Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Day 54: Headlining 10/20/07

The skinny: Danielle and I live in a warehouse (for the next 11 days anyway). James wants to have a birthday party for himself and his friend Jeff (previously mentioned) and have it be a comedy show. We agree it should be the writing circle performing it. To sum up: Birthday Party/Moving Out Party/Writing Circle Showcase/Comedy Show.

Line up: James hosts. Jeff and Paul do 5 minute guest spots. Danielle and Solomon do 15 minute features. I headline for 30.


This is my biggest set yet. Plus it's for friends and friends of friends so the pressure is higher than the shows I've done before. Plus there's a lot of set-up, I have rehearsal that day, no time to prep, tired as fuck... here we go.

James is a great host. He has a lot of presence and charisma on stage, perfect for hosting. His bits land awesome. He has the honor and privilege of being the birthday boy too. He does great.

Jeff does his set. This is his 3rd time performing and he does incredible. I would define his jokes as mainstream, which is not to say they're not good because he has great angles and a terrific delivery. He's someone you could easily see on Comedy Central or Leno (I will probably never be on Leno). He worked his material with us earlier, took some advice, then trumped it with his performance. It was great.

Paul. Fucking. Destroyed. As solid a 5 minutes as I've ever seen. I hate him. He could write his ticket right now if he wanted, he just doesn't go out that much. I'll put him out there if I have to break his arm doing it. Amazing.

Guess what? Solomon killed. You're shocked, I know, so am I. He opened up with the Nword Krunk song. Don't ask, just know that I sing back up. He's got a really powerful 15 minute set. I hate him because he has one of the best call-back line ups I've seen (since Bill Hicks). I'm worried because our space isn't insured.

Danielle did awesome as usual. Everyone loves her and everyone always will. She did awesome crowd work and busted out the "candy" bit which will go down in history. She also had our friend Jody she got to fuck with. She was loved hard... HARD.

Then me.

It felt really good. For being my longest set I feel like I had everyone most of the way through. I started and ended with my strongest material. I experimented with something new in the middle that lost people for a bit, but I brought 'em back. The set is as follows

[Uh-oh, the setlist and my memory of it are gone. There is videotape somewhere and when I see it I will put it up]

The only time I lost 'em is when I tried a brand new piece I thought of that day. How weird that it didn't work. It was a "found item" piece, where you share something ridiculous you find with the crowd. In my case is was Christian propaganda that fronted as a informational postcard on the Space Needle. The mind boggles. I'm sure there's legs to it but maybe I shouldn't have presented it this night. I accidentally dropped 80's (on accident) and Porno (on purpose). No big deal.

I got a lot of positive feedback after the set. Some of the local comics showed up and said very nice things. A lot of the people I didn't know who were there really liked it. It's to big and weird to calibrate. We had our own show. This is some kind of benchmark we had been working towards and it happened. Jesus where do we go from here? Where's the next benchmark?

Lesson: Whatever we're doing, it's working.

Back-up lesson: If you want to do a show, just do it.

Additive to back-up lesson: Don't put more effort into doing your own shows than being funny. That way madness lies.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Day 53: JAM! 10/17/07

Wednesdays at Comedy Underground mean "Comedy Jam". Comedy Jam is basically an open mic that's not advertised as an open mic. Less comics show up, but the ones that do are really good. This is probably my favorite night to perform at CU. I shot the shit (well, listened is more like it) with Andy Peters, Andy Sleighter, and Roger Lazola (three faves), while getting ready to rock. Just hanging out and listening to the comedians banter is a lesson in itself.

There's two people that run CU: Ron (who likes me) and Carl (who can't remember me). Ron's running the show tonight and lo and behold I go up first. I put up the new drinking/drugs and it went as good as it's gone yet! It was a great crowd, intimate yet fun. The nice thing about "drinking/drugs" is it's close to being A (it's cruising B+ now). I hope I can get the rest of my material there so that I have an A feature set soon. The nice thing about Comedy Jam is that it's a weird mid-point between open mic and show where you can see stuff land with a real audience. This is where the work is done.

Lesson: Jokes are never done, they only get better. You gotta get them good first though.

Back-up lesson: Listen to your peers, you can pick up something you would have missed otherwise.

Day 52: Gass II: The Quickening 10/15/07

Gass comes back. I decide to bust out some of my A-material (Bumbershoot, Nicole Ritchie, Toby, Neuva Ring). He was talking to Danielle on the stairs when I went up. Not only that but I was trying a bit too hard and it didn't land was well as usual. That's what I get. At least I brought my recorder this time.

After the open mic was over we got to shoot the shit with Craig and some other comics that were with him that were in the scene back in the day (the day being the mid 90s). It was amazing hearing the stories of comics that were doing the same shit we were and knowing that there is a continuum with this scene. The stories were really funny and fascinating at the same time. It's a weird thought that someday we're going to be telling these same stories to other wide eyed young comedians some day. There is something really comforting in that. I really like what I do.

Lesson: Open mics are for training... use them to train.

Backup lesson: You can learn a lot about your future by listening to your history.

Day 51: Return of Gass (it's not how it sounds) 10/14/07

First: Writing circle and we have great new bits. Danielle has one that takes her shit to the next level. I have one that's out there, but something I've had in my head for awhile. James and Paul have some really funny shit. We are joined by Jeff, James's friend, who is going to do a birthday/showcase with us in a week (more on that later... specifically Oct. 20th). His stuff is generic in theme, but he has some good twists to it.

Then: Open mic. I'm trying to get into character for my bit tonight, which is where I fake a nervous breakdown and turn it around into a very cliche' joke. It killed at the circle and I was excited but I also knew it was going to be hard. So I try to set up with everyone that I'm having a really bad night.

Then: I hear from John Sanders that Craig Gass is here. Craig is responsible for a huge wake-up call I had when I was really doubting myself with comedy (see "Day 18: Wake-Up Call"). I emailed him later and told him how much his set effected me and we had a brief and nice exchange. Well lo and behold he's here. I introduced myself to him and he was really cool. He took off where our email left off and gave me some humbling advice on not getting down on other "hack" comedians that I'm not into. If they're making people laugh, then they're doing something right and you can't dismiss that (I totally agree and am slightly embarrassed).

Then: I'm about to go up. Shit, why does he have to be here when I'm doing new stuff. Fuck. I do it. I was way over the top when I performed it and it didn't land that hard. Shit. Forgot my fucking recorder too. Shit. Oh well. I end with the new improved drinking... which did pretty good. Craig liked that part. He's a nice guy.

Then: Danielle did her new candy bit. Applause.

Then: He does his set, which is a shortened version of the one I saw before. Minds are blown. I'm right.

Finally: We say our good byes. He really liked Solomon. He's here all week. Good.

Lesson: I should really nail down the complicated stuff before I put it up. The more I like a bit the harder it will be to put up. The harder it is to perform the better a joke it will be when it's ready.

Backup lesson: If someone I want to impress is there... go with the good material, drop the new stuff...

Edit on Backup lesson: Actually the best way to impress someone you want to impress is to try not to impress them.

Day 50: Holy Shit 50 Sets!!! 10/12/07

Jesus. 50 sets. I didn't think it would get to this. It seems like a lot but I guess it's not if you think about it. Bill Hicks would perform 250 nights out of the year. I still feel like I just started, and in comic terms I have. I'm still a rookie after all. The thing with 50 is that I have always had this habit of starting something and flaking out a little bit into it. I was afraid of starting comedy for that very reason. Now I'm at 50, which means I can do 100, then 200, then die.

As far as the set goes... It was at Lo-Ball, which is my favorite room right now. Tonight was a showcase for new stuff. After my last Lo-Ball set I reconfigured Drinking/Drugs bit with the writing circle. I debuted it tonight and am a lot happier with it. I still think it needs a little more work but it's getting there. I put up Ben Stiller and Bill Clinton to little fanfare... just enough to think they don't need to be trashed yet... they just need work. When I got the light I went into impressions of other comedians doing "Bidet". Tonight it was Solomon, John Sanders and Emmet Montgomery. This is getting to be quite a popular bit, which makes sense because it's a tribute to other comics and tends to come off flattering. I like it. When I came up with it, it was just a fun idea, but now I'm thinking it's something I can take with me and use at other sets with comics I know.

Fun night all around. All the comics are great in this room (Derek Sheen, one of my top 5 in the scene, DESTROYED). It's free and relaxing and is what comedy is supposed to be. Afterward a bunch of us hung out at a bar and it's a weird thing to hang with other comedians (type-a personalities who like attention), but a good time anyway. It's a good life.

Lesson: I did 50... I could do 50 more.

Back-up lesson: A bit you might toss off might actually be gold (and vice versa).

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Day 49: Kona 10/11/07

First time at the Kona Kitchen tonight. The rumor was that it was a really tough room. The reality is that it is a really empty room. Well at least tonight it was. Two audience, the other 13 people were comics. Since Kona is a new room for me (as far as comedy goes, I've spent many many karaoke hours there), I decided to go with my solid stuff (Bumbershoot, Toby, Nicole, Cheesecake). It went all right, but the problem was the majority of the people there were people who had seen that set ad nauseum. The other thing is that I didn't prep my set. I've gotten so comfortable with it that I just walked up and did it. Bad idea, no matter how many times I do something I need to take the time to run through it, other wise I end up floundering through it. Which I did. I could've just treated it like what it was, an open mic, and tested newer shit instead of trying to impress the choir. Next time I'm at Kona, maybe there will actually be people there.

Lesson: Prep, every time.

Back-up lesson: Comics have already seen my shit, if it's just us, bust the new stuff.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Day 48: Newbs 10/7/07

Ahhh... a good night.

Started off with writing circle. In attend are: Danielle, James, Paul, me, Josh Anderson in his comedy debut (who's probably going to end up putting the rest of us to shame) and special guest Richard Jensen. Richard is a good friend from Ashland OR that visits on his birthday. He's vloging his trip to Seattle which includes taping our writing and our sets. (Check his blog at for soon there will be intimate coverage of us... +it's one of my faves for political writing and all around Richard goodness). The circle was great. A lot of new stuff being thrown out there. I tried out a bunch of new bits that have been coming to me plus tried to restructure "non-drinker" which I think will be a lot more funny.

Then to Comedy Underground. Richard was goodly enough to video all of our sets. The fun part about tonight is that there are insanely drunk hecklers in the front. They really didn't mean any harm but they were intoxicated and thought it was audience participation. It's fascinating to see how other comics reacted to them. Some better than others. Danielle and James had great stuff. Josh was really good with them too (his first time up no less!). I did all right but jumbled what I said and got sidetracked. Andy Peters (probably my favorite local comic at this point) delivered genius with them. Look for him, watch him, he is the best.

A lot of people were (understandably) really upset with the hecklers. One comic went way to far. I liked the energy they brought to the crowd and what it did to/for the comics. This is an important hurdle to jump and open mic's as good a time as any to jump it.

So I tried out my new material: Wet-dream (did well), Owen Wilson (needs condensing, but all right), Bill Clinton (short but sweet), Bush (another short but sweet), Mit Romney (fucked up the premise so I abandoned it). I ended with Toby and exit.

Over all I think that my writing has improved a lot. The circle helps immeasurably. We get used to just knowing what works and doesn't and so every time we write something new we take care of most of the editing ourselves. That's why my old stuff is so clunky.

So we're gearing up for a showcase for our group on October 20th... if any of you read this lemme know and I'll give you the details.

Lesson: Heckling's a fact of comedy life. Learn how to get your licks in.

Back-up lesson: Writing circle is invaluable. Have it always.

Day 47: Blowing the dust off 10/5/07

Another fantastic night at Lo-Ball, many good comedians, many laughs... but enough about them, on to me.

I tried an old bit ("old" is probably not very appropriate as I've been doing this for eight months... with three months off in the middle) that I haven't put up in awhile and I was curious how it would do. This was "Non-drinker": as it turns out, not that well.

There are two kinds of learning experiences you can have at an open mic: Hot rooms and Cold rooms. In a cold room (where no one's really laughing at anything), if you get a laugh, you know a bit is good, because you had to earn the laugh. The rest of the stuff, may have potential and needs work, or should be canned, but it's hard to tell. Lo-Ball is a Hot room usually, so if a bit DOESN'T work there, it should be let go of, while if you get a laugh it's either good or needs work. Going back and forth between hot and cold rooms is a great way to test exactly what material lands, falls, and needs work.

Point being: "Non-drinker" needs work. Some of it went OK and some parts landed, but over all it was not the laugh hilarity that I usually like to inspire in a crowd. This is good for two reasons. One is that I'd like to get as much of my old material up to my strong list and I need to know what needs help, clearly this does. The other reason this is good is that I felt myself starting to get arrogant. I'm in NO place to afford arrogance now, so I need to be reminded that a lot of my shit is still far from gold.

Lesson: Not all of the stuff I thought work does... polish it off and make it shiny

Back-up Lesson: Alternate Hot and Cold rooms to know where your stuff really is.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Day 46: Wasted Time 10/2/07

So I just got back from Austin and I'm fucking tired but what the hell, I'll brave Mainstage's music/comedy open mic. When I get there, surprise, things are in disarray. Cutting to the chase the comics take the first half-hour and the most notable set is Lydia who is like a tornado destroying (the good destroying) every room she passes through. After that there's about 45 minutes of music, then James and I go.

I'm not really feeling it so I beta test the "Newgarden" bit. It got chuckles but in my heart I knew it wasn't ready for another run, I just wanted to put it on its feet. It does need a rewrite and memorization, but I thought fuck it why not? What did I learn? Nothing I already didn't know. There were many other bits I could've worked or at least take another opportunity at riffing, but honestly my heart wasn't in it tonight.

What happened here is that I wasted my time and my audience's time. Yeah it's an open mic, but what's the point if I'm not going to try to get anything out of it. Even if I'm not feeling it, there's no excuse not to train. That's how people become bad comics. That's what I don't want to be. If I'm gonna go up I have to go all out or else there's really no point. Stupid me.

Lesson: I'm not going to get where I want fucking around.

Backup lesson: If you're not feeling it, MAKE yourself feel it.

Day 45: Cathy and Me part 2 9/27/07

Cathy Sorbo at the Underground... Jakee doing a guest set. It's kinda weird that I'm at this point because this was something I was trying to work myself up to. Now I'm performing with Cathy. Granted they're only guest sets and I'm not quite featuring yet, but still. Mr. Mookie's hosting, Blain Reader's (a comic that I have a lot of respect for) guesting and Key Lewis (I'm sure I spelled that wrong) is featuring.

I do my safe set (Bumbershoot, Bidet, Nicole, Toby, Owen and Cheesecake) to a hot, hot audience. Not a huge crowd, but a great one. The nice part is that I kill. Not only do I kill but make an impression on some people that I have not made yet, including Carl who was running the door and didn't remember who I was. Key Lewis was asking if I was coming back. That's a good sign.

I feel like I'm in this place where I can control the audience. It might just be a lucky streak, but lately I've felt like I can exert my will over the crowd and bring them too me. The trick is if I can do this with ALL of my material and not just the stuff I've been hitting lately. There's a lot of trusted material I haven't touched in a while and I wonder if it holds the same water. At the same time I've been getting a lot of new ideas for material. I believe I'm in a honeymoon period of comedy... I just need to take as much as I can from this time.

ps: Cathy was amazing as ever. I got to hear some material I haven't heard yet. Guess what, it was funny. Go see her.

Lesson: Open mics aren't the only place to get yourself known... do guest spots more.

Back-up lesson: It's good to keep strong material polished as long as you don't neglect other material to dust.