Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Day 63: Entertainment Show 11/26/07

"Entertainment Show" is a show put on by two fine gentlemen named Kevin and Travis, which has comedy, music, film and sketches and is a very good time. They were kind enough to invite me to perform 10 minutes for them. I was unkind enough to reward them with mediocrity.

I didn't get much sleep the night before, which has been an ongoing thing. I was the first comic up and had no energy. I didn't hook the audience and it was an uphill battle to get them on my page by the end of the set. I did, but once again I performed at a C and not an A, AND that happened on my 2nd big show in a row. Not coincidentally a lack of sleep has been a common factor in both sets. Fuck.

The rest of the show was great, I just wish I could've been a participant in the greatness. I have to get my shit together for these shows and be pumped and ready for them.

You know what, it's actually bigger than that. I've hit a comedy wall. I'm performing at substandard levels constantly, my jokes aren't landing as much, I'm having a hard time feeling it. Maybe it's because of the distance or I don't know what, but it's frustrating and making me question the whole thing again. I feel like I'm on the precipice again which could mean that I'm set up for another evolution, or it means that this is as good as I'm going to get, I hit the ceiling and I should cut out while the goings good.

I'm not going to cut out yet, but any "evolution" is going to have to come from me kicking my own ass. I can't rely on some divine intervention to get back into the swing of shit, and yet I have to get back into the swing of shit or fall back into comedy obscurity. Really the only thing keeping me afloat right now is being tied to Danielle and Solomon, who are universally loved. Plus they're black so I get street cred.

Goddammit I hope to give you another "Oh my God I fucking killed" post soon, for the both of us.

No, fuck that, I WILL give you another "Oh My God I Fucking Killed" post soon. Hope is for pussies!

Lesson: Sleep.

Back-up lesson: Kick my own ass.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Day 62: METAL!!!! 11/18/07

Short set at the underground. The only thing to bring up is that I tried a new bit. I was excited about it. It’s a cheesy bit that involves saying cheap pick-up lines in a death metal singing voice. The fun part is that I’ve practiced death metal singing since high school and I sing (read: scream) in a improv-noise-death-metal group so I’m pretty good at it. Well it worked. It didn’t kill but it worked and I like the bit a lot so yay me. I put some other relatively new stuff up that worked OK (Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson) and closed it out with “Bidet Impressions.” Mission accomplished. Good times.

Lesson: If you love it, even if it’s out there, do it. The work is in the reward.

Back-up lesson: Take advantage of your skill sets, no matter how ridiculous they are.

Day 61: Best Death Ever 11/15/07

Tonight’s performance takes place at the Green Tortoise Youth Hostel. That should be fun. I wasn’t slated to perform, but Seth, who runs the show, put me up, which was nice of him, and unfortunate.

It was the cafeteria area for the hostel… now put yourself in their shoes; you’ve been traveling in a stinky bus or hitchhiking to get to Seattle, when you get there you have to walk around in the pouring rain to find this place and you’re starving. Finally you sit down to enjoy your make-shift tacos and then… COMEDY!

What I’m saying is that it was a tough crowd.

I did something for the hell of it which was to not prep a set and see how I could float on my own. The first two comics had a hard time with the crowd getting light giggles at best here and there. I fared no better. I attempted thing that they could not possibly get the reference for (Bumbershoot, Nicole Ritchie). I attempted drinking/drugs to which they laughed at the dirty part. OK so I gave them Neuva ring which SANK. I pulled it out a bit with Cheesecake Factory and got some response at the end. Over all I did not do well.

Here’s the weird part… I had a great time. I realized early on that I was out of my element in terms of having ANY idea on how to get this crowd on my side. So I didn’t worry about it and then it was like playing solitaire: if I won, great, if not, myeh. In a way I got to watch this set outside of myself and enjoy it from that perspective.

Inner monologue: “Wow Jake, you are not doing well with them.”

Other inner monologue: “You are right about that Jake. I am not.”

There is a freedom in acknowledging the reality of your situation. It allows you to let go of expectation.

Harlem Blue (of Faire Gallery fame) saved the day with an amazing high energy set. He demanded their attention and then worked at level 10 the whole time and kept their focus until toward the end. It was great, and since I wasn’t beating myself up about my set I could watch what he did with his and take it with me. Next time I don’t know what to do, go high and far. It’s worth the conversation any way.

Inner monologue: “Well Jake, that didn’t work either.”

Other inner monologue: “No Jake, back to the drawing board.”

Lesson: Let go of the sinking ship. Enjoy the view.

Back-up lesson: Pay attention to the successful people then steal their tricks.

Day 60: Choke Hole 11/14/07

Tonight was rough for me.

It’s my 2nd Laff Hole appearance and I’m stoked to get to do it again. The problems are that I haven’t been out much lately and that I’m fucking TIRED. That’s all right, I can rise above. I took a nap, got some food, I’m going to be great.

This time I have 7 minutes and I try to pull out some classic stuff. I want to do my classic fashion/cocaine/80s banger and finish off with drinking/drugs. There are several places I go horribly wrong. For one I don’t time my set. Awesome. For another 80s had no place being there as it had not been worked on or whittled down since I wrote it and it has been hit or miss. Brilliant. Did I mention that I was tired and out of practice. I get through half the set I wanted to do before I got the light and fumbled my way out of there.

Now, I didn’t die and it wasn’t bad. It was awkward and I flubbed some lines and jokes. Parts of 80s did all right and cocaine did pretty good. The problem was it was a C set when I really wanted an A set for that show. In frustration I stormed off after the show and went home with a pathetic excuse that I had to take my bag home.

Danielle calls wondering where I am. I tell her I’ll head back. This awesome comic named Xung Lam was going up and I genuinely didn’t want to miss him. On the walk back I realized what a baby I was being. I just did Laff Hole for the 2nd time and a lot of comics in the scene are clawing their eyes out to do that show. Not only that, but I’ve seen people absolutely bomb there and I was a far cry from that. It’s my fault I didn’t time my set and it’s my fault I didn’t stream line it but I can do that next time and there will be a next time. This happens to everybody and I’ve got nothing to complain about. I’m actually sitting pretty and it’s a slap in the face to people who haven’t gotten to do the show yet to cry about it. Hell, I got $10 bringing my total earnings in comedy to $142.50. Can’t complain.

Lesson: Prep harder for big shows, make sure your ready…

Back-up lesson: …but don’t take it so seriously. It’s only one night. Enjoy the valleys as well as the peaks.

Day 59: Redemption (sorta) 11/12/07

So clearly it’s been awhile since I’ve done comedy. Tonight was a simple goal: tighten up porno and Christian comics. The good news is that I got them under 3 minutes and felt good about that. The bad news is they didn’t get as much of a response. I think with porno I need to give it just a little more (not much though) set up because this time I blazed right through it. The pay off still worked (most important part). Christian comics works a little better but it needs to be stream lined.

It’s weird to approach an open mic with this much detailing. It used to be: Go up, talk, get through it, hope they laugh. Now I’m trying to accomplish surgery. I don’t know if this will work more for me or against me. I feel like this treatment can get all of my material to a really good place (or at the very least, whittle it down to a one liner). Also the more I do this, the more instinctual it becomes and I can hit these details more naturally. Well see. I made progress tonight, which is more than I can say for a lot of nights I go up.

Lesson: It’s all in the details.

Back-up lesson: You can boil it down too much.

Day 58: Teen Wolf Mutha’ Fucka’ 10/27/07

I don’t know if I can properly count this as a set, but what the hell.

Andrew Ioncio (sp?) had a comedy party. I discussed one he did a month or so ago and it was a good time. This was a Halloween party so the high jinx were in full effect.

For the past two years for Halloween I went as Teen Wolf 2005. Teen Wolf 2005 is the best last minute value village Halloween costume I ever came up with. It’s a basket ball jersey for the team “Hoop Dogs”, a Paws dog food bandanna, gym shorts and a wolf mask. The idea is this is the new incarnation of Teen Wolf, and if he did come back in 2005, times being what they are, he would be a total wigger (you know, half wolf, half wigger… what were you thinking racist?). So yeah, it’s a cheap costume and I jump around like an asshole and yell stupid shit.

SooooOOOOoooo… I get to the party late and Andy asks if I want to go up. All right… It’s Teen Wolf 2005 time. I worked out some shit in my head that I wanted to play with and play I did. It was a lot of fun and dare I say it might have legs for future appearances. I got enough material for 5 minutes. People laughed, then it was awkward, and then they laughed. It was fun and a good excuse to do some cheesy shit.

Lesson: Ummm… silly ideas can work too.


Friday, November 23, 2007

Day 57: Faire Gallery 10/26/07

This was truly one of the most fun nights of comedy that I've had.

The Faire Gallery is a lovely little cafe' on Capitol Hill. The show is a similar vibe to Lo-Ball which I've described before. It was a weird night to have a show because it was the weekend before Halloween and everyone was out partying. Not very many customers were there, but there were a lot of comedians. This did not stop Blue.

Harlan Blue is a comedian that I've seen around since I've started. I only recently met him, but you never forget him on stage, whether he's had a good or a bad set. I had this big-deep-n-heavy about comedy the week before and he asked me to do this show with him. No prob. Now he's out on the street in an amazing dark suit with a pumpkin Orange tie hustling everyone that walks by to come it. It ends up working pretty well.

Notable among the audience is a couple from San Antonio TX who won a trip to Seattle through a sweepstakes, and used this particular night to just walk around and see what happened. Well they ended up here. Lucky them. Also there was a woman with insane cleavage. Luckily (well, unluckily as it turned out) I was working on a cleavage bit.

The show goes on. The vibe is great. Most of the comics are really funny. I go on a little early. I riff on the crowd. Attempt my cleavage bit. It didn't die but it didn't land. Ended up kinda awkward. Went into Christian comix, Toby, then imitations of the comics at the show. I learned a valuable lesson. Don't do imitations comics who have not gone up yet. Duh. Sometimes I have to learn the obvious the hard way.

Lots of comedians went up: Danielle Radford, Emmett Montgomery, Roger Lazola, Tony Daniels, all who did amazing sets. Lots of joy. Then the headliner was Andy Peters. I've mentioned him a few times here as he is probably my favorite local. He's amazing to watch, but this is the first time I've seen him headline. Hole. E. Shit. He was amazing. Riffed off of the crowd and the comedians the whole time, mixed in his jokes about 50/50 and the whole thing was gold.

It's the same as seeing an amazing rock show by a band that will be famous in a year, but tonight only 20 people are in the club. I felt like I was apart of this secret club that everyone will want to be apart of as soon as they hear about it. The people I do comedy with are Gods. I'm not their level yet, but for some reason they accept me and I can participate in some serious magic. I realized tonight that I'm in the Golden Age where everything is ideal and I'm apart of something pure and good. It wont always feel like this, and I don't know if I can take this with me, but tonight I was blessed for being in the right place at the right time with the right people to share it with.

Lesson: Relish the moment, that's why you do this.

Back-up lesson: Oh yeah and don't imitate comedians before they go on.

Day 56: Bring 'em up! 10/25/07

Tonight was Danielle's first shot at hosting for the Mainstage and I went to support. When I got there they were short on comedians so I ended up doing some guesting. The crazy thing was the headliner was a guy I remember from MTV's Half-hour Comedy Hour circa early 90's. That show was a big part of me wanting to become a comedian, and here was a guy that I have recorded on a video tape in a chest in my mom's garage. Weird. He was super nice and we talked about that set and some of his physical work (he trained to be a clown). Unfortunately I had rehearsal so I could not stay for his set.

Hosting and comedy are slightly different beasts. With comedy you can be yourself and hope people laugh. With hosting the job is more specific and deals more with energy and crowd control. It's something that comes easy for me because of my announcer/emcee background. Danielle had to learn that lesson cold tonight. Her set itself was great, but I think she felt like a fish out of water with the hosting thing and the audience was still a little quiet. Never fear, Jakee's here.

I started by pumping 'em up, albeit in a cheesy fashion. Then I went into my goods (Bumberbout, Nicole, Toby, Drinking then Cheesecake). They were loud and raucous (more or less) by the time I was done with them. Julie and the headliner said very nice things when I was heading out.

Hosting is a hard and thankless job (unless you get paid). It requires you to be more than just a comedian and it's often taken for granted. It's also poo-pood by most other comedians (again, unless you get paid). However, if you can get it down, it will help you out as a comedian because it gives you the power of crowd control and respect from the comedians you're hosting for.

Lesson: Hosting's hard, but worth it.

Back-up lesson: Talk to vets, even if their comedy is not your thing. You can always learn something from someone who stays in the game for 15 years.

Day 55: Frustration 10/22/07

All right, tonight's task was easy enough. I was going to trim down and edit "porno" and "Christian comics". Seemed simple, I hadn't put 'em up in awhile so I wanted to focus them a bit more. An easy three minutes.

Well, I got the light halfway through Christian comics so I couldn't finish it (i.e. give it the best part).

I was so pissed off. Mostly at myself for having them go so long as they did. I don't know why I was so frustrated but I ended up leaving early and annoyed. On the bus, after I simmered a bit, I thought of a couple of places to cut and condense even more than they already were. In all my bitterness (about something I really didn't need to be bitter about, this is what open mics are for), I figured out what I was trying to solve in the first place.

Lesson: Time your material before you go up

Back-up lesson: It's not the end of the world if you run out of time, or your set didn't go exactly as planned (especially at an open mic). There's another set around the corner.

(personal bonus, this is the first blog that I've completely spelled correctly the first time... I'm learning people!)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Addendum: Falling... falling

So it's been awhile since I've posted anything. I'm about 6 sets behind right now. I've been busy to be sure (moving for one, acting in a play for another), but that's just an excuse, and a cheap one at that. This whole blog thing is part of a bigger mechanism to keep me on track and to make me a better comedian. Not only is about you good readers (that I can count on one hand) holding me accountable for my work, but it also forces me to reflect on my set, learn from it, and use it towards the next one and so on and etc. If/when I don't use this, in a way, I might as well have not done a set, because I'm far less likely to take anything from it.

So it follows: Judging by actions, if I use this blog because I want to become a better comedian then when I don't use this blog it's because I DON'T want to become a better comedian. I clarified "judging by actions" because intentions are just excuses to justify shitty behavior. We can only go on actions to maintain any sense of accuracy. Digression. I don't want to become a better comedian. The evidence is that I'm not acting in accordance with becoming one (the blog for one, but there's other evidence, I haven't been prepping as hard for sets, not going out as much, not working new material, etc.). Well that's stupid and a waste of fucking time. Let's nip that in the bud now shall we? OK. The first question is why don't I want to become a better comedian?

Well, that answer can tie into why I waited until I was 31 to even try to be a comedian. Fear of success, fear of failure, etc. But I think it ties into something that all of us slip into and that's the path of least resistance. It's simply easier to not put in the work, the writing, the blogging, the recording, the listening, the hitting of mics etc... and to show up once in awhile, tell some jokes and rest on my laurels. It's also easy to JUSTIFY that mindset when you are on the path of least resistance. Here's the thing, you get nowhere slowly.

This is supposed to be hard. You're supposed to work for it. You're supposed to earn it. It's not supposed to be easy. Nothing you want is. If it were easy, I'd already have it.

OK so, knowing that, why have I slacked off? Why am I not pursuing comedy the way I should be?

The path of least resistance is conditioned into us from a very early age. We're trained to desire convenience. You have to stay focused when you stray from the path. There will be a lot of distractions, but you have to remain vigilant. If you lose that focus, if life throws a lot of distractions at once, you will habitually pull back onto the P.O.L.R. and stay on it as long as you let yourself get away with it.

The key is not to blame the distractions (like moving or being in a play or both at the same time, shit like that). It is, at the end of the day, you who made the choice to let the distractions win. When you do that you (meaning me of course) choose not to (well I choose not to) live your dream (be a better comedian).

In summery, I used distractions as an excuse to choose a life of convenience over becoming a better comedian. My comfort is more important than my dream.

Here's the thing: It's only more important AT THAT TIME! It's doesn't have to continue to be. I just have to pick up my commitment to my dream where I left off. I can always come back to it. Is this going to be the last time I fuck off and cruise easy street. No, I will have a breakdown and flake on everything I care about. That's all right so long as I remind myself what's important and come back to the path I want.

Well, here I am blogging again, so here I am training to be a better comedian. Here I am becoming a better comedian. I have some catching up to do. I'm about 5 or 6 shows behind. I have a lot of recordings to go through. And what's the next thing? There are other things I haven't even begun to do to live the dream. The important thing is that I'm here, now, writing this. Thank you for your help in keeping me here. You know who you are. Unless you don't. Then I'll tell you later.