Friday, January 30, 2009

Don't Steal Another Mans Horse

While in the middle of a Riff one night I said a friends joke. I was so guilt ridden about it I called him up from the road and told him. At the time, he was sort of my comedy mentor. We did a lot of shitty road gigs together and bonded on all those eight-hour car rides. He laughed. It was not the reaction I was expecting but I was happy to be out of the woods. He then said something that I have always tried to remember. “It happens.”

All right, you might not want to base an entire philosophy around those two words but you know what, it does happen. It’s not always a clear-cut case of theft so much as it might just be a slip. This can happen when you are riffing with the audience on a subject and bump into someone else’s bit on that subject. That’s what happened with me. Then there are those times when things are a bit blurry.

I recently did a show where the host told a joke I do only in that particular room. It’s a comment on the odd decorations they have up. The joke is specific only to that room. I have done it each time I have worked there. Another comic shot me a look as soon as the joke left his mouth. I shrugged my shoulders. I am almost positive that this is not the only joke of mine that has “slipped” out of his mouth. I say that because before the show this comic asked me if I was the guy who had a joke about this and then he asked if I was the comic that did a joke about so and so. Separately this doesn’t mean much. But there was a moment on stage where he was in the middle of doing a bit. Right in mid sentence he looked over at me and said, “Your bit about this would be perfect here!”

I kind of had the feeling that on the road my bit is being said there. In fact, I think he remembered I was in the room in the nick of time.

So what do you do?

Is this a case of honest mistake or joke theft? About the worse thing you can accuse a comic of in this business is stealing jokes. Someone recently accused me of doing it and it doesn’t feel good no matter how much in the right you know you are. It’s the equivalent of stealing a mans horse in the old west. It gets you strung up from the nearest tree! Yeah. Its that serious to comics.

I didn’t say anything to him. In the end I will always be able to produce more material. I don’t think we will be doing a lot of the same gigs together either. So a few of my bits are out there working when I’m not. So what? The comedy world is so small that ripping off another comic at this level is dumb. Its going to get back to the other comic sooner or latter. Saying a persons joke in front of them after you booked them is also hilarious. I mean, come on Dude. Even if I wasn’t there on this night other comics were. You don’t think that another San Francisco comic would call me later that night to tell me that someone else is doing a signature bit of mine?

Ah well. These are pretty good problems to have while Rome burns.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Stay Warm While Rome Burns=)

Check this out. If you tried to see the Vice Presidents house on Google Maps while Dick lived there you saw an image that was pixllated. The image was blurred on purpose for security reasons. However the White House wasn't the entire last eight years. Kind of confirms where the real power was, eh?
The pixillation was removed the day new Vice President, Joe Bidden moved in.
Things are literally getting more transparent under the new administration every day.
That should of been the first clue that old Dick was up to no good. When you use the same technique the TV show COPS uses to hide the faces of the people in handcuffs to hide your house with you are doing something hella wrong.

How is the fall of western civilization going for you? Just as we were collectively getting over the fear of terrorism it is replaced with the fear of being fired. Stores are closing, automakers begging for loans, unemployment websites are crashing under the heavy demand and banks seem to be getting away with the biggest theft in history.
We are watching the payments come due for our way of life folks.
Money has been the God here for a while. You remember the ending of Fight Club? They blew up the buildings that housed the computers for the credit industry and banks. The idea was simple. Destroy everyones finical records and we all start over at scratch.

Stores, major ones that we grew up with are going out of business. Its is the most disquieting thing about what ever it is that is going on right now to me.
The best part of the ending of the world so far?
The sales.

When Obama got elected and people saw that I was on the Obama-Ha-Ha tour one question came up over and over. Will you have anything to talk about when Bush & Company are gone?
The guy Obama got to head the Treasury department forgot to pay his taxes for a few years. If you can't see the joke in giving a guy who forgot to pay his own taxes the job of looking over our monetary system then you aren't paying enough attention.
Its the government. I don't know if its for the people anymore but as long as its run by the people there will always be jokes.
I have already noticed something curious going on. When I mention a little fact like this around the water cooler I get a decidedly cool reaction from my fellow liberals. Come on people! Don't cave to the group think that Lord Obama walks on water and cured crippled children with lasers he shoots from his eyes.
He is a politician.
That means by his very nature he should be held to a higher standard. At the very least we should remain skeptical. I'm not eager for Obama jokes but we have to face the fact that they are inevitable. Any time something major happens with the dollar we can just say the guy in charge forgot to file something. He will get right on it. Don't set yourself up Dude. But there is this to consider. This fact was discovered by an internal review. That means the Obama staff found out about it and announced it to the public first. Smart.
Too skeptical?
What are we going to do? I honestly think we are only at the start of this mess. And it really is all the bills for our way of life coming due at once. The entire philosophy of what is called the top down economic policy has failed. We shoveled money up the ladder at the wealthy like never before in history. The idea sold to us was that money in their hands would trickle down on us other 90% in the form of jobs. Well that turned out to be bullshit. What did we learn when we handed 400 trillion dollars to the banks so far with absolutely no strings attached? We learned that they just held on to it. They hoarded it. Thats what the rich do when they get handed trillions of dollars from lower on the ladder. They hoard it. We are about to prosecute Bernie Madoff for his 50 Billion dollar ponzzi scheme. Our economy has operated like one giant ponzzi scheme hasn't it? What does it all mean? It means the system has been rigged against you since the day you were born. I'm not talking Matrix conspiracies here I am just saying that money is power and most of us don't have a lot of either. How do they control us? Ever get charged by your bank for not having money in your account? Can you think of a bigger fuck you then being charged more money for not having money? Its a poverty tax that keeps you down. Its all those little fees and small print charges that eat you alive. If its not that then we give in to the messages being broadcast to spend every where our eyes look and before you bring up personal responsibility in our choices to borrow money ask yourself why companies spent billions of dollars a month on those messages?
It must work some of the time.
Turned out it might have worked a little too well.
I keep seeing these experts pop up on news shows virtually yelling at the American consumer for not going out and starting the engine of our economy by spending on shit they don't need at prices they can't afford. Isn't that how this whole thing started?
For a drug commercial recently the narrator said, "Tell your prescriber about all your medications first."
If your not getting drugs from a doctor then its a dealer. Or the Internet.
Welcome to the future.
Citizens are now consumers and the people you buy drugs from are perscribers.
Can a real life Logan's Run be far behind for us now?

A little off the topic but you think now that Obama is our president spellcheck can stop trying to correct it to Osama?

Oh, here is a little mistake I probably laughed to hard at. I was watching a show about the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. It is the Mosque that stands over the rock that Arabs believe Mohammad rose to heaven from. The Christians and all there various offshoots claim it is the spot Abraham almost sacrificed his son to God. The Jews also share this belief and they also think it is the site of King Solomons Temple.
This is the Temple that many believe must be rebuilt before Jesus returns to Earth. In other words, its pretty much crazy central for the big three fairy tale makers. But thats not how the host conveyed it. He said it was ground zero for three major religions.
What an unfortunate choice of words.
Because there is a ground zero and it does represent the coming together of the worlds three major religions already.

I was recently asked by someone to ghost write their status updates on Facebook. I guess I'm funny. At least it won't be weird to refer to them in the third person? Anyone else find that strange? You know that referring to yourself in the third person is a sign of mental illness right?
I have become one of them. I have friendships and relationships that exist no where else but on line. On myspace a woman sent me a message recently that ended with, I miss you.
I miss you? I don't know you.
Its all so weird. Its not about connecting with people so much as it is making us feel better about being isolated. All this communication technology and I feel like we are getting worse at communicating with each other. I have surrendered to the Facebook idea of intimacy. When a waiter tried to sit me between two people he said, "You can meet new people." My response with no joke intended? "If I wanted to meet new people I would of stayed home on Facebook!"

In a recent on line argument with a fellow blogger of another political persuasion, I was told that the death of innocents in Iraq during our little war of choice was all part of God's plan. I gotta tell you of all the excuses I have ever heard for bad shit happening in the world, God's plan is the one that makes me the angriest. This is not FEMA were talking about here Dude. What other plan could you ever get a way with saying this about?
"Hey I saw on my cell phone bill that last month to send 100 text messages 100 people had to die of preventable disease in Africa."
"Yeah thats part of the plan."
No one tolerate that. Why do we let God get away with loving us like this?
Then I asked if the God he was talking about was the same God that told George Bush to invade Iraq and that he would find Weapons of Mass Destruction. And if so was that the same God he believed in too?
He said it was none of my business what he believed in when it came to God.
I said "Exactly!"
You know what guarantees that? In writing? Its not the Bible that proclaims equal rights or even the pursuit of happiness for everyone. Its the Constitution baby!
Lets try to live up to it this time around.
Democracy 2.0!
The Vice President had his house digitally censored on Google maps While the White House remained "disclosed."
Just think of everything we are going to learn in twenty years.
Well, lets all stay warm while Rome burns.

Monday, January 26, 2009

On to the next carrot dangled at the end of another stick.

What is it about an important audition + a camera in the room that make a crowd lame? It is generally regarded as proof of Murphy’s Law, but any time you need a crowd to be good you can almost count on them to be bad. Sunday night I auditioned for the Aspen Comedy festival. It’s not what it once was but it is still a place to be seen by some of the powers that be in this biz. Sunday night at the Punch Line in San Francisco can be an awesome show. Two hours of comics all doing their best stuff in five to ten minuet increments in front of a crowd thrilled to be there makes for some great nights. Last night Rooftop Comedy set up their cameras and taped the show. They are traveling around to different venues looking for comics to put on their stage at the festival this year. Sure enough the crowd couldn’t give a fuck. I watched comic after comic go up with stuff that usually ends with applause breaks get a whimper. I did no better. Jokes I have always been able to count on got a chuckle. When it happens to comic after comic then it is reasonable to conclude that it’s the crowd, not the comics. I know I know. There is no such thing as a bad crowd. Bullshit.

When you audition for something you want to present well-honed material. It’s not really the time or place to Riff. Did I riff? Of course I did! It’s like a sickness with me I guess. First of all the crowd needed a jolt. Second of all there was a huge completely bald white guy in the front row. How can you not mention that? He looked like Mr. Clean or a very aggressive trailer hitch. Take your pick. But when I fucked with the crowd I got a big response. I managed to get most of the stuff in there that I wanted, but it definitely wasn’t the set I wanted to have. I left after my set but I can’t imagine it getting any better for anyone else. By the time I came off the stage it was 9:30 and there were still 6 more comics to go.

Rooftop Comedy is relatively new to the business. They have positioned themselves as the place to go on the Internet for stand-up. Here is the problem though. They don’t pay the comics. They simply mine us for content. Holding the promise of getting a set at Aspen in front of us is the carrot at the end of the stick they use to generate more content for their site. I didn’t sign the waiver either. They will put it up there anyway. They always do. Yet one more set will be badly edited and thrown into the ether of the Internet for a few people to watch. The argument is the same as it has always been. Do it for exposure. Well, as Will Durst said to me the best thing you can say when they ask you to do something for exposure is to remind them that people can also die from exposure.

Last night they got a lot of really good comics doing great stuff in front of a lame crowd for their site. I don’t think many people went home happy.

Last weekend I got to perform in theaters. I was part of the Obama-Ha-Ha Tour. Not only did I get to perform in beautiful venues, I got to hang out with three of the most accomplished Bay Area comics I know. Will Durst, Johnny Steel and the man who put the whole thing together, Dan St. Paul. I really did feel honored to be a part of this show. Politically themed, social commentary comedy thrives when the audience is intelligent and well informed. Needless to say it has been a dying form of stand-up for a while now. This challenged me a little. I had to look at old bits and figure out how to rework them into something other than a dirty joke. I also realized that I didn’t need to rely on some of the more shocking elements in the bits for them to work. Last but not least, it became very clear to me that theatres and not comedy clubs are the way to go. I never thought I would say that. I always thought I would be a die heart club comic till the day I died. What you learn at theater shows is just how distracting a traditional comedy club can be to what most of us would like to be seen as an art. With no two-drink minimum or waitress to serve people, the crowd has to pay attention. It makes for a much better show for everyone. Subtle lines get big laugh and big laughs get turned into a roar. The last night of the Obama-Ha-Ha Tour we were at the Punch Line. Almost sold out, we thought it was going to be an amazing night. It turned out to be the least fun show for all of us. Why? The crowd was ordering pizza, talking over the bill, trying to listen while a table of kids next to them chatted about their text messages.

I love the Punch Line. It is still home. But I can see that if you have something to say and want to really explore the topic you have to find a stage where people are looking for what you want to present. Otherwise, you are little more than musack playing in the background while someone makes a profit on drink orders.

I don’t know if I will get to Aspen this year. I don’t know if I will even try out for last comic standing again. Hell, I don’t know if I will even be invited to try out again. It has to be enough that I was asked to perform. Really, that has to be what its always about anyway.

The set is done and the crowd was what it was. The trick now is to forget it and move on to the next shot at the next thing that could be the thing. The life of a comic is a strange existence. You constantly have to let go of your expectations and do the next show in the hope that it will be better than the last. When you are up there under the lights with that Mic in your hand, you have to be completely there. It’s a game we all play inside our heads. Forget the past but not until you learn something from it. Plan for the future but above all be in the moment. I think success happens when you can perform fully in the moment. Sometimes it seems to happen almost like magic. Other times it is a struggle just to stay focused. Most of the time it is some combination of anxiety and excitement that rule comics. I doubt anyone went home last night and thought, nailed it! Such is the life of stand-up. On to the next carrot dangled at the end of another stick.