stuff, one bit that needed work, but one that will be her closer forever.

It just felt really good. We had a good vibe and everyone contributed and everyone was very constructive. Solomon showed up after we were finishing but got some feedback from him. Then off to the Comedy Underground.

I was the 2nd one up tonight (never happened before) and had a nice set. The porno set was met with the awkwardness and horror that I hoped. Neuva ring landed again. Paul went up and had a great response. He had a weird delivery to his stuff, not sure if it was intentional or not, but his material was very well received. Danielle murdered with her new stuff, lets just call it "anal bleaching". After Danielle went James was supposed to but Ty Burrell came in and worked some new stuff. It was really funny. Poor James had to follow that and came in with a great bit about it. You could tell James was wrestling with nerves, but despite that fact and a couple of hic-ups with delivery most of his stuff landed. A great first up. Solomon went up after and worked some new stuff and had probably the funniest line all night. I'd repeat it, but it'd lose something on the Internet.

We tried to hit up Mainstage afterward but to no avail, they closed their set. Oh well, tonight was a highly successful ventor and I'm excited by what our little group can bring. We need a name. Any ideas?

Lesson: Writing groups WORK!

Backup Lesson: A clever name gives a strong identity. Any ideas?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Day 25: Cathy and Me 8/9/07

So I'm hanging out with my buddy Jody and I get this call from an unknown number which inevitably means that someone from work is trying to get me to pick up their shift. I answer anyway (which is weird because I usually don't... providence) and it's Cathy Sorbo. You remember Cathy Sorbo don't you? If not, reread my blog at the beginning and reread "Addendum: Cathy Sorbo"... all caught up? Good. So it turns out she's headlining at the Comedy Underground and WOULDILIKETOFUCKINGGUESTSPOT?


...sure, yeah, I can make it.

OH FUCK! What am I going to do this will be the first time she sees me perform stand-up what's the perfect bit for me to do what if I suck and she thinks I'm the shittiest comic ever fuck!

5 minutes before I arrive she calls again to see if I want to host. Sure, why the fuck not? Actually it's a pretty cool opportunity to host at the Underground so game on.

I get there, it's cool, a bunch of comics I've met through open mics are there so that's nice. It turns out there's going to be two bachelorette parties... that settles that, I'm opening with "Cheesecake Factory" bit along with "Toby McGuire". I go up, riff on the the bride to be, do Cheesecake, it goes well, not the best but not bad, trying not to think of Cathy watching, thinking about how I'm trying not to think that Cathy's watching. People laugh, it's over.

She said "good job" but I couldn't help feeling like a fucking amateur. I think it was nerves or basic creative self-deprecation, but I didn't bomb and that's all that counts. A bunch of other comics go up and then I go to introduce her.

I decide to through in "neuva ring" bit in before I bring her up. Now, this has done well at open mics and at Capitol Club, but what I didn't realize is that this is my first time putting it up in front of a normal crowd. Now it's not by any means a pro-choice or pro-life bit (more pro-birth control than anything) but what I learned is that normal crowds are put off by the mere mention of abortion. To date this was probably my favorite reaction to a bit that I've had. I did the bit and had a few uncomfortable chuckles, a lot of quiet angry stares, and two people off to the side laughing their fucking asses off. The tension of the room compounded the bit for the people who thought it was funny. I now understand Andy Kaufman in a whole new light. It was such a powerful feeling to evoke such an extreme tension or emotion in the crown, if in fact it wasn't laughter. This could be a really bad intoxication for me. I segued hard into bringing Cathy out and that cut the tension and everyone laughed. Oh god, this might be dangerous.

Cathy, of course, killed. One of the many great things is that two derby people were there as I ran into them seconds after Cathy called me. They loved it, so I'm hoping that they'll encourage other derby people to see her and understand what an amazing asset they have that they have yet to truly capitalize on. I think she liked my set but I'm too chickenshit to ask for a critique yet (except, of course, on this public forum). God willing there will be more to come.

Lesson: Be ready for the call, you never know when you're going to get it.

Backup lesson: Tension is good... tension is really good... NO BAD LESSON! BAD, BAD LESSON!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Day 24: Holy Shit This Might Actually Be For Real 8/5/07

So tonight was the big show. A fine gentleman by the name of Solomon Georgio put together a show called "El Notorio" at the Capitol Club featuring himself and special invited guests. Even though he had never seen Danielle and I do standup, we became the special invited guests. Sucker. If you've kept up with the blog you've seen Danielle and my training regiment... so here was the payoff.

The set-up: Solomon opens with a crazy character, then me, then 15 min intermission, then Danielle, then Solomon closes. Danielle and I were going to do 15 minutes apiece but I prepared a 20 min set just in case she didn't get enough material by then. It worked out nicely.

There were a few firsts this night, my first show with a flyer that had my name, my first show in a non-comedy club club, and most significantly my first 20 min set. A handful of friends came to check me out, but the crowd was predominantly Solomon's friends. I had no idea how they'd like my set, but fuck it, game on.

For starters there were serious sound issues which is to say that the mics made us sound like we were performing under water. Solomon opened as a female crack head lip syncing a song from Dream Girls. All right Jake, good fucking luck following that up. My set outline went:
Don't Drink
Don't Drug
Neuva Ring
Westlake Solicitor
Being White
Toby McGuire
Cheesecake Factory

The short story... I killed. It was great, I felt really comfortable with my material and I took the audience with me the whole way. None of my jokes didn't hit however some hit less than others. I accidentally dropped the cap of the "Don't Drink" bit and skipped "Don't Drug", but my set ended up 20 minutes anyway so it was for the best. Other than sounding like I did my set through a Burger King drive thru it went freaking awesome. People who didn't know me really liked it and my friends who saw me a million times were into it. It was Joeasshole's birthday which added to the specialness of the occasion seeing as he's been my #1 motivator/cheerleader/soundingboard/asskicker from the get go. This was just as much the fruits of his labor as it was mine. It felt amazing and for the first time it really resonated that I could totally do this.

Danielle's set was great, everyone really liked her which wasn't a surprise to me at all. Everything was solid, the only barrier being the sound of course. Danielle and I are both guilty of the crime of going too fast sometimes and with a shitty microphone that means things just disappear all together. Other than that she was terrific. Solomon closed it out with his set and a birthday song. His "email" bit needs to be seen, it's fucking hysterical. He brought the shit home and everyone had a good time.

So it occurs to me that I now have enough material for a Feature set. There's also a lot more I'm working right now so 45 minutes is right around the corner. I'm putting together a little writing collective with Danielle, my friend Paul and my friend James which should be amazing. Comics recognize me and say hi. The future is bright. Let's hope I don't die right away.

Lesson: I'm good enough to be a comedian.

Back-up lesson: Bring my own goddamn mics.