Friday, February 22, 2008

This is Your Ego On Comedy

With comedy, you’re either up or you’re down. Not a lot of room for shades of gray. It’s all about ego. My ego, your ego and most importantly, the ego of who you have to work with. So what happens when you put two comics on the same show and one of them doesn’t think you should be there?
This is what happens.
I drove up with another comic to do a college gig.
College gigs!
Can there be anything better than a young cute girl telling you how funny you were with that new confidence they have of being away at college for the first time? I don’t think so.
Comedy, like so many other things in life, has its own Darwinian rules that everyone in it understands.

1. To move up the food chain in a show you have to make it hard on the guy following you.

2. If you can’t close the show because of what the guy in front of you did. You shouldn’t be the headliner.

3. If the headliner asks you to not do something it is always because they are afraid to follow it.

Even a comic who has been doing this for 6 months gets this. We didn’t make the rules, but we all live and die by them.

On the way up the guy headlining the gig ask me if I could not do so much crowd work. You know, that thing that I am known for. Its like asking Barry Bonds to not hit home runs, or George Bush to not stutter or Aqua man to not be lame.
I sort of smiled thinking he wasn’t serious. He goes on to explain that he doesn’t think its all that special of a skill and in the long run, it is material that will get you noticed.
That’s when it occurs to me that he is serious. We go back and forth on the subject. He thinks crowd work is a crutch only to be used when the crowd isn’t with you.
That is an argument for a whole other blog. I will say this however.
If crowd work were easy, everyone would be doing it.
Crowd work is the most important skill to have for the success of a live show. Period.
He is right though about material. You cannot audition for something without quality jokes. Not riffing.
But this is a live show in a college. Not riffing would be dumb. Besides, its what I do best and what I enjoy most. He tells me that all that means is, I have to write more.
No argument there. We all do. But whats going on here is pretty clear.
The guy doesn’t want to have to follow me.
He is low key. I am higher energy.
I am great with crowd work. He is Ok with it.
I am a headliner in my own right and it is only due to a series of Booking mistakes and coincidences that we are on the same bill tonight.
He has the major credits. I do not.
That means I am opening because his fame is what will be putting butts in seats.
That’s just another rule in comedy we all have to make peace with.

4. The guy with the biggest draw is the headliner.

I get it. I really do. I could be a complete dick and do what I want, or I could be cool and do what he is not so humbling asking me. But as a comic I have to tell you, this is a pretty chicken shit move from a world traveling headliner to ask me to be less than the best I can do so he can look better.
In a last effort to convince me he tells me that not only do I have great material, but also that he is scouting for talent for a big tour coming up.
I wasn’t laughing anymore. Especially at this little nugget of bullshit.
You see there are some talented and well-known comics out there who have no problem lending a helping hand to comics who have not had the luck they have had. These comics are gold. Greg Proops asked to work with me at the Punchline in San Francisco later this year. Why? He knows that I am very funny and he likes the challenge of following a strong performer.
That’s a class act all the way folks. He not only dropped a well paying gig into my lap, but he did it so he can stay sharp by challenging himself.
That’s pretty fucking cool anyway you look at it.
The comic I am working with tonight, the comic that is asking me to tie one hand behind my back so he can look better, the comic who wanted to car pool so he could get me alone to ask me this has a reputation of NEVER helping other comics. No information, no recommendations no help from his position of privilege to those of us struggling in the trenches.
I bit my tongue.
The last thing anyone wants is a pissing contest before a show. I certainly don’t want to hit the stage with resentment. The crowd will smell that a mile away and I will bomb all because one person’s insecure ego is bruising mine.

The place is packed. In fact, they have to open up more room and bring more chairs in. Before the show even starts people are coming up to him and asking for photos with him. Cute girls look over and smile.
Yeah. Its bugging the shit out of me. I admit that. I am standing off to the side thinking how many times I have come up here to do shows in front of 40 or 50 kids who wonder into the show not knowing who the hell I am. The whole reason I am opening tonight is because they forgot to promote a show I was headlining last year. They called a few days before the gig and canceled. Since we had a signed contract for a set price they had to find a way to make it good. A few days later they e-mailed asking if I would open for this guy at the price I was to get for headlining my own show. Sure. Money is money and I know the gig will pack out because he has major credits.
It is eating me alive inside. I admit that. There is not a comic alive who has been doing it as long as I have who wouldn’t bristle at being called "the opener."

I promised myself I was going to be more positive this year. I also feel the energy in the room. I get to revel in that first. I get to set the bar high. I get first crack at a crowd that is pumped up. It is in these moments when you can hand the crowd more than what they expected.
A young lady goes on stage and introduces me.
With in two minuets I have my first applause break. Not once do I look down at anyone in the crowd and ask them their name or what they are studying. Not once do I engage in crowd work. Instead, I stick to material and destroy the room. Not with cheap stuff either. That’s another rule in comedy.

5. The cheap way to make it hard on the next act is to go all dirty.

I did my stuff on Politics, America’s love of drugs and religion. In short, I kill with quality. I end on an applause break and say thank you very much.
You want to know what getting high feels like? Its standing in front of someone else’s adoring crowd and they won’t stop applauding for you. That’s getting high. And I did it with the standards the other act asked for.

In comedy, you are either up or down. No gray. Remember?
When I come off the stage shaking hands and saying thank you to people, I reach the back of the room where I plan on standing and watching what happens next. Truthfully, I want to see him bomb. My ego is screaming inside my head, “Follow that Motherfucker!” There is not a comic alive who wouldn’t be thinking the same thing.
One of the kids who works in the promotions department sheepishly comes up to me with the headliners car keys and says, “He wants you to go out to his car and bring more CD’s”
He knows it’s a kick to my ego to be asked this. In 30 seconds I go from exceeding the crowds expectations of what the opener is suppose to be like to becoming a roadie for a guy who has treated me like an open micer since we got in the car together.
I smile, take the car keys and walk out into the clean clear air of the evening.
Am I muttering out loud to myself about how this is bullshit and when will my break come?
Fuck yes I am!
I’m pissed! Who wouldn’t be? I’m not some fucking brand new guy in comedy who will only be to happy to be treated like a monkey. I am a headliner with a comedy central credit and the ability to crush a room when others have already tried and concluded that the crowd is dead.
But none of that matters right now.
I am standing there with the fresh smell of rain and the cool air upon my face staring into his trunk at a box of CD’s. Did some malicious shit go threw my mind?
What do you think?
As I am standing there contemplating what to do the thought occurs to me to call a friend. No reason to fight all your battles alone.
He tells me, “Be the better man. Act with integrity. Have gratitude for what you have not attitude for what you don’t. Pain is pain and you have a choice to either let it consume you and ruin the high of a beautiful set, or let it go and be content that you were paid well to have to tell jokes.”
That’s exactly what I needed to hear.
I grab a stack of CD’s and slowly walk back to the show.
Did he have a hard time following me?
Does it really matter at this point? I want everything this guy has. I want the career, the cute girls giving him looks, the money, the fame and the fans. But I also want to be happy.
After the show, a guy came up to me and said, “I thought you were better. You were genuine.”
Some nights, all you need to hear is one person telling you that to know you succeeded.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

How to save America discovred at an Open Mic

I did an Open Mic last night.
Five minuets of furry!
I miss doing open Mics. It wasn’t so much about the performance end of things that I miss, it was the hanging out with friends and trading ideas, Punch Lines and information on all things comedy. We were a little tribe of people that moved like nomads from stage to stage. We thought nothing of driving an hour to Sacramento or San Jose for the chance at 7 minuets on stage somewhere in the corner of a dark bar in front of a handful of down on their luck drunks.
Those car rides with friends were some of the best times in my life. Hanging outside an open mic and dissecting jokes on a summer night in San Francisco was as good as anything could be. It didn’t seem that way at the time, but it really was a great time in my life. Not just because everything was still new and we didn’t have a clue about what we were up against, but because we all had the same thing in common.
There is not that many pure open mics around anymore. Now days, a lot of what is called an open mic is really more of a showcase where some people are pre-booked and a few known people will show up and get squeezed on. A true open mic is a great place to see a lot of undiagnosed mental illness, bad jokes from people with low self-esteem and the occasional cry for help with Punch Lines.
We wanted to try out jokes, but we also wanted to have fun with each other too. That’s what made the whole crazy process worth it. Messing with a friend on stage was cool. A lot of great jokes came out of those situations.
That’s what I was reminded of last night.
A friend went up. She was wearing what I am told is a very hip outfit. But to most of us, it looked like she had put her shirt on backwards. All the buttons were on the back. She went up on stage and anticipating a confused look from the small crowd, she opened on telling us, “My shirt is not on backwards. This is fashion. The gays dressed me.”
Well, I looked at the host who seemed up for fun and asked him to zip up my hooded jacket backwards. Of course, as I walked to the stage people started to laugh. I stood there a moment and said, “I’m not wearing my sweat shirt on backwards. She dressed me.”
This is the true spirit of open mics. Having fun with the people your going through the experience with. No ones feeling were hurt and the crowd quickly understood the whole idea of, this is all experimental and we get to have fun watching. Cool!
I tried out some stuff, got some laughs, talked politics with a friend and went home with a smile on my face. What could be better than that?
While I was on stage with my jacket on backwards, it suddenly occurred to me that this way of wearing it should catch on in America any day now. With the hood right bellow my chin, its like having a feed bag right in front of your face. Now, my hands are free and I can eat as I point at others that are different from me. I am truly surprised the idea has not caught on yet! Can you imagine people walking around malls with a feedbag in front of their fat faces filled with Cinabuns and hot dogs on a stick? Corporate America would love this idea! With your hands free, you can hold two bags instead of one bag of useless shit at 20% interest on a card you probably shouldn’t have! In fact, I think this is the way to stimulate our lagging economy.
I think I have stumbled onto the way to save America. All I had to do was get back to my comedy roots.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


There is a thin line between Web M.D. and a web site to create hypochondriacs. Do I really need to have that much information available to me? The commercial for Web M.D. ends with a guy saying, "I used web M.D. so much, I got carpel tunnel."
Is that the best way to sell your product? By saying it's used so much that it creates physical problems?
And oh my God that is stupid irony!
Your a medical web site and your injuring people? The only way you would get Carpel Tunnel is by constantly checking it. You know, like a hypochondriac!
Know other product could get away with this.
"I love to drive the new Prius so much that I feel asleep at the wheel and crashed."
Nice, ha?

Alright, it is easy to make fun of dumb stuff. I am not immune.
There is an oil change place right on the corner of my block. I am about 6 months and 4,000 miles over due for one. Driving in complete denial is fun. First, you have to scrape that sticker they put in the corner of your window off. I can still see the outline when the sun comes directly threw the wind shirld of the damn thing. I feel guilty about it so what I do is give my car the "good" gas. You know, 91% Octane instead of the usual 87%. Somehow in my mind, that makes up for the lack of actual care.
It's the emotional equivalent of my father not being able to give me love so instead he let me eat all the cereal I could on weekends.
"Do you want more frosted Flakes, son?"
"How about a hug?"
"...We have some captain crunch around here too."

I know I have mentioned this before, those Diamond shaped yellow signs that just have a deer on them always make me laugh. There is the deer and then under it it says, for the next 12 miles.
I laugh because in my head its saying, for the next 12 miles, shots of Jagermister are permitted.
Then there are the signs that got put up in places of business because problems kept happening.
At a Quiznos, I noticed a sign by the register that simply said; how to order.
Was that a big problem for people? Were they walking up to the register.
"can I help you sir?"
"Do you need help ordering sir?"
"hey, you guys in back. Get on web M.D. and see what wrong with this guy or make me a sign on how to order!"
Have people become so dumb they can't order from a sandwich shop menu?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


This is an excerpt of a FOX news story from their web site.

Senator Obama's ties to a former leader of the violent left-wing activist group the Weather Underground are drawing new scrutiny. As an Illinois state senator in 2001, Mr. Obama accepted a $200 contribution from William Ayers, a founding member of the group that bombed the U.S. Capitol and the Pentagon during the 1970s. Mr. Ayers wrote a memoir, "Fugitive Days," published in 2001, and on the day of the September 11 terrorist attacks, he was quoted by the New York Times as saying: "I don't regret setting bombs. I feel we didn't do enough."

For starters, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States spent 9/11 at the White House with family friend, George Bush. The ambassador is the same man who invested in Bushes failed oil drilling business in Texas. Considering that 14 out of the 19 Hijackers came from Saudi Arabia, and they to bombed the Pentagon,I would like to see those connections come under new scrutiny. Also, if your Ambassador of Saudi Arabia, a country that gets its wealth exclusively from the export of oil, why would you invest in a oil drilling operation in Texas if it wasn’t a favor to Bush senior? Can anyone say, Pay off?
I am not condoning any act of violence in the name of change. You know, like bombing the wrong country for 9/11. A $200 contribution from a man who hasn’t blown up anything in more than 30 years seems a lot less harmless to me than maintaining a close family and business relationship with the ruling family of a country that finances radical Muslim teachings all over the world. My God, our President and his Dad, a former President, did business with Osama’s family before, during and after 9/11!
I am guessing there was a lot more than $200 that changed hands.
Is the best dirt you guys can come up with? Whats next, video of Obama toping off his gas tank? A waitress who now says Obama once tipped her 10% on a lunch?
This Presidents family considers the royal family of a country that won't allow women to drive, vote or hang out at a Starbucks in the company of a man as friends!
Give me a break.